30 May 2015

Vision on prevention and vitality

We describe Vitality normally as “the ability to recover from setbacks” or as “the ability of the employee to achieve optimal performance.”

It is about “life, energy and passion, which is reflected in the motivation of the person to engage in work and employability.” Vitality is something that people can achieve themselves, naturally with support from their environment and from their employer.

Both practice and scientific research show that the current prevention model, aimed at improving vitality, is not working properly. The current model is based on successively identifying risk factors, informing people about their health risks, and then, based on these risks, try to convince people to change their behaviour in order to reduce their risk of disease. However, we notice that unless problems are highly acute, it proves very difficult for people to change their behaviour based on a ‘disease risk’. Not only is the reward of healthy behaviour, namely ‘vitality’, immediately tangible, completely different matters drive people’s behaviour.

A prominent American professor explained:

“the problem is that we have messages to give, and people have lives to lead, and usually the two don’t intermix. We are interested in cholesterol and blood pressure, and people are interested in jobs, their house, their kids, income security, and so on. We really need to pay attention to the things that people care about, and stop being such experts on risk factors.” (Len Syme, 2006).   

Many organisations share this view and believe that an effective approach should be geared more towards what people are really concerned about in their lives (“life problems”) and what drives them (meaning). This is why we are working on health from an intrinsic motivation and the strengthening of what we call “personal resources”.

(Prof Arnold Bakker & Prof. Eva Demerouti)

Personal resources (including, for example, sense of confidence, control, empowerment, hope and optimism) help people find and utilise tools to achieve healthy behaviour. This approach is aimed at establishing control and perspective for people (“life control”), so that they themselves will be activated by intrinsic motivation. In this approach, reducing the risk of disease is no longer a goal in itself, it is rather an added benefit. The point is that people are aided in achieving their own goals in terms of life problems, lifestyle and / or health. By connecting more with the primary drivers of human behaviour, the effects of the programs will be greater and more sustainable.

An effective program should facilitate people in different stages of awareness and with different intentions and drives, based on needs. More attention is needed on changes in sustainable behaviour (perpetuating behaviour), aimed at both the individual, as well as, the working and personal environment. Furthermore, we need specific focus on creating a positive dynamic in the organisation regarding lifestyle change.

Sustainable employability, something to put off dealing with?
From the Week of work-related stress: to the Month of Happiness