A wide range of solutions to prevent rather than cure

The time when companies simply displayed posters praising the merits of quitting smoking or the importance of eating at least five fruits and vegetables a day is over. To encourage their employees to take care of themselves and, by extension, not to get sick, most people understood that they needed to go further.


Some do not even wait to be confronted with a high rate of absenteeism and decide to act in advance. “Employees whose well-being and health at work are a daily concern are the cornerstone and foundation of a company to ensure that it is doing well,” says Michelle Laidet, HR Director of Sodebo, the French leader in fresh pizza.


Not to mention that employees, and more particularly the new generations, expect more and more from their company. “Young people want to be able to strike a balance between their personal and professional lives. This often involves favours,” observes Christophe Scherrer, Deputy General Manager at Malakoff Médéric Humanis.


This is how, gradually, we have moved from the principle of risk prevention to the notion of quality of life at work. “Quality of life at work should not be the icing on the cake but the flour that is used to make it,” says Pascale Breton, from Prévia, a firm specialised in occupational health and well-being.


While there is a wide range of solutions – from a nutrition workshop to a support programme spanning several months for employees who return to their jobs after a long-term break – there are three rules that professionals believe must be respected.


First of all, stakeholders must genuinely get involved. “For a prevention system to work, it must have the support of the human resources department, employee representatives and employees,” explains Christophe Scherrer.


Secondly, the measures introduced must be widely disseminated. “A process to improve quality of life at work and prevent absenteeism must be participatory and involve employees. Communication is essential and it is also important to enhance what already exists,” observes Pascale Breton.


Finally, the actions must be of a long-term nature. “We need to build a year-round program, regularly conveyed by internal messages,” advises Catherine Berçon, Prévia’s Executive Director. “It is necessary to explain the content of the solutions implemented and to value their effects in concrete terms over time,” adds Jean-Marc Esvant, director of social protection for the commercial insurance broker, Verlingue .


Prevention and quality of life at work measures are most often carried out with the help of specialised firms and/or health professionals. Here are nine examples to keep up with.


1. Set up workshops
In addition to the usual workshops on diet and quitting smoking, we must not forget to tackle lack of sleep, which seriously affects health. Ideally, these workshops should take place during working time and not during breaks.


2. Consider employee comfort
Working in poor conditions hampers productivity and increases absenteeism. This often involves specific details. “We are currently designing a new line of workwear that is even warmer, more comfortable and adapted to everyone’s work environment,” says Michelle Laidet, HR Director of Sodebo industrial caterer, whose operators work in low temperature environments.


3. Take care of the working environment
The working environment is also important. “We have taken care of the sound level, brightness, materials, equipment and comfort of our break rooms. We have done everything for our operators to feel at home,” says Michèle Laidet.


4. Provide financial incentives
Support for membership of a gym or shared bicycle service, nicotine substitutes (patches, chewing gum, etc.): everything is possible to encourage employees to stop smoking or to exercise.


5. Plan for good management of alternative medicines
The company may modify the benefits of its collective complementary health insurance contract in order to eliminate or reduce the remaining costs of consultations with a naturopath, a sophrologist or a hypnotherapist.


6. Offer personalised coaching to at-risk groups
“Our prevention programs are aimed at employees identified by the occupational physician as having a risk of chronic or long-term absenteeism,” explains Marc-Antoine Brochard, Chairman of the Stimul e-health platform. After an initial video or telephone contact with an instructor, the person receives guides and connected objects related to the personalised objectives to be achieved, such as reducing tobacco consumption or exercising. »


7. Increase teleworking
“Not all workstations are suitable for remote working,” says Catherine Berçon, CEO of Prévia. The employee’s personal situation must also be taken into account. If they live in a 50 m2 building with their unemployed spouse and an infant, they will not be able to work effectively at home.” »


8. Help caregivers
There are expected to be 17 million family caregivers in 2020 as the population ages. Today, however, “carers are absent on average 16 days a year,” says Bérangère Penaud, Chairwoman of Prev&Care, a prevention platform dedicated to family carers. We hold informative workshops where we introduce them to social benefits and those offered by insurance companies.”


9. Facilitate the return to work
“After six months of absence, less than 50% of people return to work. These situations require personalised support when returning to work by qualified service providers,” says Jean-Marc Esvant, at Verlingue. This may include sessions with a psychologist, professional coaching, or even help with professional retraining.



Jean-Philippe Dubosc – L’Opinion