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Cultivating Change: The Urgent Need for a Healthy Workplace in Nepal

There is a need for a healthy workplace in Nepal that considers the physical, psychological, and social environment to promote its employees’ well-being, safety, and productivity.

Urgent need of healthy workplace in Nepal

Photo by katemangostar/Freepik

A healthy workplace is a physical, psychological, and social environment that promotes employees’ well-being, safety, and productivity. It includes physical safety, psychological well-being, work-life balance, health promotion, and communication and collaboration. Physical safety includes adhering to safety regulations, providing proper equipment and training, implementing emergency procedures, and maintaining a clean and hazard-free workspace.

A healthy workplace encourages collaboration, teamwork, constructive feedback, professional growth and development, inclusion and diversity, recognition and rewards, leadership and employee involvement, and a positive organizational culture. It also fosters employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity and attracts and retains talented individuals.

Given the ample time spent at work, employers and organizations must prioritize the health and well-being of their employees. This demonstrates a commitment to creating a safe and supportive workplace that promotes all employees’ physical, mental, and emotional health.

WHO defines health as a condition of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This definition takes an integrative approach to health. It addresses all factors that affect human health and relate to the individual’s or society’s physical, psychological, social, and economic development.

According to WHO, a healthy workplace is one in which workers and managers collaborate to use a continuous improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety, well-being, and sustainability of all workers and the workplace by addressing the following identified needs: health and safety concerns in the physical work environment; health, safety, and well-being concerns in the psychosocial work environment, including organization of work and workplace culture; and pecuniary concerns, such as compensation and benefits.

This definition considers the tangible work environment and psychosocial and individual health practices. A healthy workplace encourages promotive and preventive health activities to reduce the risk of occupational injury and assess and enhance employees’ health. The emphasis should be given to supporting and accommodating workplaces for older employees, women, and those with chronic diseases or disabilities, which can ultimately benefit the community.

A safe and hazard-free workplace is required to increase productivity, quality, and efficiency. An enterprise’s ergonomic work environment is a crucial aspect of its growth. It creates workplaces where all employees’ health, safety, and well-being are protected and promoted to guarantee access to competent health advice and support. Access to preventative measures and treatment for all associated health issues must be improved.

A healthy work environment is a novel concept in Nepal. The government of Nepal has begun to pay attention by enforcing several laws and policies, such as the Labor Act (1992), the Trade Union Act (1993), the Interim Constitution on Nepal (2007), the Present Three-Year Interim Plan, the Environment Protection Act (1997), and ILO conventions to promote a healthy workplace.

The need for a healthy workplace in Nepal is rising among employees. To create a wholesome work environment, it is essential to ensure that everyone is working toward the same objective.

The healthy workplace program must receive support from all levels of the organization. Employees in Nepal expect their employers to provide programs that improve their work environment and promote a healthy lifestyle overall. The program must be backed by adequate financial, material, and human resources. The management must endorse the healthful workplace program.

The 2019 Burden of Disease in Nepal, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study (Results released in 2021)

The budget for the health sector (Ministry of Health and Population-MoHP and other ministries) has increased from 49.8bn Nepalese Rupees (NPR) in FY 2016/17 to 115.1bn NPR in FY 2020/21. The progressive increase in the overall budget for health is both positive and negative news.

In 2019, there were 56,85,683 Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) due to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), of which 27,90,660 were males and 28,95,022 were females.

DALYs (Disability-Adjusted Life Years) is a measurement used in the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study to quantify the overall burden of disease and injury on a population. It provides a standardized metric for comparing the impact of different diseases, injuries, and risk factors.

The major causes were cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, mental disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, digestive diseases, kidney, diabetes, and nutritional deficiencies.

The constant increase in Years Lived with Disability (YLDs) cases from year to year is one of the primary causes.

The YLDs represent the number of years a person lives with a disease. It depends on the severity of the impairment the disease causes in the patient. Once a person is diagnosed with a chronic disease, he or she becomes disabled, and the number of years until mortality is the number of years lived with disability.

In 2019, NCDs caused a total of 2,352,740 YLDs. The leading causes of YLDs were mental disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, other noncommunicable diseases, neurological disorders, and diseases of the sense organs. Of the YLDs, 16.4% were attributable to mental disorders, 15.9% to musculoskeletal disorders, 8.1% to other NCDs, 7.9% to neurological disorders, and 7.5% to sense organ diseases.

Before causing a person’s death, it is the individual’s disabilities that progressively lead to other grave complications. Every individual with a disability displays visible signs of illness. However, neglecting the symptoms and avoiding physical activity exacerbates the symptoms, resulting in diminished quality of life and, in some cases, irreparable loss of life.

The deterioration of an individual’s health results from physiological and psychological complications. While physiological illnesses can cause major psychological issues, psychological illnesses too can cause significant physiological issues. Long-term stress, for instance, can affect your nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine, digestive, and respiratory organs and systems.

Many risk factors are associated with a disease. The three most significant threats are behavioral, metabolic, and environmental. In Nepal, behavioral and metabolic hazards are the leading contributors to annual YLDs.

Nutritional deficiency, high fasting plasma glucose, occupational ergonomic factors, smoking, high body mass index, alcohol consumption, high systolic blood pressure, kidney dysfunction, occupational noise, and victimization by bullies were the leading causes of young-onset YLDs.

What can employers do?

We can control metabolic and behavioral risk factors by engaging in specific physical activities and moderating our diet and nutrition daily. These dangers indicate a lack of awareness, an unscientific lifestyle, and unhealthy dietary practices.

Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, arthritis, and diabetes, are among employers’ most prevalent, expensive, and preventable health problems that do not only affect employees’ finances but also their overall happiness, job performance, and productivity. Employers can create healthy workplaces by implementing health promotion programs, policies, and practices that make it simpler for employees to make healthy decisions.

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and hazard-free workplace; they also have ample opportunities and a strong incentive to promote employee health and cultivate a healthy work environment. They should provide their employees with preventative services, training, resources, and an environment encouraging healthy behavior.

Healthy workplaces should encourage and promote healthy behavior. This can be achieved through personal health resources consisting of fundamental health services, information, resources, opportunities, flexibility, and a supportive work environment that help employees maintain their physical and mental health. PPE and their use, regular health screenings, smoking cessation, healthy eating, drinking water, physical activity, hygiene, stress management, women’s health issues, healthy pregnancy, medical services, information, training, financial support, facilities, policy support, flexibility, and promotional programs, and the cessation of alcohol and other drugs are among the most important factors.

Employers can expect improved employee engagement, productivity, general health, well-being, and a healthy and happier workforce. It can be difficult to design an effective workplace health promotion program. There is no one-size-fits-all approach; a successful program must be tailored to employees’ health requirements and the organization’s culture and environment.

A comprehensive well-being program must be effective, integrating a coherent set of evidence-based interventions that promote a culture of health and safety within the organization. Comprehensive wellness programs at the workplace may include content (i.e., specific interventions, strategies, and behavioral interventions) that address various health conditions and risk factors.

The working population is often at higher risk of certain lifestyle diseases that are non-communicable in nature. Therefore, the need for a healthy workplace in Nepal can be met through workplace initiatives such as employee well-being programs can be the best preventive measure for such risk factors.

About the Author
Picture of Sanjeev Yadav, M.A. Yoga, P.G. Psych., DNHE
Sanjeev Yadav, M.A. Yoga, P.G. Psych., DNHE

Mr. Sanjeev is a yoga professional specializing in applied yoga, psychology, and human excellence with over more than 8 years of experience as a health and life coach, well-being trainer, and psycho-yogic counselor. He is completing his Ph.D. dissertation in Yoga.