Portuguese-speaking countries seminar on health promotion and wellbeing at work

Seminar Summary, February 10th, 2021

Last year was quite atypical, in which the new coronavirus pandemic, social isolation and widespread fear forced a rapid change in everyone’s routine. Organizations had to adapt quickly to a new routine never imagined, as well as employees, who had to learn suddenly to use digital and technological solutions, work from home, deal with the fear and insecurity of what was going to happen.

To find out about the current situation and expectations about the health and well-being of employees in organizations in Portuguese-speaking countries, the Brazilian Association for Quality of Life (ABQV) in partnership with the International Association of Worksite Health Promotion (IAWHP) promoted, on February 10th , the international event “Lusophone Meeting on quality of life at work: prospects for 2021 ”, with the participation of professionals from Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and Portugal.

The pandemic forced, according to Tiago Santos, physical activity professional in the workplace, master’s in public health and Health Promotion and founder and CEO of WorkWell, in Portugal, companies to provide new forms of work, such as teleworking, which brought 86.8% of managers who participated in a survey on the topic of negative impacts on organizations economically and for people management. The current scenario also showed, in Santos’ view, that Portuguese institutions are still far behind other countries, such as the United States and Australia, when it comes to  workplace health promotion programs because, most organizations still do not place individuals as the most important pillar of the management.

“People must be the center of institutions and care with the employee wellbeing must be present in all companies, because with healthy employees who are satisfied with their work, companies tend to have better results and the desired profit can be achieved”, assured the physical educator.

In a study promoted by WorkWell, Portuguese managers even recognize the positive impact of a corporate health and well-being program, especially in more demanding times like the current one, and 94.5% answered that they plan to promote wellbeing initiatives for their employees in the next six to twelve months. Although the importance of caring for people in their entirety is recognized, it is often not a priority. Of the main factors identified for not implementing health and wellness programs in Portugal, the main one is the lack of budget. The reason, in Santos’ view, may be a consequence of the Portuguese economy made up of 99.9% of small and medium-sized companies. Other reasons for not implementing health promotion programs are the lack of awareness among managers and leaders and the lack of time and internal capacity for implementation.

“Addressing health within a company goes far beyond offering health plans and benefits. It is investing in actions that make sense to employees and that really change their lives for the better”, stressed Santos, who said that it is essential to think about the health of workers in their entirety: posture and ergonomics, mental health and personal development.

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show the need for urgent changes in the relationship between company and employee. The professional burnout syndrome – Burnout -, which will be reclassified as a disease from 2022, due to its seriousness, already affects 32% of Brazilian workers, which shows that we are one of the most impacted countries in the world, second only to Japan, with 70%.

This question is raised by many companies, which already perceive the effects of this problem on their own revenue. American companies lose about U $ 150 billion a year due to stressed employees; this includes – among other things – absenteeism and presenteeism, which are the absences and the presence of the employee with the mind in another task. To avoid losses, some strategic precautions need to be developed.

The physician and master’s in health management in Angola, Emilio Agostino Alberto, agrees that the level of employee satisfaction is a key point to understand the quality of life at work and is an extremely important issue, which is increasingly studied. “ Worksite wellbeing is a way of measuring the relationship that employees establish with their work environment. It is mainly about employee satisfaction and motivation, and how it impacts the performance of members and the overall productivity of an organization”, argued Alberto when explaining that in his country there is a constitutional regulation that regulates the occupational safety and health of employees. workers, making companies and their managers responsible for the well-being of their employees.

However, Angolan programs are still restricted only to the satisfaction that professionals have with the function they perform daily in companies. But he says it is necessary to go further. “Analyzing the context and the environment in which each employee is inserted is important, from the basics, such as sanitation, education and food, to the specialization of their skills. It is necessary to think that without quality of life at work, the results will always be the same: lower productivity, greater turnover and less capacity to attract and retain qualified substitutes”, he justified.

Rosalina Semedo de Andrade Tavares, associate professor, and Director of the Institute of Applied Social Sciences at the University of International Integration of Afro-Brazilian Lusophony (Unilab) agrees with the Angolan media and points out that in Cape Verde, a country where most workers are informal or linked to tourism, the pandemic had a great impact and brought many challenges.

“WHO advocates that health is not only the absence of the disease, but also the complete biological, psychological and social well-being. It is necessary to return the guarantee of a better future – and all areas – for workers who are in the home office as well as for those who work in the informal sector,” said the researcher.

She stressed that the challenge is to rethink the goals of sustainable development of the United Nations (UN), because if they are met, they can provide the longed-for quality of life.

“With the eradication of poverty and hunger in every way, dignity and equality are guaranteed; prosperous and full lives are provided in harmony with nature and, with that, there will be the promotion of peaceful, just and inclusive societies, starting from the implementation of a solid global partnership, which will also act in the protection of natural resources and the climate of the our planet for future generations”, he guaranteed.

In Guinea Bissau, where the reality is very similar to that of Cape Verde, Bassiro Só, professor and Research coordinator of the Administration and Accounting Sciences courses at the Centro Universitário Adventista de São Paulo Campus Hortolândia (UNASP-HT), the pandemic forced the public institutions to promote actions aimed at social organization, with the objective of promoting the continuous quality of life of the people and the elimination of all forms of submission the human being to degrading interests, for the benefit of individuals, groups or classes.

“Public health must promote the physical and mental health of the population and their balanced insertion in the environment in which they live. It has to orient towards prevention and aim at the progressive socialization of medicine and the medical and medication sectors”, stressed Só.

In Mozambique, according to Imeldina Eduardo Matimbe Rego, PhD in Ethics and master’s in strategic human resource management, the restrictive measures imposed to combat and prevent Covid-19 influenced wellbeing programs greatly, since organizations had to reformulate their structures considering the implementation of disease prevention mediation.

“The outlook for quality of life for 2021 is to overcome the challenges of learning to work with the new normal: with social distance, masks and constant hand washing. The use of digital platforms for meetings and other activities, as well as other actions to prevent and combat Covid-19 are at the center of care for workers, as well as for the entire population,” said Imeldina.

Portraying the Brazilian scenario of quality of life at work, the psychologist, master in Neuroscience and Behavior and vice president of ABQV, Sâmia Simurro, commented that coordinated solutions and rational equations, as well as equity, are fundamental to change the organizational culture, teach leaders to give guidance to their teams to lead to the integrality of the health and well-being of employees and, thus, better promote management.

Call to Action: Walking and Walkable Communities

On September 9, 2015, US Surgeon General VADM Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., announced his national Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities. This declaration addresses a number of major health issues facing our country today. Imagine the dramatic impact we can have if the entire medical community comes together to promote walking and physical activity with patients all over the country. Read the executive summary.

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Why Walking and Walkable Communities

  • Americans are not sufficiently active to reduce chronic disease and improve health
  • Walking is a fun, easy and inexpensive way to be physically active, improve health and build community
  • Access to safe and convenient places to walk and exercise, and a culture that supports walking where we live, learn, work and play

What Can You Do Now?

  • Commit to supporting the call to action
  • Talk with patients & clients about the benefits of walking and physical activity, and make it a part of their treatment plans
  • Be an advocate for physical activity, walking and walkable communities

Download the Step It Up! Guide to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities