Promoting work ability is an important policy goal, and is considered as key for tackling long-term sickness absence and work disability. Work ability refers to a good balance of the demands posed on workers with their health condition, their motivation and capacities. Strengthening personal resources of workers is an important tool in promoting work ability. Workers need to be supported in their uptake of a healthy lifestyle, and in engaging in actions to promote their mental, physical and social wellbeing. Moreover, this dimension also relates to other elements of work ability. For instance, workers in good health are overall more engaged and motivated in their job. We further see that the adverse impact of, e.g., physical work demands can be buffered by healthy lifestyle. The work environment is an ideal setting to implement wellbeing-promoting interventions. People spend a large part of their time at the workplace so large groups can be reached in an efficient way. Furthermore, workplace interventions allow targeting specifically vulnerable groups, such as lower educated workers.
This policy-oriented research is conducted by UGent, commissioned by the Department of Work and Social Economy of the Flemish government, to improve the health and wellbeing of employees and employers. UGent evaluates an intervention program which is implemented by Energy Lab in SME’s in Flanders. The specific aim of the study is to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention on the physical, mental and social wellbeing using a realist evaluation method. The study includes quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (interviews, focus groups) research methods. Outcome measures (physical, mental and social wellbeing), contextual factors (e.g., socio-economic position of employees) and potential mechanisms (e.g., intervention implementation) at the level of employees, employers and workplaces are measured.