As employers continue to navigate the challenges of returning to the office (or not), a major focus has developed around how to retain and reignite your company culture. Total Worker Health® is a strategy that has been gaining momentum in the US to address these concerns. Total Worker Health® is defined as policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being. In the simplest of terms, it is a holistic, organization-wide approach to worker well-being that is proving to be an important aspect of attracting and retaining employees.

In a webinar hosted by Antea Group, our experts took a deep dive into how companies are navigating health and safety compliance within hybrid work models and shared practical tips for adapting your existing Health and Safety programs, and how the concept of Total Worker Health® can help build company culture. Our Antea Group experts included Jenna Hetherington, CSP, AOEE, Jared Levine, CSP, CESCO, AOEAS, CEAS, Colleen Brents, PhD, AEP, and Alizabeth Aramowicz Smith, Health and Safety Practice Leader.

If you missed the webinar, you can watch the full event on-demand below.

Watch On-Demand

Return to Work Challenges

We’ve all been facing countless work-related challenges that were sparked by the onset of the pandemic. It seems like every time we overcome one challenge, we’re presented with yet another. The challenge many of us face now is how to navigate re-opening offices and managing remote and flexible employees in the new hybrid office model. Many employers are struggling to find the right balance of encouraging employees to return to the office while accommodating home workers and trying to maintain company culture and engagement. This hybrid office re-opening is forcing employers to rework their health & safety programs to meet the needs of their split workforce as well as the changing expectations of employees. As you look to revise your health and safety programs, here are a few helpful ways to get started:

  • Risk Assessment: As your workplace evolves and shifts over the course of re-opening, conduct regular risk assessments both at home and in the office.
  • Workplace Inspections: Alongside risk assessments, implement workplace self-inspections to assess the risks of employees’ home offices.
  • Emergency Response Teams: Re-think how you will establish your emergency response teams with the constant shift of employees in and out of the office.
  • First Aiders: Similarly, who will be a reliable first aider? It could be the onsite facility staff or even a landlord.
  • Injury Management and Ergonomics: Redefine what constitutes a workplace injury in line with regulatory definitions, specifically for home workers.

Reigniting and Redefining Culture

As mentioned above, employee expectations have shifted. After years of working from home, many have realized that they can still meet deliverables while working from home, setting their own flexible schedules, avoiding a commute, and having more free time outside of work. While some employees are excited to return to physical office locations, others need to see a tangible benefit to returning to the office and giving up the work-from-home lifestyle they have come to enjoy.

The dilemma many employers are facing is that management wants employees in the office to collaborate and build a sense of community. However, in today’s labor market management is afraid of risking alienating and potentially losing some of their staff by forcing them back into the office. So, employers are left with the question of how they can re-work and redefine the modern office to bring back the company culture that has been lost during the pandemic.

One way to do this is by looking at the physical work environment and how it impacts returning to work. By prioritizing health and safety, management can help instill a sense of safety and confidence in their workforce. Obtaining a WELL Building certification is one way to show that your company takes health and safety seriously and creates an environment that employees want to return to. 

Another key factor in reigniting company culture and improving retention and attraction is to focus on and prioritize employees' growth and mental well-being. You can support employees by providing:

  • Mental health webinars
  • Physical wellness program
  • Access to free or discounted therapy and counseling
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion programs
  • Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance programs
  • Enhancement of traditional safety programs
  • Psychosocial evaluations and hazard correction

This focus on employees’ well-being, health, and safety is where Total Worker Health® comes into play.

Total Worker Health®

While Total Worker Health® has its roots in the US, it can incorporate international standards as well. It’s a holistic approach to worker well-being that improves the health and safety of workers. It encompasses a set of policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection for occupational health and safety hazards and promote injury/illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being. Implementing Total Worker Health® concepts can improve the well-being of a workforce by protecting safety and enhancing health and overall productivity.

There are five key elements to Total Worker Health®:

  1. Demonstrate leadership commitment to worker health and safety at all levels of the organization
  2. Design work to eliminate or reduce safety and health hazards and promote worker well-being
  3. Promote and support worker engagement throughout design and implementation
  4. Ensure confidentiality and privacy of workers
  5. Integrate relevant systems to advance worker well-being

These five key elements address nine issues that impact workers' overall health and well-being. The nine areas include:

  1. Prevention/Control of Hazards and Exposures
  2. Work Arrangements
  3. Built Environment Supports
  4. Healthy Leadership
  5. Compensation and Benefits
  6. Community Support
  7. Workforce Demographics
  8. Policy Issue
  9. Technology

Total Worker Health® has become increasingly relevant as the pandemic pushed worker safety into the spotlight. Before the pandemic, health and safety policies focused on workers while they were in the office. However, over the past few years, health and safety has shifted to a more people-focused approach with the need to cover employees while they are away from the office and working remotely. Employees are no longer satisfied with the traditional benefits (i.e., sick days, PTO) and expect employers to take a more active approach to support their growth and well-being. Implementing a Total Worker Health® strategy can help meet these demands from employees and encompass a broad range of employee benefits.

While we can still expect to face many challenges as we navigate re-opening and hybrid working, we’re starting to see companies find success through nourishing their company culture and prioritizing employee well-being. Moving forward, you need to develop a clear vision and a thoughtful approach to putting employees' needs first. As you revise your health and safety programs to adjust to hybrid work models, consider incorporating Total Worker Health® concepts to strengthen company culture and keep employees engaged.

For more on Total Worker Health® and adapting your EHS policies to meet the hybrid office needs, reach out to our team today.


Total Worker Health® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Use of this Mark by Antea Group does not imply endorsement by HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of any particular product, service or enterprise. The views expressed in written conference materials and by the speakers do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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