Harvard Survey: Employers Could Do More to Foster Health and Well-Being

Many private companies are on their way to creating a better culture of health in the workplace

September 17, 2019


A recent study by Harvard Business School (HBS) and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health assessed how private corporations foster health and well-being among employees and found they could do more in this area.

Researchers recently discussed their findings in a new article published September 11 in The Milbank Quarterly.

The national survey of 1,017 private sector organizations assessed current levels of engagement in a “Culture of Health” (CoH), measured in terms of four dimensions—employee, environmental, consumer, and community health—and the extent to which businesses promote these areas through a series of possible actions. The study also explored potential explanations for advancements in each area.

Findings from the research include:

  • Employee health: Rewards or reimbursements for positive activities, such as obtaining fitness club memberships was the most common action taken to achieve employee health (42%). A lack of employee buy-in was the top choice as an obstacle in employee health, cited by 56% of businesses
  • Environmental health: Almost 40% of businesses engaged in formal efforts to offset negative environmental impacts associated with production or consumption of their services, and about one-third actively pursued opportunities to switch to renewable sources of energy
  • Consumer health: The specific actions taken most often by businesses aiming to promote consumer health were also most directly connected to a potential positive financial return: pursuing opportunities to make products and services healthier (59%) and pursuing markets for healthier products and services (58%)
  • Community health: Engagement in community health actions exhibited the widest range, with a high of 75% of businesses hosting social events in the community and a low of 10% of businesses investing in affordable housing development

“Overall, the private sector is taking steps to foster health and well-being, but there is still room for growth, even among those companies that are already extremely active in this area,” said Harvard Chan School’s Robert Blendon, a study co-author. “By strengthening the business case for a corporate CoH we should see an increase in private sector investments in health and well-being, but it will take a group effort, with individual businesses, groups, industries and regulators all having the potential to improve corporate engagement and impact.”


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