A ladder of strategies to improve employee’s health


If you are reading this article, you are in good company, as it means you are among one of the growing number of organisations committed to workforce wellness.

Suppose you have embarked on an employee health and wellbeing programme already. In that case, you will likely then agree that being committed to seeing positive outcomes from such programmes isn’t without its challenges. If you’re just starting to think about initiating a workforce wellness initiative, you may be reading this because you are not sure where to start.

Photo credits: GAIN / Bondowoso / Andrew Suryono 2019 

In our research to help companies address their workforce wellness-related challenges, we came across a research report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics dedicated to what different parties can do to help improve population health.

In their report, they share an intervention ladder that can be applied to government, industry and employers – basically, any authoritative body that has the power to influence the choice or behaviour of others.

In this article, we’ll briefly unpack this ladder by providing examples of how it can play out in the context of a workforce nutrition programme. If you have already started implementing your workforce wellness programme, the Intervention Ladder may provide some additional context for where your programme activities fall under. This can perhaps help you make a more informed choice on whether it is suitable for your employees.

The Ladder:

  1. Do nothing or simply monitor the current behaviour
  2. Provide information.
  3. Guide choice through changing the default policy.
  4. Guide choice through incentives.
  5. Guide choice through disincentives.
  6. Restrict choice.
  7. Eliminate choice.

    1.Do nothing or simply monitor the current behaviour
    Example: Initially, observe and document the current eating habits of employees without implementing any specific interventions. Use surveys, assessments, or observational data to understand existing behaviours before deciding on the appropriate course of action.

    2.Provide information
    Example: Develop and distribute informative materials on the benefits of healthy eating. This could include pamphlets, posters, and digital resources explaining the importance of nutrition, outlining the impact of food choices on energy levels and productivity, and offering tips for making healthier choices.

      3.Guide choice through changing the default policy
      Example: Make healthy food options the default in workplace cafeterias or vending machines. Ensure that when employees make choices, the default options are nutritious. For instance, place healthier snacks at eye level in vending machines or make the default option in a cafeteria meal a balanced and nutritious one.

        4.Guide choice through incentives
        Example: Introduce a wellness program that includes incentives for employees who consistently make healthy food choices. This could involve rewarding employees with gift cards, recognition, or other incentives for reaching nutrition-related milestones or participating in wellness challenges.

          5.Guide choice through disincentives
          Example: Implement a policy where unhealthy food choices are subject to a small additional cost or are not covered by workplace subsidies. This provides a financial disincentive for choosing less healthy options, encouraging employees to opt for healthier alternatives.

          6.Restrict choice
          Example: Limit the availability of sugary beverages or unhealthy snacks in workplace vending machines or cafeterias. This restriction encourages employees to choose from a selection of healthier options, creating an environment that supports better nutrition.

            7.Eliminate choice
            Example: In extreme cases, an employer might choose to eliminate certain highly processed or unhealthy food options altogether from the workplace. For instance, removing sugary sodas from vending machines or replacing them with water and healthier beverage options.

              It’s important to note that the choice of intervention should align with the organisation’s culture, the specific needs of the workforce, and the overall goals of the workforce nutrition program. A combination of strategies may be more effective than relying on a single approach. Additionally, it’s crucial to communicate any changes transparently, provide support, and ensure that employees feel empowered rather than coerced or deprived of their food choices.


              Need more guidance to help your organisation on its workforce wellness journey? Join the next Workforce Nutrition Masterclass

              The Workforce Nutrition Masterclass is a collaborative initiative of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). It is designed to support organisations with the planning, development and implementation of workforce nutrition programmes. The curriculum covers Breastfeeding at Work, Healthy food at Work, Nutrition Education and Nutrition-focused Health Checks, in addition to guiding participants in the practical application of such initiatives. During the Masterclass, participants receive various tools and resources to enhance the live virtual training sessions, delivered over 12 weeks. The next one kicks off in September 2024. Enquire or book your spot today.

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