23 SES 09 C, Forms of Learning, Policies on Career Guidance and Human Capital Development
This paper takes issue with corporate concern for shaping and governing employees’ health and wellness. Corporations have long been concerned with employee health, but this concern has shifted from a focus on occupational health and safety to include individual health and wellbeing (Bjurvald 2004, Björklund 2008). This is much in line with neo-liberal developments in the public health field internationally in which the advance of a culture of risk has resulted in individuals needing to become self-regulating and self-forming (Turner 1997). This focus on individual health and wellbeing through self-regulation and self-formation has resulted in the development of various health promoting interventions, for instance in the workplace. Workplace health promotion interventions have been described as a two-edged sword (Lupton 1995, but see also for instance Allender, Colquhoun & Kelly 2006a, 2006b and Maravelias 2009, 2012), meaning that interventions and programs concerned with employee health signal philanthropic motives on the part of the employers at the same time as they signal a control over employees’ bodies, exhorting them to engage in specific activities and not others in their spare time. Health promotion in the workplace thus serves to foster a culture of health consciousness and a desire to lead a healthy life, teaching employees what, how and why they should do in order to become happy and fulfilled with their lives and thus be more desirable employees.
As part of a discursive trend, workplace health promotion is being organized and governed on a European level by for instance a European Network for Workplace Health Promotion (ENWHP). The network aims at promoting good practice in workplace health promotion in all European countries, defining workplace health promotion as “the combined efforts of employers, employees and society to improve the health and well-being of people at work” (ENWHP 1997/2007:2). Basic network consensus on goals, vision and mission are recorded in policy documents, or declarations. For example, in the Luxembourg Declaration (ENWHP 1997/2007), implementing policies and practices that enhance employee health by making the healthy choices the easy choices is encouraged. The Luxembourg Declaration also points to important actions for improving workplace health, one of which involves promoting active participation. In an ever more health focused and neo-liberal society, corporations have started to introduce wellness inspirers into the workplace. A wellness inspirer is a regular employee who receives a couple of days of training in order to, besides their regular work duties, also function as an inspirer to help develop healthier lifestyle habits among the staff. The introduction of wellness inspirers to help advance employees’ health and wellness can hence be regarded as an example of promoting active participation among employees, and in this manner, wellness inspirers function as a technology of workplace health promotion. The purpose of this paper is therefore to explore how this phenomenon of wellness inspirers and their role in the workplace and workplace health promotion are discursively construed and operate to govern employees’ health and wellness.
Allender, S., Colquhoun, D. and Kelly, P. (2006a). Competing discourses of workplace health. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 10(1), 75-93. Allender, S., Colquhoun, D. and Kelly, P. (2006b). Governing the working population through workplace health: Knowledge, self and power in workplace health programs. Critical Public Health, 16(2), 131-142. Bjurvald, M. (2004). Från arbetarskydd till hälsofrämjande arbetsplatser. I C. Källestål (Red.), Hälsofrämjande arbete på arbetsplatser (Rapport 2004:32, pp. 11-14): Statens Folkhälsoinstitut. Björklund, E. (2008). Constituting the Healthy Employee? Governing gendered subjects in workplace health promotion. Doctoral dissertation in education. Umeå: Umeå university. ENWHP. (1997/2007). The Luxembourg Declaration on Workplace Health Promotion in the European Union [Electronic Version], 2007. Retrieved 2013-01-30 from ttp://www.enwhp.org/fileadmin/downloads/Luxembourg_Declaration_June2005_final.pdf. Foucault, M. (1978/2003). Governmentality. In P. Rabinow & N. Rose (Eds.), The Essential Foucault (pp. 229-245). New York: The New Press. Lupton, D. (1995). The Imperative of Health. Public Health and the Regulated Body. London: Sage. Maravelias, C. (2009). Health Promotion and Flexibility: Extending and Obscuring Power in Organizations. British Journal of Management. Volume 20, Issue Supplement s1, pages S194–S203 Maravelias, C. (2012). Occupational Health Services and the Socialization of the post-Fordist Employee. Nordic Journal of Social Research, Vol 3, pages 1-19. Rose, N. (1999). Powers of Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Turner, B. S. (1997). From governmentality to risk. Some reflections on Foucault’s contribution to medical sociology. In Petersen & Bunton (Eds.). Foucault, Health and Medicine (pp ix-xxi). London: Routledge.
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