A dialogue with employees in low income positions about workplace health
An ethnographic-participatory approach (ZONMw 2018-2021)

In 2018-2021 we conducted a a study ’Health in Action; a participatory ethnographic research into work place health promotion for employees with low social economic position (SEP)’. The study was financed by ZONMw (300.000,- Euro) and Kenniscentrum voor Sociale Werkgelegenheid SBCM (90.000,- Euro).

Voice of employees

There are significant and persistent socioeconomic health differences in the Netherlands, which call for additional efforts to improve the health of low-skilled workers in the workplace. Unfortunately, many of the programmes currently available are not effective for low-skilled workers, as they do not align with the needs, wishes, perceptions and culture of these individuals. In order to improve the resilience and health of these employees, they must be given a say in the development of a healthy workplace.

Workplace culture

Our research team – Agnes Meershoek, Klasien Horstman, Lotte Thissen and Dorit Bierman – has performed two-year ethnographic fieldwork research on the daily culture of employees in two settings: a factory that requires shift work and a sheltered workshop. Together with employees, we investigated the meaning of health and resilience and organized experiments to make improvements. The insights of the study were also tried out in new companies.

Based on the insights of the study we developed a training in a participatory approach to improving the health of low-skilled workers –for HR managers and others interested in work place health promotion. See: www.gezondheidmetdewerkvloer.nl