Sodexo, Harvard Win Federal Grant to Study the Health of Front-Line Employees

The four-year grant is aimed at finding new approaches to address the ways the workplace can affect health and safety.

Sodexo (No. 6 on the DiversityInc Top 50 list), world leader in Quality of Life services, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Center for Work, Health and Wellbeing at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health announce a new four-year grant aimed at finding new approaches to address the many ways that the workplace can affect health and safety of front-line employees.

The more than $2.7 million grant ,funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as part of the Total Worker Health (TWH) initiative. The Center has an international purview as well in Brazil and Chile by providing technical assistance to build organizational capacity for designing, implementing, and evaluating Total Worker Health approaches.

The research will examine Sodexo’s front-line service workers across the Boston area. This work is based on a growing body of evidence linking the work environment with health outcomes. For example, stressful conditions at work such as long hours and little supervisor support have been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and depression, and shift work with increased risk of sleep disorders, obesity, and injury. These factors in turn contribute to increased absences and turnover — and increased costs for employers.

“Of our 450,000 employees worldwide, 315,000 are employed in the food service sector. Sodexo wants to better understand the health and environmental challenges that those employees face on a day-to-day basis,” said Dr. Rachel Permuth, Ph.D., global vice president of research, Sodexo. “We hope to use the findings from this research to make industry recommendations and changes that will improve not only our employees’ quality of life, but that of a broad spectrum of employees throughout the industry.”

The Center for Work, Health and Wellbeing aims to protect and promote the safety, health, and well-being of workers through integrated worksite policies, programs, and practices that foster a safe and healthy work organization and environment and promote safe and healthy behaviors. The Center will work with Sodexo to expand the evidence on worker well-being and share industry recommendations.

“The collaboration with Sodexo provides an excellent opportunity to explore and understand the ways in which improvements in organizational policies and practices can benefit workers’ safety and health,” says Glorian Sorensen, Ph.D., director, Harvard T.H. Chan Center for Work, Health and Wellbeing at Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

The first year of the grant will focus on identifying factors in the work organization that can be feasibly modified through changes in management and organizational practices. The subsequent years will be the implementation and evaluation of practices to improve worker quality of life based on employee feedback, Sodexo policy, and the known evidence-based for improving health in this population.

Sodexo delivers more than 100 services across North America that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life. The Fortune Global 500 company is a leader in delivering sustainable, integrated facilities management and foodservice operations.

Learn more about Sodexo at its corporate blog, Sodexo Insights.

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