Research has shown that health in working populations are related to the individual, the workplace and the social context outside work. Together with current pressure on employers to help the employees practice healthy behavior, employers might be influenced to invest in workplace health promotion (WHP) programs outside traditional working hours.
The aim was to explore opinions about WHP programs outside traditional working hours among health care staff working in two hospital wards in the south of Sweden.
A focus group study with 77 nurses and assistant nurses participating in 18 focus groups, was conducted during 2002 - 2003. A PhD student (ÅB) was present to facilitate the process. The interviews were tape recorded and sections where the participants expressed their opinions about WHP programs were transcribed and analyzed using axial coding.
Two patterns of employees’ opinions have been revealed. Some of the respondents were positive and considered WHP programs after traditional working hours being an indication of employers’ thoughtfulness. These respondents considered WHP being a natural and obvious part of a health promoting workplace. The other pattern was instead characterized by a more negative description. This category was represented by participants’ feelings of autonomy intrusion in relation to WHP outside traditional working hours. These employees referred to a health promoting workplace with a distinct boundary between work and leisure in general.
WHP programs outside traditional working hours can be related to both positive and negative feelings among participating health care staff. Negative feelings form the base for psychological and biological processes that might have a negative impact on health. It is therefore important to reflect on how we pursue WHP, for participants to have positive experiences with opportunities for sustained or improved health.