A guide to setting employee health goals

Just as employers play a critical role in setting performance targets and defining work-related goals for employees, they can also help find a healthier workforce and improve health and wellbeing among staff by encouraging and facilitating health goal-setting. Employers can help their people refocus their energy on health goals to encourage a sustainable approach to healthy living – at work and at home.

Setting health goals

Goal setting is a common strategy that employers use to increase employee motivation and a useful tool to translate intentions into behaviour change. Workplace goal setting between employees and their managers helps identify what an individual will aim to achieve with the support of the employer.

Just like setting work related goals, understanding and setting goals helps enable:

  • a clear understanding of the target/s to be reached or outcomes to be achieved
  • a sense of direction and purpose for both the program provider and the participants
  • identification of the steps required to reach the desired outcome or target
  • the inspiration to achieve goals.

This can also be incorporated into workplace health promotion programs. Setting health goals as an organisation can provide focus and direction for workplace health promotion programs and motivate businesses to choose effective interventions based on the needs of their staff.

Consider these four key steps to setting health goals in the workplace:

All of these factors can impact on the type of health and wellness programs that might work well in your workplace, and can play a role in deciding how to complement what they do at work with realistic and achievable health goals.

  1. Plan for your workplace. Think about the type of jobs your employees have – are they office-based or field-based? Centralised or dispersed? Do they spend time at their desks, on their feet or behind the wheel? Do they work independently, or in teams?
  1. Assess the current status and health needs of your workplace. Some issues to consider may include:
  • What are the inherent physical, psychological and cognitive demands of tasks performed in your workplace?
  • What are the health needs of workers in various teams or departments (e.g. do they need to be inspired to get up and move regularly or to sit down and take breaks periodically)?
  • What sort of preventative health strategies and advice do employees currently receive to maximise health and wellbeing and minimise potential work injuries?
  • Has attention been paid to the ergonomic needs of workers as they carry out various tasks in the workplace?
  • Do your employees need and want help managing weight, eating healthy or quitting smoking?
  1. Inspire employees to participate. Different teams or departments may need different health promotion activities. You may wish to consider some of the following which might suit your workers:
  • Health checks – e.g. blood pressure, cholesterol, lung function testing, skin checks
  • Healthy living support – e.g. nutrition advice and consultations with accredited practising dietitians, workplace exercise initiatives, smoking cessation programs
  • Immunisations for common infectious diseases – e.g. flu vaccinations
  • Ergonomic or musculoskeletal (bone and joint) assessments for assess risk of and prevent injury
  • Stress minimisation initiatives – e.g. mental health awareness, flexible workplace arrangements, seminars and training to develop skills to improve emotional wellbeing e.g. stress management, resilience
  1. Measure and track success. This becomes a tool for future planning. Success can also be a powerful motivator for others to participate next time you run a program. Consider whether initiatives such as an employer-driven health assessment might have measurable benefits for your organisation as they can help highlight key health issues across your workforce.

Are your goals SMART?

Make sure to set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time‐bound.



Health Promotion Board. Workplace health promotion: planning series: 5c. Programme design – writing a programme plan. 2013. Available from: http://www.hpb.gov.sg

Quintiliani L, Sattelmair J, Sorensen G. The workplace as a setting for interventions to improve diet and promote physical activity. Geneva: World Health Organisation. 2007. Available from: www.who.int