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SMEs are the backbone of the economies of most APO members for the economic value they create, the workforce they absorb, and the socioeconomic equality they bring to society. Creating and maintaining safe, healthy work environments for SMEs is a simple way to enhance productivity but often neglected because the time and resources of SMEs can be tight and scarce, and health and well-being are commonly regarded as a luxury.
The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of the importance of a healthy workforce. The practices of remote and flexible work and increased adoption of digital technologies are also changing the landscape of work environments. For the next level of productivity improvement, more discussion of the physical and mental well-being of workers is indispensable. There is no better time to reflect on where to work, who should work, and how we work.
To assist in fostering better work conditions and environments for SMEs, the APO Secretariat collaborated with the Development Academy of the Philippines in organizing a workshop on Developing Healthy Workplaces for SMEs, 3–5 August. Forty-six participants from 12 APO members examined the concept of and frameworks for healthy, productivity-enhancing workplaces, learned about good practices and policies facilitating safe work environments, and discussed how synergy could be generated by stakeholders such as workplace health professionals, academics, businesses, employer/employee groups, NGOs, and the media.
The participants recognized that enhancing health and well-being in workplaces is a critical driver of productivity. For SMEs striving for higher productivity growth, creating safe, healthy work environments is a logical starting point.