Manon Claeys, motivation mover and learning expert at Alert!

Manon’s academic path led her to work on prevention and well-being at the workplace. A place where we spend most of our time. The master’s programme Occupational Health and Sustainable Work (OHSW) uncovered the interventions that companies and policymakers need to keep work sustainable. Her job as a motivation mover now supports those organisations with person-centered work policies and educational trainings. 

From healthy food to healthy workers

Manon went from a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, to a master’s degree in Health Education and Promotion and a second master’s degree in Occupational Health and Sustainable Work (OHSW). “This may not seem like a logical path, but it was so for me. During my bachelor I was more interested in prevention than a curative treatment, so health promotion was the next logical step. I already knew I wanted to focus on people at the workplace, where we spent most of our time, but I wanted to start broad and then narrow it down. So, I started with Health Education and Promotion and ended with Occupational Health and Sustainable Work.”

Manon learned everything about health prevention and behavioral change during her first master. It was Occupational Health and Sustainable Work that taught her how to use that knowledge to benefit organisations and workers. “I gained insights in the struggles of companies and organisations, which can be very diverse. For example, inclusivity at the workplace, performance management or even the risks of asbestos and hearing loss.” Manon ended her master Occupational Health and Sustainable Work with a thesis about line manager’s perspectives and responses when employees burn out. She is very proud to announce that her thesis was published.

Research towards the prevention of burnout

There have been a lot of publications on burnout and the effect it has on workers. Manon’s qualitative research focused on the emerging stage of burnout when a worker is still active and if and when the direct line manager sees it coming. “We focused on the educational and health care sectors in Flanders, Belgium and worked with line managers who had employees that returned to work after burnout.”

It’s not easy to detect when someone is heading for burnout, because we tend to hide our work-related stress. “However, when line managers do pick up the signals, they take on an active role. Although this is influenced by whether the manager has had previous experience with burnouts.” Manon’s research is a first step to prevent the further development of early burnout symptoms. Her current work as a motivation mover and learning expert let’s her continue to educate managers on dealing with those symptoms and strive for healthy people-oriented work.

Well-being at the workplace

Manon works for two affiliated organisations that work on well-being at the workplace: Alert! and Impulsadvice. Alert! provides courses and coaching on an individual and team level and Impuls consults on a larger organisational level. According to Manon, the calls for support are pouring in: “There is a high demand for support from all kinds of organisations, such as construction and energy companies, factories, schools, day care nurseries, health organisations and so on. I mostly give workshops on stress, resilience and how to provide and receive feedback but also on first aid and safety. Combining all these topics as well as working on policies on an organisational level keeps my job really interesting.”

The high demand can be explained by organisations becoming more aware of the need to provide a workplace where workers feel safe, happy, and healthy. “There are new laws that are being passed about the psychosocial wellbeing of workers. The new generation also demands a better work-life balance and perhaps has other needs than previous generations.” This higher demand ensures job security for OHSW-graduates. “You can stay in the academic world or become an advisor, or a teacher like me. It all depends on the fields you would like to explore.”

Small changes, large effects

The biggest effect on well-being at the workplace according to Manon? A straightforward answer is recognition. “Recognition isn’t always reflected by someone’s salary. Appreciating someone and the job that they do, can have a huge effect on people.” So, if you have someone work for you, or you see a person working in the streets be sure to make their day by giving them a compliment.

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