The workplace has a significant impact on employees' health, and likewise, employees' health has a great impact on the workplace. As employers increasingly realize that their actions in the workplace can positively affect the health and well-being of their employees, they are finding that improving well-being makes good business sense.
Many employers implement wellness programs, but fail to create a true culture of well-being in their workplace. As a result, they face many challenges in improving well-being in their workforce. Participation in initiatives may not be strong, employees may resist changes in their lifestyle behavior, and leaders may not be engaged in healthy lifestyles.
Although wellness programs have been shown to positively change employees' health and lifestyle behaviors, which in turn, positively impact their organizations, employers that invest in shifting their culture to one of well-being are able to build and sustain better well-being over time and achieve even greater benefits in terms of reduced health care costs as well as greater productivity and performance.
Here are eight (8) ways to create a culture of well-being.
1. Lead by example
Leaders need to take care of themselves and exemplify what it means to have a balanced life. If leaders state that work-life balance and well-being are priorities, then they must show employees that by exemplifying healthy lifestyle behaviors, endorsing organizational programs, and respecting employees' time away from the office.
2. Show you care about well-being
Interestingly, one of the leading drivers of engagement is whether or not employees believe that their leaders care and are concerned about their well-being. To show they care about well-being, leaders should continually:
- Show concern for employees' well-being
- Communicate the importance of well-being and employees taking care of themselves
- Emphasize the importance of a healthy lifestyle
- Introduce and align workplace practices and policies to enhance well-being
- State the organization's commitment to helping employees achieve a better well-being
3. Invest in wellness
Making investments in and financially supporting employees' well-being through wellness programs, wellness initiatives, above average health and welfare benefits (i.e. health insurance, disability, paid leaves of absence, etc.), and other tools and resources that support employees' well-being helps communicate the message that well-being is important to your organization, and helps build a culture of well-being.
To name just a few, investments can include employer-subsidized:
- Physical fitness programs, classes, and club memberships
- Health education and information
- Health screenings and assessments
- Wellness activities (screenings, vaccinations, etc.)
- Targeted programs (tobacco cessation, chronic disease prevention/management, etc.)
- On-site or telephonic wellness coaching
- Healthy food options and snacks
Similarly, clear communication and promotion of these offerings is imperative. Employees must know what options are available to them to assist them in their well-being.
4. Eliminate barriers to wellness
Most employees want to genuinely improve their quality of life and develop a healthier lifestyle, but their leading barriers are time and money. By eliminating these barriers and giving employees more time to devote to improving their well-being, being flexible with their work hours to provide time for fitness, providing more convenient access to resources, and offering free options, you help eliminate the most common barriers to improving well-being.
5. Address multiple components of health
Health is multifaceted, and therefore, to truly build a culture of well-being, your organization needs to focus on its many components including physical, career, financial, social, and community well-being in the workplace.
Organizations that think beyond the traditional boundaries of wellness and offer tools and resources to help employees more holistically in all of these areas of well-being are more successful in creating cultures of well-being. Here are some ideas for atypical 'wellness' offerings that boost well-being beyond physical wellness:
- Career paths/tracks and career counseling, coaching, or conversations
- Financial, legal, and retirement counseling and education
- Employee assistance programs
- Access to emotional/mental health counseling services
6. Open up a dialogue about well-being issues
Employers must create a culture of openness and communication where employees feel comfortable approaching their managers with concerns about work-life, well-being, and stress issues; and managers should feel comfortable and empowered to help employees address their concerns using an individualized and tailored approach. Managers need to continually strive to understand what keeps their employees from feeling "well" and help them improve their lives.
Similarly, opening up a dialogue and conversation throughout the organization about wellness issues (such as physical fitness, nutrition, work/life balance, etc.) helps keep wellness top of mind and foster a culture of well-being and helps facilitate the exchanging of ideas, success stories, and support about wellness and well-being.
7. Hire people who care about well-being
Employees who are engaged in wellness and taking care of themselves, and who lead balanced lives, are contagious in their organizations. They help get their coworkers interested in wellness, and these informal social interactions eventually create a natural culture of well-being.
You can sometimes gauge whether candidates care about well-being by simply asking about their interests, what they do for leisure, etc. in the interview process. You can also promote and emphasize your organization's culture of well-being in the recruiting and hiring process.
8. Resolve the issue of stress
Last but not least, stress is one of the leading reasons why employers fail to truly build a culture that enhances well-being. Stress leads to more issues of well-being in the workplace than any other issue.
This is why you can't invest in healthy lifestyle behaviors without successfully tackling the issue of stress. Employers that build cultures of well-being work to identify stressful aspects of work (i.e. workload, inconsistency, lack of clear expectations, etc.), reduce or eliminate those stressors, improve working conditions, and help employees cultivate the necessary skills to handle stress (i.e. personal empowerment, time management etc.).
Developing a culture of well-being is far more beneficial than simply developing a wellness program, and these strategies will help your organization create lasting positive change in employees' well-being.
View ERC's Wellness Practices Survey Results
This report summarizes the results of ERC’s survey of organizations in Northeast Ohio on practices related to health care and wellness.