Creating a Healthy Workplace Culture (Part 1)

January 13, 2019

Creating a Healthy Workplace Culture (Part 1)

For most people, the beginning of the new year is also the time for new beginnings. New Year’s resolutions are being set, and people are very motivated to improve their health and well-being. As an organization, this can impact you. Healthier employees are often happier, more productive at work, and miss fewer work days. More specifically, lifestyle interventions that include nutrition counselling, increased physical activity, and other behaviour modifications can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, reduce cholesterol levels, and improve blood pressure.

Taking the steps as an organization to encourage your employees to engage in healthier behaviours will not only benefit your bottom line now, but focusing on prevention and emphasizing health within your workplace culture can keep employees healthier, more productive, and happier long-term.

So What is Workplace Culture?

Workplace culture is typically defined as the shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions that are shared by the employees within a workplace. Your work culture is shaped by your employees, the leadership team, and your strategic organizational directions. Management plays a huge role in defining and promoting company culture, as well as creating hiring practices that ensure that new employees fit within that culture. When decision making within a company is aligned with the culture, you can improve teamwork, morale, and job satisfaction, as well as increase productivity, efficiency, and employee retention.

How Can We Focus on Health?

Ingraining health within your workplace culture means that one of the key values and beliefs of the company is employee health and wellness. By incorporating health within the mission and values of your company it means that decisions made within the company not only consider the health of your employees, but also encourage healthy behaviours that set employees up for success. Remember that you’re likely not starting from scratch here. You likely already have things in place, such as employee health benefits, that promote health within the workplace. It’s important to evaluate what you have and consider how you can enhance utilization.

Here are four things to consider when you are looking to incorporate health and wellness within your company culture.

Lead by example

While a lot of people believe that culture develops organically, in reality, workplace culture often starts at the top. If the leadership team believes in health and wellness and participates in healthy activities, this will trickle down. A sure way to undo any progress you’ve made is for management discourage utilization. Here’s an example. A friend of mine had a job interview with a big tech company that is well known for taking employee health and wellness seriously. Unfortunately, the manager conducting the interview did not seem to value this portion of the culture and made an off-hand remark that their team was too busy to make use of what the office had to offer. Basically implying to this potential new hire that, yes these things are available, but making use of them would be frowned upon because you should be too busy. Yikes. What is the point of having employee perks then if you don’t want employees to use them? That manager was a detriment to this company’s culture and clearly didn’t share the company’s core values. Not only that, but he was also telling his team that they shouldn’t buy into the culture as well. It’s so important that management is on board and everyone is striving towards the same goals.

Consider Your Employees

What a healthy culture looks like may vary from company to company. Before jumping into various health and wellness programs, it’s important to consider your employees. What do they like? What does health mean to them? Where are people starting from? This is especially important to do if you plan on spending money. As a business, you want to make sure that you are spending wisely and therefore, any employee-related programs must be well-suited to your employee population.

Take Small Steps

Similar to that crash diet you start in January that doesn’t last until February, a huge shift in company culture may rock the boat a little too much and do the opposite of what you intended. Your goal is to create sustainable change. Make a list of all the ways that you currently promote health and wellness within your company and build upon what you already have. Do you have employee benefits, flexible work hours, a company gym membership, etc.? Run a short promotional campaign to ensure that employees are aware of the current offerings and how to access them, then build from there. Small, sustainable changes over time are much easier to manage than huge overhauls.

Be Consistent

Consistency is key. In order to truly incorporate health into your company culture, you need to be consistent with your messages and decision making. For example, if healthy eating is a key part of your workplace culture, and you offer employee snacks, there should be healthy options that people can choose from. If you’re only offering chips and chocolate bars, that’s confusing, and you’re not setting your employees up for success.

The Bottom Line

Companies often benefit from incorporating health and wellness into their corporate culture. Healthy employees are happier, more productive, and more engaged in the workplace. However, it takes time, consistency, and executive buy-in to truly create a culture of health. Want to learn more about what you can start doing right now to improve the health of your employees, head over to Creating a Healthy Workplace Culture Part 2.

References

Agarwal, P. (2018, Aug 29). How To Create A Positive Workplace Culture. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com

Biro, M. M. (2016, Dec 9). The Benefits of Developing a Workplace Culture of Health. Retrieved from: https://talentculture.com/

Dietitians of Canada. What is the effectiveness of dietary or lifestyle interventions for preventing or treating chronic disease in the primary care setting? In: Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition® [PEN]. 2016 Sept 12. Available from: http://www.pennutrition.com. The PEN System: an international, online, evidence-based, peer reviewed database for nutrition guidance



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