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Creating a Culture of Well-Being in the Workplace

What is a culture of well-being? You might think of it as the energy that either propels people forward in an organization or drags them down. It’s that special sauce that leads to better health, happier employees, and greater productivity. But it doesn’t just happen overnight. Creating a true culture of well-being takes time, strategic thought, planning, and execution. Here are some ideas to help develop a culture of wellness in your organization.

Why workplace wellness is important.

Before we share thoughts on how to create your culture of well-being, here’s a quick reminder of why it’s so important. Research shows there is a strong, positive correlation between well-being, productivity and organizational performance. Employee well-being is now a business priority. According to a November 2019 Willis Towers Watson survey, employer commitment to and prioritization of well-being is stronger than ever—73% say they will make health culture a top priority over the next three years. Note: this was before the pandemic thrust employee well-being into the spotlight, so current numbers are likely to be even higher.

Good workplace culture doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s important to note that creating a culture of well-being can’t just happen. The idea of well-being must tie back to an organization’s core values and beliefs and be the backdrop of everything they do—from the ways people lead the organization down to how they treat their employees and customers. Without these values to fall back on, touting a well-being culture might fall flat. And so, when strategizing how to develop a culture of wellness at your workplace, you must first consider your overall values and lead with those. Then you can consider what a well-being culture might look like for you and your people.

So, what are some actionable ways to create a culture of well-being? Health assessments, biometric screenings, and wellness challenges are important, but building an environment where health is viewed as a priority takes much more.

First, listen to what employees want and need.

Ask employees what they expect from a well-being culture. This is easy to do with a quick survey or even a virtual focus group. Well-being needs vary across generations, race, gender, and sexual orientation, so be sure to include a representative sample. Once you’ve conducted your listening, share what you learned and the actions you’ll take as a result.

Role-model healthy behaviors.

A well-being culture starts at the top. When employees see senior leaders and managers actively focusing on health, they become more comfortable devoting time to their own health. It also sends the signal that well-being is an organizational priority, not just a nice-to-have.

Here are some ideas to involve leadership at your organization:

  • Discuss well-being in CEO town halls.
  • Ask leaders to block time on their calendars for fitness or meditation, or join company-sponsored group fitness sessions.
  • Encourage leaders to be open about taking time off to care for themselves—physically and mentally—or others in their life who need care.
  • Create a fun challenge. One of our clients held a successful “Who’s the Boss” Fitbit step challenge where employees tried to outstep the President/CEO.
  • Devote just a couple of minutes to well-being during weekly team meetings: advertise well-being activities happening that week, encourage employees to take walk or stretch breaks, and highlight available mental health resources.

Create a healthy work environment.

You can proclaim a culture of wellness, but if the physical workplace doesn’t walk the talk, it’s hard to truly achieve it. Examine some of the less-healthy messages your organization might be sending—from candy bowls in breakrooms to workspaces that are not ergonomically correct. Remember to consider your remote employees here as well!

Include more healthy options in the cafeteria, provide discounts for healthy meal services for remote employees, encourage outdoor walking meetings and using the stairs, make fruit available when it’s in season, host healthy cooking demonstrations, sponsor a recreational sports team, hold outdoor yoga classes—the list of activities that signal that an organization is committed to well-being is endless!

Embrace employees’ lives outside of work.

These days, it’s nearly impossible to separate our work lives from the rest of our lives. And trying to separate them just leads to more stress. To boost mental wellness, lean into ways employees can bring their whole selves to work by sharing in what’s important to them, such as:

Community service.

Helping others has been known to lower cortisol levels, reduce stress, ease pain, lower blood pressure, and boost the immune system. Not to mention, it can give your team a chance to bond. Giving back is particularly important to younger generations. Try to plan activities that match your company’s mission or business and find a local organization you can develop an ongoing relationship with. There are lots of ways to involve employees in virtual community service, too.

Forums where employees can talk about their interests, family, and life.

Experts say one way to combat the “loneliness epidemic” is to create stronger connections with coworkers. Employee resource groups are a great way to spark this connection, generate rapport between coworkers, and help people see each other in a new way.

Recruit well-being culture champions.

One effective way to infuse well-being into an organization’s culture is to seek out people who are well-being advocates and ask them to become champions. Peer pressure can be a positive force for making healthy changes, so encourage champions to participate in well-being activities and share on workplace social media. You can also ask champions to organize special events and actively promote them to their colleagues.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Employees need to consistently hear about well-being in order to continue participating in your well-being program. A constant drumbeat of communication about wellness initiatives is key to cementing a well-being culture. Think multi-channel communications that go beyond email—monitor ads, flyers, table tents, posters, e-cards, workplace social media, Slack channels, even home mailers.

As we said at the outset, building a culture of well-being takes time. But as employees start to engage with your program offerings regularly, they will see the benefits in their day-to-day lives. When employees become healthier, greater engagement at work typically follows—leading to increased productivity and better business results. Ready to get started creating your culture of well-being? Visit our website or contact us at connect@webmd.net.

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