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Creating a Company Culture of Well-Being

What does it mean to have a healthy corporate culture? Every company is different, but employees who work for organizations with a healthy culture are generally happier, more engaged, and feel supported by their employer—both in work and in life. And it directly impacts productivity and retention. The question is: how do you build such a culture? We offer some tips in this week’s blog.

Why building company culture is so important.

According to Harvard Business Review, culture is the “tacit social order of an organization;” it shapes attitudes and behaviors and “can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared purpose and foster an organization’s capacity to thrive.”1 Employees who work at companies with a strong, positive culture tend to:

  • Feel inspired by the company’s mission.
  • Say they are treated well, recognized, and appreciated by their managers.
  • Experience less stress and are more engaged.
  • Feel “psychologically safe” and free to be their authentic selves.
  • Be more loyal and less likely to leave.

So, in other words, a good company culture can make a huge difference in how people show up to work each day and, in turn, impact the bottom line. There are many levers organizations can use to create company culture. Leadership is a powerful one. But we would argue that a large part of what makes a good company culture is the degree to which the organization values and supports its employees’ holistic well-being. When employees feel better across multiple dimensions of their lives—socially, physically, financially, emotionally, and clinically—they have the tools to thrive and make positive contributions to the workplace. Here are some company culture ideas to consider.

Key elements to create your company culture of well-being.

Consider your values. 

Reflecting on the company’s values is an important initial step when creating a company culture of well-being. Your well-being culture must tie back to your organization’s core values and beliefs—from how people lead the organization to how they treat their employees and customers. Without these values to fall back on, efforts to create a well-being culture will fall flat.

Listen to what employees want and need.

Ask employees what they expect from you. 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.

Make employees’ mental health a priority.

It’s never been more clear that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. And while the stigma of talking about mental health at work is starting to lessen, it’s still difficult to tell a manager you need a mental health day. But, by regularly discussing the importance of mental health—and continually promoting the resources the company makes available to employees to help—employers seeking to build a healthy company culture can make significant inroads. You can start by promoting your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and its many resources, and examine other programs you may want to introduce to reduce stress, help employees start a mindfulness habit, or increase resilience.

Offer flexibility.

Over the last couple of years, the degree to which an employer offers flexibility in how, when, and where people work has emerged as a huge factor in creating a healthy workplace culture. Most employees want to work remotely at least part of the time, and employers who have mandated a total return to the office are seeing a backlash. However, if your organization isn’t ready to give up in-person work, there are some aspects of flexibility you can introduce, like:

  • Allowing employees to set their own schedules to better align with family responsibilities, or simply to work when they feel most productive.
  • Offering 4-day or compressed workweeks.
  • Introducing additional PTO.
  • Requiring “no meeting” days so employees can schedule appointments or get focused work done.
  • Giving choice and control in work shifts for those who can’t work from home, including self-scheduling, shift-swapping, compressed workweeks, part-time work, and job sharing.

Check out more ideas on how to create a flexible work environment here.

Role-model healthy behaviors.

A strong 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 signals that well-being is an integral part of the culture, not just a nice-to-have.

Here are some ideas to show how leaders can “walk the talk” as you create a culture of well-being 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.
  • 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.

Embrace employees’ lives outside of work.

The pandemic forced workers to really reflect on what is important to them in life. Many decided that they wanted to make more time for family, pursue personal passions, or give back to their communities. And they’re looking to employers to give them the time and space to do so. Here are two ways to do this:

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

One of the best ways to build a strong company culture is to strengthen the bonds between coworkers. Employee resource groups are a great way to spark this connection, generate rapport between coworkers, and allow employees to share parts of their lives outside of work.

Encourage community service.

 Studies have shown a high, positive correlation between participation in employee volunteer programs and employee engagement.2 So if your organization doesn’t currently offer paid time off to volunteer, it’s something to consider. You can also sponsor volunteer activities that match your company’s mission or business and find a local organization with which you can develop an ongoing relationship. There are many ways to involve employees in virtual community service, too.

Create a healthy work environment.

You can say that you support employees’ well-being, but it’s hard to truly achieve if the physical workplace doesn’t walk the talk. 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.

Offer numerous ways for employees to increase daily physical activity.

Taking regular breaks to move throughout the day can help reduce stress, increase focus, and improve mood. But employees need to feel that they have permission to step away from their desks to do it. There are ways to encourage this: walking meetings, ending meetings 10 minutes early, or blocking calendars for a lunchtime walk. Again this is an area where leaders can set the tone by engaging in these activities themselves.

Over the past couple of years, it’s become clearer that exercise doesn’t need to be an hour-long boot camp. And it shouldn’t have to happen after the workday ends or before it begins. Progressive employers with healthy cultures know that offering time to exercise during the day can actually make workers more productive.

Enlist the support of well-being culture champions.

To really infuse well-being into the culture, it helps to enlist some ambassadors. 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.

Remember, a healthy company culture doesn’t happen overnight. It takes considerable thought, planning, and time to combine all the elements. 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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