Organisational Culture & Attitude – Creating a Healthier Workplace

Part 2 – Organisational Culture & Attitude

In part 1 of this series of short articles, I described The Workplace Health Pyramid as a concept, providing institutions with a systematic approach to implementing changes that lead to a healthier workplace, more engaged employees and high performing business units.  In this article I focus on the importance of organisational culture when considering health & wellbeing (H&W) in the workplace.

As shown in The Workplace Health Pyramid diagram, organisational culture provides the foundations that underpin a sustainable healthy workplace and like any building project, solid foundations are paramount to a successful H&W strategy.  But how do you create a positive culture and what does it look like and entail? Whilst there isn’t an “off the shelf” answer to this, there are several areas a business should look to consider:

Leading by example

The championing of H&W programmes, initiatives and campaigns by organisation senior leaders, is an effective method to gain buy-in from company employees. The impact of senior leadership being a transparent and active voice in H&W cannot be underestimated.  Talking openly, sharing experiences and inviting employees to join them in wellness initiatives is a powerful way of leading and promoting workplace wellbeing whilst embedding a strong culture.

Include employees from all levels in H&W strategy development

In order to develop an effective H&W programme, businesses should listen to employees at all levels to gather insights and opinions on how H&W currently impacts them, what they would change and how they would go about doing this. Business leaders may also look to foster the creation and support of specialist working groups with a particular passion for health & wellness. Such groups should be inclusive of employees throughout the company structure, allowing voices of all levels to be heard, and the development of more inclusive and impactful programmes.

Corporate Policy

Embedding H&W within corporate policy is an effective method of developing a strong culture. Such policies should be aimed at encouraging and facilitating working practices that support both mental and physical employee H&W.  More specifically this can range from making specific services available (such as providing professional mental health support) through to working conditions (such as allowing flexible working hours or locations).  Putting in place a strong corporate policy that is utilised and referred to regularly, is a key way to ensure a sustainable impact on employee H&W and create a legacy of a healthy workplace. 

Regular touch points

In developing a strong H&W culture, it’s vitally important that a business backs-up it’s intentions with opportunities for employees to interact and experience H&W in practice. This provides substance to H&W policy and gives employee’s the impression that their employer’s really do care about their wellbeing.  Touch points can be implemented in a number of ways:

Sensory

Wall mounted health messages, biophilic office design, aromas, air quality indication, effective acoustics, circadian lighting, accessibility to healthy food options and nutritional information

Interaction

Regular H&W check-in at line manager meetings, provision of health screening and insurance, signposting of health initiatives and information, provision of wearable health technologies

Essentially, creating an environment where H&W consideration is in the “line of sight” of employees from both a sensory and interactive perspective, helps instil a feeling that your business is prioritising the health of its staff.

Proactive > Reactive

It is not unusual for businesses to implement H&W provision in reaction to contemporary issues raised in the media. As is well documented in government policy however, prevention is better than cure. Given cost of absenteeism, retention and hiring being so high, this rings true in the corporate landscape – develop a healthier culture and employee demographic through investing in proactive, sustainable H&W provision, and reap both the cultural and financial benefits associated with a healthier workforce.

Value of Investment (VOI): Looking beyond ROI

When looking at developing a strong H&W strategy & culture, identifying and agreeing key success measures and KPI’s should be considered beyond pounds & pennies. One of the hardest tasks for H&W provision is accurately quantifying return on investment (ROI) and attributing metrics that directly reflect the effect of what has been implemented. “Increases in productivity” is a phrase often referred to as a proxy for ROI, however, given productivity’s multifactorial nature, it is difficult to be completely definitive on how many £’s return you receive per £ investment.  Whilst it is still important to attempt to identify robust proxy’s for ROI, a strong culture of H&W should also focus on and acknowledge the VOI of a healthy workforce.  Increases in employee satisfaction, happiness and engagement tend to go hand-in-hand with healthy workplace cultures, each of which have been reported to positively impact bottom-line business performance. As such, the success of a H&W strategy should be a balanced view including both ROI and VOI related metrics.

To summarise, developing a strong workplace H&W culture is not a one stop shop and should be tackled from several angles.  Whilst different sized organisations will invariably have different sized budgets, many of the suggestions in this article require no more than the investment of time, planning and thought leadership.

In the next article, I will delve into level 2 of The Workplace Health Pyramid, where we identify the effect of the current workplace experience on employee H&W and how by measuring this, impactful strategies can be developed that are bespoke to organisational demographics.

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