A healthy workplace is not something that happens by accident. If your company aspires to be a top employer, consciously pursuing workplace health needs to be a top priority. The good news is that not only does a focus on workplace wellness go a long way to attract and retain great employees, there is a growing body of research to prove that such initiatives provide a substantial return on investment in terms of reduced absenteeism, decreased health care costs, and improved productivity. The bottom line – investing in building and sustaining a healthy workplace makes good financial sense.
There are many different opinions on what it takes to build and sustain a healthy workplace culture, but without the following two foundations, your initiative is doomed to flounder or, even worse, become a source of employee discontent.
Leadership for a Healthy Workplace
The key factor that will sink any wellness initiative in your workplace is lack of active support from leadership. It is not enough to have a wellness committee the is driven by the human resources leadership team. You must have active – and visible – participation from the C-suite. If Senior managers don’t see their bosses focused on wellness, they won’t model it for mid managers and mid management won’t model it for front lines. Consciousness comes from the top. If leaders at the highest level do not make participation in (and communication about) wellness initiatives a priority, the pervasive message is that wellness is only for those who don’t want to get ahead.
Values and Culture that Supports a Healthy Workplace
You cannot slap a workplace health initiative on a toxic work environment and expect it to have any impact. This is a big part of the reason why many healthy workplace initiatives fail to reach their full potential. If open communication, trust, and respect are not a relatively consistent staple of your culture, then you have far more pressing issues to address than healthy eating, smoking cessation, weight loss and increased physical activity. Likewise if work overload is rampant, time management is poor, or organization skills and/or systems are lacking it will only increase employee stress to place one more demand on them.
The implementation of healthy workplace initiatives needs to start where your company is at. Have you addressed all of the critical low-hanging fruit that is hampering the health of your team? Do you have a your occupational health and safety policies and procedures firmly in place and being followed? Are all of your managers skilled at communication, conflict resolution, and effectively giving and receiving feedback? Are you dealing with persistent staff shortages that require either hiring additional people or improving systems/technology to deal with constant work overload? If you have issues like these, then your employees will find it inauthentic and frustrating to suddenly have “fluffy” things like workplace health programs thrust upon them. Workplace wellness initiatives need to be a natural extension of your company’s identity and evolution. If this has not been a part of your culture and values up until now, expect the shift to take time. Start where your company is at but identifying and addressing the workplace issues that are most negatively impacting your employees overall well-being and ability to perform in their roles.
We at Kyosei would love to help you develop your healthy workplace initiative. Contact us. And to see six additional guidelines for creating a healthy workplace (and get access to some great free resources) visit the following link to and article on the The British Columbia Ministry of Health website:
Image: Health Gauge via Flickr.