Building a Culture of Health
A Healthy workplace is a more productive workplace.
It is a well-documented and accepted fact that maintaining a workplace where employees are healthy, in addition to improving their quality of life at the individual level, positively contributes to their productivity thereby adding to the company’s bottom-line.
Even though this fact is commonly accepted and acknowledged by organizations, most face a challenge in designing and implementing effective policies and programs that can help them achieve the desired objective. The major stumbling block, in an overwhelming number of cases, is at the initial stage of designing an effective health program.
It all starts at the beginning.
Setting a house in order is no small task. But if implemented correctly, the results are equally rewarding. The process can be made meaningful by following some logical steps and understanding what constitutes a good foundation before seeking and adopting solutions.
> IDENTIFY THE NEED FIRST AND FOREMOST
One needs to know the house members and what plagues the house before seeking remedies. Otherwise we are likely setting ourselves up for failure. To enable any comprehensive solution, employers need to factor in individual employee needs and risk factors, along with overall organizational factors that help or hinder employees’ efforts.
> AS MUCH A TOP-DOWN APPROACH AS BOTTOM-UP
An effective health and wellness program is one that creates a culture of health, aligning individual goals with those of the organization. This implies that both the leadership and the workplace environment become active agents in supporting healthy choices. The management needs to demonstrate intent, even if (and often) it means their direct and active participation as drivers of the health initiative.
Building a Culture of Health.
I strongly believe and work on the principle of “training for life, and not events”. The same applies when creating a health and wellness program. A program with a limited lifespan cannot ensure health and wellness for life unless it ingrains a culture of health that becomes one’s way of life. An organization’s culture (including its approach to health) is defined by the actions of its leadership and percolates down to become shared values of the organization. Some important prerequisites (based on ground observations) for enabling the same include:
> LEADERSHIP COMMITMENT: Successful health and wellness programs have the organization’s leadership setting an example through active involvement and by creating a supportive environment that encourages employee participation.
> A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT: Encouraging healthy habits, providing the needed infrastructure for pursuit of the same, periodic need assessments, maintaining a fun-factor in all initiatives and implementing policies that aid in the stated purpose of better health and wellness for all employees.
> FREQUENT AND STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION: Ongoing engagement with employees in the form of feedbacks and surveys help in making them a more inclusive part of the program. Tailoring the communication to address their needs also helps create greater impact.
> HIGH EMPLOYEE PARTICIPATION: The HR and other concerned departments must encourage active employee participation at all stages to make the program meaningful and long lasting. Most health and wellness programs fall by the side as they are decided by departments and handed down to employees to attend. They then become more of a chore leading to disengagement and disenchantment.
> INCENTIVES: Organizations may adopt various kinds of incentives – financial considerations or others – as a fillip to employees participating.
> EVALUATION: It is critical to build in program evaluation processes that measure success at each stage and identify challenges. This allows for corrective actions to keep the program goals on track, maintain a sense of continuity and encourage cohesion of programming.
For an organization that is truly committed to the health and wellbeing of its employees, and to building a healthy workplace, creating a Culture of Health is the most significant step of the process. It is not as overwhelming as it may seem, provided the leadership displays and effectively communicates this intent.