In 2018, health care expenditures cost the Canadian economy $253.5 billion, or $6,839 per person. Meanwhile, poor health also costs employers more in the form of lost productivity.
Employee wellness should not be overlooked. Health is tied to organizational productivity, employee performance and company expenses. And an organization’s culture, as well as its physical environment, can impact employee health and well-being.
With the right policies and practices, employers can promote healthy employee lifestyles that reduce the risk of disease, improve fitness, and provide ample mental and physical energy.
How employers can establish a supportive workplace culture
A strong organizational culture isn’t just nice to have. It’s necessary to support healthy lifestyles, maximize employee productivity, and strategically manage risk. A supportive culture can generate many benefits that strategy alone cannot.
For instance, a strong, supportive workplace culture can help employees when they feel stressed and burnt out. It can provide resources when people need solutions to their mental, physical, and financial wellness. Organizations with excellent cultures reflect important values like trust, fairness, diversity, inclusion, and teamwork.
According to research from Harvard University, employees who report high levels of trust in their employers experience a number of benefits that can be reinvested in the company. Specifically, the researchers found that, compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:
- 74% less stress.
- 106% more energy at work.
- 50% higher productivity.
- 13% fewer sick days.
- 76% more engagement.
- 40% less burnout.
Public recognition of employee achievements is a key way to improve trust levels between employers and employees.
When employees perceive a lack of fairness and justice in the workplace, morale falls, according to research from the Australian Centre of Nonprofit and Philanthropy Studies. Employees are highly sensitive to processes such as how promotions are awarded and how conflicts are dealt with.
Increasing transparency around how work assignments are allocated and how decisions are made can improve fairness and ultimately employee performance.
Diversity in the workplace helps everyone feel comfortable, represented, and satisfied. These benefits can lead to lower turnover as well as improved productivity. By drawing on the experiences of diverse teams, organizations benefit from creative and innovative thought.
Harvard research indicates that diversity of educational backgrounds and cultural experiences produce similar benefits to those gained from racial and gender diversity.
Strong workplace cultures embrace and celebrate each employee’s uniqueness. Inclusivity means valuing employees for their strengths while also identifying blindspots that may affect the evaluation of others.
Public appreciation for the unique value each individual brings to a project helps everyone feel included. After all, even star players can’t succeed without support from their teammates.
A 2018 study found that 57 per cent of employees say they feel isolated at work. Feelings of loneliness can lower productivity and increase the risk of depression, according to research from King’s College.
Workplace culture that promotes positive teamwork can reduce feelings of isolation, improve morale, and stabilize productivity. Making resources available for employees who feel isolated can further reduce drains on company performance.
Why employee physical and mental health require a strong foundation
A strong workplace culture that supports healthy choices requires engagement from leadership as well as employees. With proper planning, leadership can establish programs that manage risk and reduce poor health outcomes.
Culture alone can only go so far in promoting employee health. It can get people thinking about the choices they make and provide encouragement for making better health decisions. A strong, supportive culture can also uncover blindspots that employees may have concerning their physical and mental wellness.
To achieve positive change, employers can provide resources for promoting and enabling wellness. Once employees understand what it takes to lead a healthy lifestyle, they should be able to turn to company resources to enact necessary changes, whether that be a new fitness regimen, a mindful diet, or aid from a licensed medical professional.
Employers can promote healthy lifestyles by developing a workplace culture that emphasizes trust, fairness, diversity, inclusion, and teamwork. Beyond culture, employers can integrate their organization’s physical environment and corporate social responsibilities. Together, each area works together to support organizational excellence.
Get your free copy of our Healthy Workplace Standard to learn more about what great employers do differently.