How to create an inclusive culture of well-being
Updated: Jun 12
You might have the best intentions for your well-being strategy, but if you have a “one-size-fits-all” approach it can negate what you’re trying to achieve. You may find people feel disconnected and not valued for who they are, resulting in low engagement levels.
Wellbeing is only truly inclusive if your strategy is designed to benefit all, and that means catering for everyone’s needs. That may require adapting what you offer to employees based on age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, health issues, disabilities, any caring responsibilities they may have, and so on.
A sense of inclusion and belonging is crucial to our life satisfaction, happiness, mental and physical health. It gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. Research has shown that loss of belonging has been associated with stress, illness and decreased well-being and depression.
What is a culture of well-being?
Nurturing a culture of well-being means taking initiatives that support people in achieving complete health.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO),
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
The most successful well-being strategies are the ones where well-being is put at the heart of the organisation and woven across the employee experience. It's no longer giving out free gym memberships, providing pool tables or giving free fruit. If leaders genuinely look to understand the needs of their employees and adopt wellness as part of their culture, these are the ones that witness a happy, motivated, loyal and productive team.
Creating a wellness strategy that's inclusive - where to start?
Here is a 4-phased approach to help you get started. However, before we continue it is important to note that in order for your wellness strategy to be a success, right from the outset, change must come from leadership. There is no use in your wellness strategy being led in a silo by the people and culture team. This should be infused across the business and leaders should be involved and lead by example.
Phase 1 - Investigate the current
The key to creating an inclusive culture of wellness, unique to your organisation, relies first on understanding and knowing your workforce. And that means analysing all the data you have to build a clear picture of your different demographics so that you can then tailor well-being support accordingly.
Review what well-being strategies you have in place, what is working within the business and where are the gaps.
Where is the business facing challenges - is there high employee turnover or absenteeism, why is this and where is this? Look at exit interview feedback and Glassdoor reviews.
Talk to your employees, and listen to what they have to say. Collate their feedback by running an engagement survey that covers key engagement factors. Most employee well-being surveys tend to only focus on two components: measuring individual well-being levels and evaluating the benefits of various initiatives. But understanding well-being across all the engagement factors helps you learn more about your people, demographics and what motivates them. Using feedback from your employees, you can take action where needed and ensure everyone’s well-being is supported.
Phase 2 - Use the five pillars of wellness
These five pillars act as a blueprint when planning key initiatives within your well-being strategy. Having conducted the investigatory phase of the process, you can use this data to see where priorities need to be.
There's strong scientific evidence that being physically active can help you lead a healthier and happier life. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many long-term (chronic) conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes, and some cancers. Plus also physical activity immediately boosts the brain's dopamine and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. Look at Vitality, they offer private medical care and reward employees for being active.
Strong social connections make people happier and physically healthier, which can translate into work performance. Research states that social connections can also lower rates of anxiety and depression. Having a planned internal comms strategy that shares and listens will go a long way in making people feel included, valued and heard.
Providing an environment where employees feel secure and feel they have the ability to plan and cope with financial pressures. This ensures they don't fall victim to money-related stress and anxiety. Implementing a salary and promotion policy giving dates as to when salaries will be reviewed throughout the year. Benchmarking salaries regularly ensures you’re being fair internally and paying industry standards is key.
A sense of purpose gives us the foundation for a healthy approach to life. When our work feels meaningful, and we feel like we are achieving our goals, we're empowered to take greater responsibility for our lives. And that, in turn, supports our well-being. Having clear career paths sets clear expectations, providing a sense of job satisfaction and in turn, building confidence.
While emotional and mental health are two terms often used interchangeably, emotional health focuses on being in tune with emotions, vulnerability, and authenticity. A culture that encourages employees to bring their authentic selves to work breeds trust and transparency. Providing access to a range of external and internal mental health providers such as mentoring circles and well-being champions who are Mental Health First Aid trained supports this.
Phase 3 - Constantly communicate and communicate well!
Ensure your communication around wellness aims and your strategy is proactively planned, and ensure your employees are regularly updated. Communication is the glue you need to ensure your wellness strategy is embedded across your organisation.
Audience - be clear on exactly who you’re talking to.
Behaviours - agree on what you want people to do, say and think differently as a result of your communication.
Content - what are you communicating?
Delivery - decide on what channel of communication will be of the most value.
Evaluation - what does success look like?
Phase 4 - Continue to monitor and evaluate
Continue to monitor and evolve how your wellness strategy is progressing by continuing to review phase one (investigating). Use this to set goals and review quarterly with the leaders of the business and even your wellness champions. Running regular pulse surveys is also an opportunity to capture everyone's feedback and identify what's working and where priorities need to evolve. It is also important to gain feedback from leavers and use their comments to improve the employee experience relating to the five pillars of wellness.
All of these actions are a big nod towards creating a culture of wellness that's inclusive because you’re including your employees throughout the process. A truly inclusive workplace doesn’t depend solely on your well-being offering, but a well-planned strategy has an important role to play. It can be the difference between disengaged employees and ones that feel valued, heard and supported. And of course, don't forget effective communication is the key to bringing any inclusive well-being strategy to life.
If you are looking to develop a tailored well-being strategy and you are unsure where to start, I provide a deep-dive discovery and well-being audit to assess where you are now on your well-being journey and propose short and long-term goals to help you on your way to creating an authentic and inclusive culture of wellness.
Contact me if you could like to chat further!