Creating a “Culture” of Health

Although workplace wellness programs are becoming more and more popular, just because you implement one doesn’t mean your employee will participate or that your business will benefit.  In order to truly drive employee engagement and eventually realize a positive impact on your business, a more comprehensive approach must be taken. This includes trying to create the ultimate “culture” of health within your organization.

Individuals play the fundamental role in maintaining and/or improving their own health. Therefore, participation is the biggest factor in any health and wellness programming. This is true for both the individual and the organizational level. From the business case, this is evident in several studies that demonstrate a positive return on investment (ROI).  Research clearly shows that increased participation affects major outcomes in an ROI calculation. For example, as participation increases the program costs per member decrease and as incremental health risk reductions accumulate across the population healthcare costs should decrease.

A wide variety of interventions have been used to address the challenge of getting individuals to participate, including the use of incentives, social networking, gamification, and fitness devices.  However, there is still controversy on which of these interventions is the most effective.

Creating a culture of health is becoming a valued strategy to increasing and maintaining participation.  The importance of employee perception of the workplace culture and how that perception correlates with participation in health and wellness initiatives has become the focus of several new studies. When people are part of a culture, they are part of a system that fosters the learning and sharing of the group that has combined mission and values, which in turn ultimately shapes behavior.

No one can argue that work environments do not have a significant effect on people’s everyday lives.  As an employee, we spend most of our waking hours engaged at work.  Because of this, creating a culture of health in the workplace is a practical approach to influencing health-related behavior.  The President of the National Wellness Institute, William Baun, states, “In a culture of health, employee well-being and organizational success are inextricably linked. It aligns leadership, benefits, policies, incentives, programs and environmental supports to reduce barriers to active engagement and sustainability of healthy lifestyles across the healthcare continuum.”

By taking a different perspective and asking questions of employees about the current organizational environment, it can help sharpen the focus for any change management strategies. First, is there a need to move from the present state?  Find out if your employees feel that your organization currently promotes a culture of health.   Improve employee motivation and confidence by asking them the following questions: What are the barriers for employees to practice healthy behaviors at the workplace?   How does the larger culture help or hinder perceptions about the wellness program?  Do all the leaders see the value of a creating and supporting a culture of health?  Do they know their roles to support it?   Evaluating things clearly can make all the difference in establishing a strong culture of health, and it is evident that the benefits are worthwhile.