The significance of holistic wellness is growing more and more normalized (and expected), both within and outside the workplace. Whether you’re running a large corporation or a startup, building a culture of wellness within your organization takes time, intentionality and earnest buy-in from the top, down.
What is wellness culture?
A culture of wellness goes beyond the health benefits you may offer as an employer. Wellness culture focuses on building an attitude of positive mental, emotional, social and physical health in the workplace. It encompasses tangible initiatives and involvement to improve the wellbeing of employees, and aligns with creating a positive, safe and respectful work culture leading to happier, more engaged and productive employees. The result is higher morale, and ultimately a better bottom line.
The importance of developing a culture of wellness
In prioritizing employee wellbeing, you make it part of your business’ mission to empower your employees to make healthy choices—personally and professionally. A 2021 study by Alberta Blue Cross found that employees who had access to workplace wellness programs saw a measurable improvement in overall wellness across four different categories, including respiratory, cardiac, physical and mental health.
Workplace wellness programs are also contributors to decreased absenteeism and higher productivity, which can lead to better financial outcomes for your business. Alberta workers rank leaders and managers who promote a positive work culture as the most important influence on work environments, productivity, and psychological health and safety (Leger, 2021). Any wellness initiative is an investment in your most important resource: your people.
How to make wellness accessible in your small business
Wellness initiatives can vary in size, method and desired outcome. Aligning with national initiatives like Mental Health Week or Nutrition Month can start important conversations and address wellness in a scalable way. Other initiatives could look like:
- Integrating the Mental Health Continuum Model in one on one meetings between team members and leaders. This model allows employees to identify their mental health state without stigma, and enables leaders to offer appropriate support.
- Encouraging time off, including vacation time and flex or wellness days—build a system to make sure your employees are able to unplug from their work and recharge during time off.
- Creating a ParticipACTION+ program to encourage movement, or partnering with a local gym or fitness studio to provide free or subsidized access to fitness equipment or programs.
- Swapping out workplace snacks for healthier options like fruit or nutrient-dense bars.
- Encouraging movement with a team building activity like Office Olympics or mini-golf.
- Creating a digital communication charter, where team members can align with how they prefer to communicate and when it’s appropriate to communicate. This document can allow teams to create mutually agreed upon boundaries that allow for peak productivity, focus and wellbeing.
- Build movement breaks and mindfulness exercises into meetings.
- Reducing barriers by holding education clinics.
- Encouraging mental health and reducing stigma by providing programs like Not Myself Today, The Working Mind and other resources.
- Identifying opportunities for ergonomic workspace improvements.
The focus of any wellness measure is that your employees feel heard and valued. Choose a “wellness champion” from outside your management team to spearhead your initiatives, encourage peer-to-peer support from all sides of the organization and collect feedback on the effectiveness of wellness initiatives and programs. Whatever the size of your business, creating a number of smaller groups is more effective—participation in any initiative is generally higher when there are less members in a group as coworkers have more socialization opportunities.
Gather feedback from your employees to understand what wellness approaches are resonating, and how you can improve wellness culture overall. Creating a culture of wellness doesn’t have to mean making huge changes overnight. Start small, and build at a pace that’s comfortable. Together we can make it a little easier for all people to access the support and resources they need.