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Posted by Michael Winter on 08/26/2020


Culture tells employees what’s acceptable — so it needs to visibly (and authentically) demonstrate support for well-being improvement through policies and programs.

When most people think about culture, they focus on tangible, surface-level perks and policies: like dress code, the framed mission statement in the lobby and the presence or absence of ping-pong tables in the office. But while these may be extensions of culture, they don’t define it — and they certainly don’t create it.

Instead, culture is the collective values, norms and beliefs of the organisation — also known as “how things are done around here.” It’s the backdrop for everything that happens at a company and the day-to-day experiences. But it’s unseen — it’s not written down.

Since culture shapes employee behaviour, it dictates whether participation in and commitment to well-being improvement is important and valued. Cultural alignment is critical to well-being improvement.

6 ways your culture can support well-being improvement:

1. Foster trust: Creating trust is complex — you don’t want to force it. Encourage employees to prioritise well-being by setting a great example. Connect the dots to show them it’s okay, even expected, to work on their well-being.

2. Build well-being measures into corporate policies: (i.e., paid vacation time, volunteer days, on-site fitness events). Give employees permission, resources and space to take care of their well-being. Invest in well-being tools and activities to support these measures.

3. Value the whole-person: When you consider the whole employee — their health, well-being and performance — you’re acknowledging that what happens in one part of a person’s life affects every other part of their life. Allow employees to have flexibility in their schedules. Remember that employees’ work and personal lives are intertwined and leverage this through encouraging stress relief breaks or time off to recharge.

4. Create tangible processes and materials that incorporate your company mission and values: Organisations that connect their business strategy, people strategy and wellness initiatives will be the most likely to succeed on all fronts. Give an explicit reason for why well-being improvement matters to the organisation.

5. Secure ownership from your leadership team. Leaders help highlight and define the value of well-being improvement with their personal examples and reinforcement.  HR can do a lot to operationalise that by encouraging leaders to model positive behaviour through everyday actions, creating team challenges with division leaders as captains or sharing personal well-being stories from executives.

6. Conduct an audit to understand how ready your organisation is to support well-being. You need to recognise your cultural strengths and obstacles. Cultural attributes — like trust, flexibility and learning orientation — can inhibit or solidify an employee’s ability to truly feel support from the organisation.

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