By Myriah Shimatsu
From the Spring 2021 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association
A positive wellness culture can play a fundamental role in the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of your staff. When your employees’ health is a priority, your workplace becomes more efficient and productive. The office becomes a place that is respectful of the employees’ time, talents, families and lives. While many companies will use the term “wellness program” to recruit talented employees or brag about their ROI in healthcare cost, that barely scratches the surface of an effective wellness program. However, the creation of a culture that values wellness is more essential to reduce sick days and healthcare costs and retain talented employees. Workplace culture should be an integral part of business strategy.
Why a Wellness Program Isn’t Enough
There are lots of companies that just host a health screening or offer a wellness portal and call it a wellness program. Although, these services are great to have as part of your program they are not the most impactful way of implementing workplace wellness. If you really want employees to be engaged and motivated to make positive health choices, you need to create an environment that supports and rewards those valuable behaviors. All too often, companies will have a health fair and then turn around and offer free donuts or pizza. Ensure that every element of your office is working to provide a strong foundation to develop and reinforce healthy habits, creating a culture of wellness vs. a wellness program.
You might have heard claims that “wellness programs don’t work.” And we wholeheartedly agree that a wellness program will not work if you don’t have the culture of wellness to support it. A lot of wellness companies are focused completely on the numbers. While it’s an important benchmark for beginning and monitoring your program, your employees are more than just a number. You need to factor in the employees’ mental, emotional and social health as well. There are countless numbers of physical illnesses that are caused or elevated by emotional and mental factors like stress, depression, anger and anxiety. Building a multidimensional wellness program with a culture to back it will benefit all aspects of your employee’s wellbeing.
Without establishing a wellness culture, participation in your program and your health initiatives will be weak. Employees will be resistant to change and the leaders of your organization won’t be engaged in your efforts. Without a supportive culture and environment, employees won’t believe that their health and happiness is a company priority. When a company’s culture has nothing to do with health, and all-of-a-sudden management starts promoting nutrition challenges and health screenings, employees will roll their eyes. They also won’t be nearly as likely to take advantage of their workplace wellness offerings.
Learn 10 ways you can go beyond a wellness program and create a true culture of wellbeing in your office.
How to Create a Culture of Wellness
- Start from the top. Leading by example is one of the strongest ways to establish a healthy environment for your staff. Ensure that the dentist and office/practice managers are championing healthy lifestyles.
- Encourage movement. Physical activity is obviously a crucial part of individual wellness. As a dental professional you are required to sit while treating patients in most cases. To combat the unhealthy effects of sitting, provide opportunities for staff to become more active between patients and before/after work.
- Focus on healthy foods. We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” This saying might be especially true in the workplace. What your staff eats fuels and powers their days at the office. If you want your staff to feel energized, focused, and productive, you’ll want them eating a nutritious, balanced diet that supplies them with the nourishment their bodies need to succeed. Provide employees with the educational tools they need to learn the importance of eating real food.
- Offer flexibility. It’s clear that the strict nine-to-five workday is outdated—and it won’t help employers attract or maintain today’s top talent. No matter the industry, flexibility is incredibly important to employees and job seekers across the nation. Companies that offer employees flexibility in the form of flexible schedules and PTO help employees maintain a positive work-life harmony. Flexibility has also been shown to reduce workplace stress, boost mental wellbeing and encourage productivity.
- Solve the issue of stress. The American Institute of Stress recently reported that 80% of workers feel stress on the job. Employers that build cultures of wellness work to identify stressful aspects of the office (i.e. workload, inconsistency, lack of clear expectations, etc.), lessen or eliminate those stressors, improve working conditions, and help employees develop the necessary skills to handle stress.
- Create open channels of communication. Social wellness is an often overlooked aspect of the office. One of the easiest ways to ensure it is a priority is by opening a dialogue about wellbeing issues. Employers must create a culture of openness and communication where their staff feels comfortable talking to managers about worries with their work-life balance and stress issues; and leaders should feel comfortable and empowered to help staff address those concerns.
- Be in the right mindset. Too many wellness programs assume that people can change their habits quickly and easily based purely on their own willpower. Instead of focusing on those negative risk factors and scaring employees into getting on the treadmill, learn how to help them rewire their brains for success. Provide positive reinforcement for healthy behaviors and provide staff with the tools they need to act and achieve their goals.
- Provide emotional and mental health support for your staff. Each year, around 43.8 million Americans experience a mental health condition. Now, more than ever, it’s critical to educate staff about resources to avoid burnout, mental breakdowns, and reduce suicide risk. Give employees access to education and resources. The more the topic is highlighted, the less intimidated employees may feel in reaching out for help.
- Give Employees the “Why.” Meaning and purpose are more important in the workplace now than ever. Without a sense of purpose, it’s difficult for employees to connect with their work and their company. Working with a sense of purpose boosts employee motivation, productivity, morale, and overall job satisfaction. In order for employers to provide purpose to employees, employers should:
- Show recognition
- Express gratitude
- Let employees know how their job impacts the company/practice and its clients/patients
- Frequently discuss the meaning and value of the company/practice
- Share customer/patient success stories
- Ditch tunnel vision and focus on the bigger picture
- Offer Professional Development Opportunities. Offering both professional development opportunities and the freedom to pursue passions outside of the office can have a positive impact on the way employees view their work. Employees will feel like they’re getting more than just a paycheck; they will feel valued because the company is investing in their growth. This is especially true for millennials. Whether it’s through continued education, volunteer opportunities, or incentives to inspire new passions, you can give employees the tools to live a well-balanced life, which ultimately results in healthier and happier employees.
Are you Ready to Make the Change?
Employee wellbeing can’t thrive without a supportive culture. Why? Because a company’s culture sets the foundation for employee health, happiness and success. Companies with a wellness culture make employee wellness fun, interactive and part of the day-to-day life of employees. When employees work for a company that embraces wellness through all areas of the organization, they will be more likely to practice healthy habits throughout the workday and prioritize their physical and mental health.
Myriah Shimatsu is the co-owner of Movement 1st Wellness and has been certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for over 12 years. She holds her bachelor’s degree in adult exercise science with a minor in nutrition. Contact her at email@example.com.