Wellness leaders have been talking about health culture for a long time. It’s the Holy Grail of workplace well-being. If you don’t have it, your individual wellness interventions are hit-or-miss efforts at best. And if you have a decidedly unhealthy culture — where people feel undervalued or worse — that HRA, screening, lunch ’n learn, or challenge you’re sponsoring this month can actually be a net-negative activity. You’d be better off doing nothing at all.
A mistake many of us have made is thinking health culture is mostly about health, but it’s not. It’s primarily about culture. And culture isn’t some lofty mission statement crafted at a retreat that everyone is expected to memorize and magically live up to. It isn’t something you do, it’s everything you do… the sum total of each action, interaction, and behavior from the mail room to the board room.
So while you may be proud you now have healthy vending machine options, built-in stretch breaks, healthy meeting guidelines, and an awesome salad bar in the cafeteria, you’re probably still nibbling around the edges if people don’t look forward to coming to work every day.
But how can you, the person charged with improving health at your organization, begin to influence culture? It’s the proverbial question: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time. It’s a huge undertaking that can’t be achieved in a big gulp but must be cultivated over time. Whether you’re just a floor removed from the C-suite or relegated to the basement with your red stapler, you can begin steps today to influence culture and lay the foundation for a healthier organization:
Good wellness interventions without solid culture are not likely to have meaningful impact. Similarly, a conducive culture absent good wellness services will fall short of what’s possible. It’s not either/or and it’s not a matter of waiting until you have one before working toward the other. If you want a significant, lasting effect on population well-being, put your talents and energy into influencing a positive work culture while continuing to provide strong wellness programs.