The pandemic and the Great Resignation that followed have caused the business world to rethink how to do more to support employee well-being. The root of the solution is to reform towards a workplace culture where people come first. Part of that new strategy is driving change at the decision-making level. Many organizations are now adding C-suite roles to effect culture change, such as directors of wellness, directors of diversity, or medical directors like me. These roles are to implement and monitor new policies and procedures:aand provide information on new designs—that make all employees feel welcome, safer to return to the office in these (hopefully) post-pandemic times, and stay engaged at work.
As chief medical officer, I spend a good deal of time explaining to leaders how investing in employee health and wellness is actionable in the daily decisions we make about everything an organization does across the board. workplaces, from the way we design and operate our spaces to what kind of management policies we put in place for our people.
Organizations that have installed C-level leadership to champion the physical and emotional well-being of employees deeply understand the correlation between employee satisfaction, productivity, and the bottom line of the business. But the first line of work for executive well-being is often institute cultural changes within their organizations.
change the culture to Employee engagement and productivity often integrate wellness strategies systematically into work, the workplace, and the workforce. The WELL Construction Standardfor example, it provides organizations with a library of practical, evidence-based strategies to transform their workplaces to focus on employee well-being from a holistic approach.
Employers now know that happier, healthier workplaces are no longer nice, but essential. From services that enhance the experience to health and safety measures, support programs and best practices in diversity, equity and inclusionemployees look to their workplaces to deliver on promises that not only their physical health and safety, but also their emotional well-being are prioritized.
So how can leaders support the emotional well-being of their employees? There are actionable steps leaders can take immediately and drive deeper engagement over time.
1. Provide health services and support programs to meet the needs of all. It is important to create a sense of well-being throughout the organization. You can do this by implementing communication and education strategies, under the supervision of a medical director or wellness director in your C-suite, who promote available wellness programs and policies. Those can be paid sick leave, family care, stress management tools, fitness classes, and other health care benefits. As a supplement, consider workplace wellness programs and other ways to educate your employees about healthy behaviors, including mindfulness, healthy eating, rest breaks, and community involvement.
2. Begin taking action toward company goals for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for all employees. Healthy workplace cultures make everyone feel welcome, seen and heard, including those who are historically marginalized and underrepresented. A diverse, inclusive, and equitable culture creates an environment in which everyone thrives. It’s a business imperative today’s employers compete for talent and a productive workforce.
Action can start by conducting DEI assessments, taking stock of your underrepresented groups, and implementing inclusive workplace programs that engage all employees, including people of color, people who are LGBTQIA+, and/or neurodivergent. Why not start creating a sense of community by allocating space for employees to interact, participate and collaborate with each other? How about starting to provide a sense of belonging by integrating the design of nature into your space? celebrating culture and places to inspire human delight. If your particular place has a storied history, encourage such historical recognitions as colonization, displacement, and the significant contributions of indigenous, enslaved, and migrant peoples. For a checklist of historically marginalized and underrepresented populations in the workplace and practical strategies corporate leadership can take, our WELL Stock Rating offers additional resources.
3. Use employee feedback to improve the user experience in the workplace. In every workplace there is a unique community of diverse people who are linked by social ties, have common perspectives, engage in joint action, and share experiences. Employee surveys on their perception of health, well-being and satisfaction with their environment, stakeholder interviews and observations help organizations understand the needs of their stakeholders and create plans to support action and Pay accounts.
4. Allocate executive-level resources for the well-being of employees. Whether you’re a medical director, wellness director, and/or DEI director, companies who are thinking of a long-term competitive advantage are establishing similar roles through their organizations. It’s time to set up your own C-level position and start driving stock. And make sure these roles are equipped with tools and resources to effect change.
Globally, more than 30% of adults will experience a mental health condition during their lifetime. And the impact of mental health in the workplace is profound. The built environment serves as a powerful tool to help mitigate these adverse mental health outcomes through policy, program, and design. The implementation of mental health strategies in workplaces has been shown to support business resilience.
Dr. Matthew Trowbridge, MD, MPH, is the Medical Director of the International WELL Building Institute, where he advocates for investing in employee health and wellness, along with workplace strategies.