Creating A Healthy Work Environment

back of a woman meditatingManagers and supervisors are key to creating a healthy work environment and providing the support for employees to live a healthy lifestyle.

It is important that employees take care of themselves and their families so they can experience a high quality of life at work and at home.

The University of California, Davis offers several programs and services available through Healthy UC Davis and other partners, to improve your health and well-being. Managers and supervisors can take advantage of these benefits and encourage employees to do so to experience improved health and well-being, energy, mental functioning, productivity, and less injuries and illnesses.

Leading Towards a Healthy Culture

Leaders can learn to support health and well-being by sharing the wellness vision, serving as effective wellness role models, and aligning cultural touch points. Successful organizations combine support for individual change with supportive environments.

Health and well-being programs must add culture change strategies whereby healthy behavior becomes “the way we do things around here.” A wellness culture makes it more likely that employees will succeed in achieving and maintaining their personal health improvement goals and not adopt unhealthy behaviors. Leaders at all levels have a responsibility for shaping the workplace culture. That responsibility includes fostering a workplace culture that supports employee health and well-being.

Wellness Traditions

Specific acts and traditions carry special meaning in a culture. Such traditions and symbols should be aligned with wellness. Some senior leaders, for example, have shown their support by moving their designated parking spot away from the front entrance. A daily tradition such as a stretch break can be a powerful statement in support of wellness. Other traditions could take place annually, such as participation in an annual wellness celebration. These symbolic acts explicitly show that health is genuinely valued in the work culture.

Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice

In a culture of wellness, healthy choices should be the most affordable, convenient and most attractive alternatives. Do employees have the time, space, equipment and other resources needed to pursue positive practices? Proper resources can eliminate barriers and show that health is a priority in the workplace.

Culture of Health

Cultures are highly complex systems of social influences. Culture influences behavior through shared values, norms, formal and informal policies and procedures, peer support, and social climate.

Five Dimensions of Culture

Leaders can influence culture and facilitate a shift towards a healthier culture through the following five dimensions of culture support:

  1. Shared Wellness Values: Establishing health and well-being as a top priority within the university’s organizational priorities.
  2. Wellness Norms: Cultural standards for expected and accepted behavior (aka, the way we do things around here). What health and wellbeing behaviors should become strong norms?
  3. Cultural Touch Points: Informal and formal policies and practices that influence behaviors on a day to day basis. These policies and practices include (but are not limited to) training, rewards, modeling, traditions, and communication.
  4. Peer Support: Improving the quantity and quality of mutual assistance for achieving healthy behavior goals among coworkers, family, friends and other community members.
  5. Social Climate: Using wellness programming as a mechanism for increasing the sense of community, shared vision and positive outlook within a setting. Improving social cohesiveness, morale, engagement, and teamwork.

Source: Human Resources Institute, LLC (2011)

Tips for Managers to Support Wellness at Work:

  • Management support is critical to the success of any health and well-being initiative. Studies show that management style and perception of management support are strong influences on participation in worksite wellness/health promotion programs. Developing a broad base of leadership support is an important wellness strategy.
  • Make health and well-being a part of the core business strategy. Build in leadership accountability for supporting health and well-being initiatives and driving participation.
  • Hold managers and supervisors at all levels responsible and rewarded for health and well-being policy compliance and support of initiatives as part of their performance evaluations.
  • Embed health and well-being promotion in each aspect of organization structure - adding agenda items to new hire orientations, manager training, staff meetings, and vendor/ health plan relationships to create opportunities to communicate and reinforce wellness as a strategic priority.
  • Facilitate wellness program participation — along with teamwork, job autonomy, vacation time, appropriate use of sick leave, and access to work/life/health benefits — to help create an atmosphere where employees can thrive.
  • Visibly demonstrate and cultivate a workplace that values good health (i.e. exercise on lunch breaks, participate in wellness events, promote good nutrition, and keep team workloads and stress levels manageable).
  • Introduce and endorse wellness initiatives and programs through videos, broadcast emails or postings on social media.
  • Recognize wellness achievements and efforts of teams and staff members.
  • Commit organizational resources to foster awareness about personal health and to build a supportive workplace environment that encourages and motivates employees to take daily healthy actions.

Source: Human Resources Institute, LLC (2011)

Tips for managers and supervisors to create a healthy workplace culture and environment (PDF)

Summary and Action Plans >