Workplace Well-Being Culture

What is Culture of Health in the Workplace?

If you’re visiting my website, then you must have an interest in health and well-being. Your interest may be aligned with my profession – supporting the health and well-being of a workforce. This is hard work! Unfortunately, most of the time, things don’t work out the way the organization had hoped. Lots of programs and benefits most often don’t lead to a more well employee. However, when employers install a culture of health in the workplace, employees are more than twice as likely to reach their well-being goals than employees who are still subject to a workplace wellness model that formed more than 60 years ago.

The good news is there is a framework for shaping the well workplace culture! In fact, 80% of human resource professionals at large employers strive to have a culture of health. The problem is most people don’t know what a workplace culture of health is. And if you do think you know, it’s probably a different definition than the person next to you.

Rich doing Yoga

Culture of Health

My colleague Judd Allen and I have a combined 60+ years in the employee health and well-being space. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published our definition of workplace ‘Culture of Health’.

“Webster’s defines ‘culture’ as ‘the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic or age group’. These behaviors and beliefs are often the result of a complex web of social influences. Culture, as it pertains to health, is often embedded, and demonstrated in food choices, relationships, sleep patterns, work life balance, safety precautions, and tobacco use. Health culture influences us through formal (ie, workplace policies) and informal (ie, how we spend our lunch break) mechanisms. Cultural influences sometimes run contrary to a profession’s stated goal. Take for example, health care workers who regularly share foods high in sodium, fat, and sugar. Culture can be transmitted through formal training provided by leaders and the informal learning that is passed between peers. Cultures are often composed of multiple subcultures that include unique subsets (ie, profession, work location, shift) of influences within a broader culture. With this understanding of culture, it is fitting for our professional community to define a “Culture of Health” in the workplace to be “a web of social influences that manifests itself in shared health beliefs and behaviors.”

Our framework, based on scientific evidence and decades of experience includes six domains, highlighted in the figure below. You’ll see that these domains overlap. These areas of focus don’t have clear boundaries and most often work synergistically. You can learn how to shape the culture of health in your workplace, and this is a great website to help you get started.

Culture of Health Framework

Share your company culture story and maybe it will be featured in my next book, LinkedIn post or speaking engagement!

Perhaps you think that you are well on your way to creating a culture of health in your workplace. I’d love to hear about your well-being culture building story. Please share it with me by filling in the boxes to the right.