By Dr. Steve Aldana of WellSteps
Equality in wellness programs in the workplace means that all employees should have access to the same opportunities and resources to improve their health and well-being, regardless of their personal characteristics.
Workplace wellness programs can be an effective way to promote healthy behaviors among employees and improve their overall health and well-being. However, if these programs are not designed and implemented with equality in mind, they may accidentally further along existing health problems or exclude certain groups of employees.
4 Ways to Promote Equality in Wellness Programs
By designing and implementing wellness programs with equality in mind, employers can promote a healthy and inclusive workplace culture that benefits all employees. According to EBRI’s Annual Workplace Wellness Survey, over 75% of employees believe that employers should play a role in supporting their overall health and well-being. This makes sense due to the large amount of time individuals spend in the workplace, it is vital to their well-being.
To promote equality in wellness programs in the workplace, employers should consider the following:
- assessing the needs of all employees
- ensure accessibility for all physical abilities
- avoid stigmatizing employees
- offer inclusive incentives to all
Equality in workplace wellness programs is essential for ensuring that all employees have access to resources and support to improve their health and well-being.
Why We Must Consider Equality in Wellness Programs in the First Place
Even in this day and age, employees feel considered unequal to their peers in the workplace for a variety of reasons. A survey of over 1,500 employees in 2018 by Virgin Pulse revealed some interesting facts around this. From the employees directly:
- 34% felt there was insufficient time to devote to health and wellness at work
- 27% stated there were not enough resources or support for wellness from their employer
- 23% said health and wellness initiatives were not tailored to their individual needs
- 22% had the perception that health and wellness was not a priority of their organization
- 18% felt there was unequal access to health and wellness programs
- 10% agreed there were cultural or language barriers at work that affected their health and wellness
Clearly there is significant need to properly assess the needs and desires of employees in any workplace. Next we’ll outline how to conduct a survey or focus group to gather the feedback from employees to ensure your wellness program addresses a range of health concerns and interests, thus making an impact for as many employees as possible.
How to Assess the Needs of Your Employees to Build Equality Into Your Programs
As an employer, can assess the needs of all your employees in several ways to design a workplace wellness program that addresses a range of health concerns and interests. Here are some methods employers can use. It’s best to do more than one of these:
Conduct a Survey. Conduct an anonymous survey to gather information about the health needs and interests of your employees. The survey can cover topics such as physical activity, nutrition, stress management, mental health, and chronic disease management.
Analyze Health Data. Analyze health data from your in-house sources such as insurance claims, absenteeism rates, and workplace injury reports to identify common health concerns among employees. Build aspects of your programs around the worst health data you have occurring.
Hold Focus Groups. You can hold focus groups with employees to discuss their health concerns and ideas for improving their well-being. These sessions can help to identify health issues that may not have been apparent in other data sources. These are excellent to develop equality in wellness programs because you’re learning first hand from employees directly their concerns.
Review Existing Health Programs. Look into your existing wellness programs to see which parts are being used by employees and which are not. This can help to identify areas where additional support or resources may be needed. Or even where to cut things away and focus on aspects that are bringing better results.
Consult With Health Professionals. Consult with health professionals such as registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, or mental health counselors to understand the health needs of their employees and design effective wellness programs. Just because you have a wellness committee or an insurance representative doesn’t mean that you have the right information from a health and wellness perspective that is needed to properly build equality in wellness programs.
By using these methods to assess the needs of all your employees, you can create a wellness program that is inclusive and responsive to the needs and interests of your workforce. You will most likely have greater equality in wellness programs by doing these steps.
How to Ensure Accessibility For All Employees
According to the American Association of People with Disabilities 2018 Disability Equality Index Annual Report, 28% of employees with disabilities state that their employer does not offer any wellness programs, compared to 21% of employees without disabilities. So going beyond standard physical accessibility to be able to perform work functions, more disabled employees feel that they aren’t supported with wellness programs.
This must change. Employers should make sure that all employees have equal access to the wellness program, regardless of their physical abilities or location. When surveying employees or gathering health data as previously discussed, ensure that you’re paying attention to aspects of your results that are regarding employees that are differently-abled or have disabling health conditions in some manner.
How to Build Equality in Wellness Programs By Removing Stigmatization
Employers should avoid stigmatizing certain groups of employees with wellness programs that are focused on weight loss or other sensitive health issues, even certain demographics. Instead, wellness programs should promote positive health behaviors and offer support and resources for all employees.
To do this, you can take several steps:
- Offer a variety of wellness programs that cater to a wide range of interests and abilities. This can help ensure that everyone feels included and has access to programs that suit their needs.
- Provide education and training to managers and employees on cultural competence and sensitivity. This can help to ensure that employees from all backgrounds feel valued and respected.
- Use non-stigmatizing language and messaging when promoting wellness programs. Avoid language that implies that certain demographics are in greater need of wellness programs than others. More about appropriate language will be discussed below.
- Conduct regular assessments of wellness programs to ensure that they are meeting the needs of all employees. Collect feedback from employees from different backgrounds to ensure that everyone is being included, and feels included especially.
- Ensure that wellness programs are accessible to all employees, regardless of their abilities, language proficiency, or location. This can include offering programs in multiple languages, providing accommodations for employees with disabilities, and offering virtual programs for remote employees.
By taking these steps, employers can create a workplace culture that values and supports the equality in wellness programs for all employees, regardless of their demographic background.
Do’s and Dont’s When Dealing with Stigmatizing Language
Stigmatizing language is language that reinforces negative stereotypes about certain groups of people, often based on their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, or other characteristics. In one example, 53% of LGBTQ+ employees say they have experienced microaggressions related to their gender identity or sexual orientation in wellness programs.
For employees to feel safe and valued at work, employers should create an environment that does not support aggressive attitudes or language toward any demographic of people. Here are some examples of stigmatizing language:
- “High-risk group”
- “Obese” or “overweight”
- “Unhealthy” or “unfit”
- “Sickly” or “fragile”
- “Disabled person” (as opposed to “person with a disability”)
- “Mentally ill” (as opposed to “person with a mental health condition”)
- “Clean” (when referring to someone who is sober) or “dirty” (when referring to someone who has relapsed)
- “Addict” or “junkie”
- “Invalid” or “shut-in”
- “Old” or “elderly”
- “Exotic” or “foreign”
It’s important to note that stigmatizing language can be subtle and unintentional. Employers should make an effort to be aware of their language and the impact it can have on employees, and strive to use language that is inclusive and respectful.
Non-stigmatizing and inclusive language is language that promotes respect, dignity, and equality for all individuals, regardless of their characteristics. Here are some examples of non-stigmatizing and inclusive language:
- “People who may be at greater risk”
- “Body mass index (BMI) outside of the healthy range”
- “Health-conscious” or “active”
- “Person with a disability” (instead of “disabled person”)
- “Person with a mental health condition” (instead of “mentally ill”)
- “Person in recovery” (instead of “addict” or “junkie”)
- “Accessible” or “barrier-free” (instead of “handicapped” or “wheelchair-bound”)
- “Older” or “aging”
- “Multicultural” or “diverse”
- “Person with lived experience”
Using non-stigmatizing and inclusive language can help create a more welcoming and respectful workplace environment. Regularly screen company emails, copy and text on resources, and regularly train your leaders and managers to speak with language promoting equality in this way.RELATED: Ways to Boost Employee Morale in an Organization
Ways to Build Equality in Wellness Programs Through Inclusive Incentives
Employers should offer incentives for participating in the wellness program that are equally accessible to all employees. Here are some examples of inclusive incentives that employers can provide to encourage participation in company health and wellness programs:
Flexible Work Arrangements. Allow employees the option to participate in wellness programs during work hours or adjust their schedules to accommodate their participation. This can be especially helpful for employees with caregiving responsibilities or other commitments outside of work.
Wellness Program Subsidies. Offer subsidies or reimbursements to help cover the costs of gym memberships, fitness classes, and other wellness activities. This can help make these programs more accessible to employees of all income levels.
Inclusive Wellness Activities. Offer a variety of wellness activities that cater to diverse interests and abilities. This can include activities like yoga, meditation, and walking groups, as well as more active pursuits like running clubs or sports leagues.
Health Education and Resources. Provide employees with resources and education on healthy habits and behaviors, including nutrition, stress management, and mental health. This can help employees feel empowered to take charge of their health and wellness.
Supportive Workplace Culture. Foster a workplace culture that supports and encourages healthy habits, such as taking breaks to stretch or go for a walk, and encourages employees to prioritize their health and well-being.
These incentives can help make employees feel included and equal to their coworkers by providing opportunities for everyone to participate in wellness programs, regardless of their background or circumstances.
By providing a range of options and supporting employees in their pursuit of wellness, employers can help create a workplace culture that values and prioritizes health and well-being for all. In the end, the more you do to help employees feel valued and their productivity remains high, that is supporting them successfully.
Next Steps to Take For Equality in Wellness Programs
You may find yourself overwhelmed with all that your company’s wellness programs may be missing. That is why WellSteps is here to assist you not only bring ideas for equality in your wellness programs, but even help you no matter where you’re at. If you’re starting from scratch, we can help you build from the ground up and incorporate all that we’ve discussed here today.
After all, 60% of employees say that if their employee offfered a wellness prgoram, they would participate. Imagine how your entire organization could benefit if 60% of your people improved their health and well-being.
If you have had health and wellness programs established in your organization for a long time, there are sure to be areas that can be improved in order to bring greater health to your employees and positive results to the organization as a whole. Feel free to meet with one of our WellSteps Guides for a free demo on exactly what the possibilities are for you.