Creating a healthy culture in your workplace

05.07.18

There’s a lot of talk about how we create a ‘healthy culture’ in the workplace. So, what exactly is a healthy culture, what factors play a part, and how does it impact wellbeing and business performance? And – importantly – is it just a buzzword, or is there more to it than that? Here’s what you need to know.

What defines a ‘healthy culture’?

According to Business Dictionary, organisational culture includes an organisation’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, as well as the values that guide employee behaviour. And getting that culture right can be a key driver of productivity and business performance. The University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations concluded that environments that are open and supportive allow people to thrive, and know that encouraging people to thrive has big benefits for both employees and for business.

 

How does it impact wellbeing and business performance?

‘Positive Psychologist’, Dr Tim Sharp, explains that in short, healthier and happier employees are effectively better ones. He warns, though, that knowing what a healthy culture is and understanding what contributes to it is one thing – but understanding why it’s important and beneficial is another.

“A plethora of studies over many years now have teased apart the various factors that play a role [in creating a healthy workplace culture],” he explains. “Although every culture will be different and, therefore, the exact combination will vary from workplace to workplace and even team to team, what works for one team may not work for another.”

A positive workplace culture can have multiple benefits. According to Forbes’ William Craig, positive workplace cultures are associated with: happier and more engaged employees, who employees who collaborate more and better with each other and people who are more creative, innovative and resilient

And there’s some research to back this up. Let’s say part of your strategy is to implement a workplace wellbeing program. The numbers are in your favour, with global research showing you could potentially increase employee engagement from anywhere between 7% to 55%, and self-reported creativity and innovation from 20% to 72%. You could also cut workers compensation costs by 40.7% and decrease disability management costs by 24.2%. Not numbers to be sneezed at.

 

So, what ingredients do you need?

Sharp says that a healthy, positive culture is more than just a feeling around the office. Here are his top tips according to the research:

 

Knowledge is power: How to transform your workplace culture

The benefits abound, but creating a healthy culture can come with challenges. Here are Dr Sharp’s tips for transforming culture today.

 

  1. Remember that every organisation and every team will be different

“What that means is that every team or group needs to specifically and consciously define what a ‘healthy’ or ‘positive’ culture means for them,” he explains. “This important first step is often ignored or glossed over which means people or teams are aiming for something they can’t accurately even describe. Not surprisingly, this is doomed to fail.”

     2. Have realistic expectations

“Change isn’t easy; it’s not smooth; and it probably won’t happen overnight,” Sharp warns. “Instead, commit to a long-term program of priorities and remember, always, what you’re trying to achieve and why you’re trying to achieve it.”

     3. Start with whatever you have from wherever you are

“Look for signs of positivity with your existing culture and build on them,” Sharp says. “Look for people who are already setting a positive example and use them; find success stories and share them! An organisation I’m currently working with has a dedicated channel on its internal communications app for anyone to share their stories of success, both personal and professional.”

The Business Dictionary. Organizational culture. matter [Online] Accessed June, 2018. Available from: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/organizational-culture.html

Center for Positive Organizations. Culture and things that matter [Online] Accessed June, 2018. Available from: http://positiveorgs.bus.umich.edu/blog/culture-and-things-that-matter

Forbes. The Top 10 Factors For On-The-Job Employee Happiness [Online] Accessed June, 2018. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2014/12/15/the-top-10-factors-for-on-the-job-employee-happiness/#473046145afa

Australian Government. Benefits to business: the evidence for investing in worker health and wellbeing. [Online] Accessed June 2018. Available from: https://www.comcare.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/99303/Benefits_to_business_the_evidence_for_investing_in_worker_health_and_wellbeing_PDF,_89.4_KB.pdf

Business Journal. The Right Culture: Not Just About Employee Satisfaction [Online] Accessed June 2018 via Gallup. Available from: https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/208487/right-culture-not-employee-happiness.aspx

Queensland Government. Positive and healthy workplace cultures guide. [Online] Accessed June, 2018. Available from: https://www.forgov.qld.gov.au/file/34151/download?token=2R7LHv8t

Forbes. 3 Reasons Why Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive [Online] Accessed June 2018. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamcraig/2017/07/25/3-reasons-why-positive-work-cultures-are-more-productive/#6ed61ecd1ede

Virgin Pulse & Workforce. The Business of Healthy Employees: A Survey of Workplace Health Priorities. 2017 [Online] Accessed June 2018. Available from: https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/285174/BusinessOfHealthyEmployees.VirginPulse.2017.pdf?t=1521837138673