‘Wellbeing’ is often used as a blanket term for things that promote employee mental health. An inclusive wellbeing strategy means a lot of different things, but mostly it just means a wellbeing strategy that works for everyone. In order to achieve this, companies should make sure their wellbeing strategy is both of the two things below…
A comprehensive strategy includes mental health support, mental health prevention as well as ensuring positive mental health. Most companies will have some form of mental health support but considerably less will have comprehensive strategies for increasing and strengthening the mental health of their employees.
Whether you are someone with an existing mental health problem, someone who is stressed at work, or someone who is thriving at work, wellbeing should be for everyone, at every stage in their journey. Having a strategy that only supports people when problems arise isn’t a wellbeing strategy as wellbeing consists of promoting strong mental health as well as supporting mental health issues.
Even if a company has a wellbeing strategy that supports employees in all varieties of their mental health journey, a wellbeing strategy cannot be said to be inclusive without accommodating the diversity in the workplace. This workplace is more diverse than ever and this is something that needs to be celebrated and cultivated even further by companies. One of the ways in which businesses can do this is by making sure that their wellbeing strategy is accommodating of different people’s needs.
As the workplace grows more and more diverse, wellbeing strategies need to be adapted to reflect this. It is a depressing, but true, fact that those from LGBTQ+ and BAME backgrounds face more discrimination in and out of the workplace. As a result, LGBTQ+ employees are 1/3 more likely to experience mental health problems, and 1/3 BAME employees have reported experiencing racism at work.
Instead of the assuming the workplace is a perfect environment exempt from all the ugly prejudice from the outside world, business need to accept the reality that the world is harder for some of their employees and adapt their programmes as result. If you aren’t actively looking after the wellbeing of those who are disadvantaged then you are hindering them. Therefore if businesses aren’t catering to the wellbeing needs of all their employees, their strategy cannot be said to be catering to wellbeing at all.
Blanket wellbeing programmes, such as sending out one meditation, aren’t working. Each employee needs to have the freedom to pick a wellbeing solution that will work for them. Therefore the first thing to think about when building a diverse wellbeing solution is diversifying your content. This means providing a range of topics for employees to focus on such as physical health, mental health, nutrition, managing stress, fostering creativity. It also means providing a range of mediums through which they can work on these things, whether it be meditation, breathwork, podcasts, live webinars. By providing this breadth of content you are ensuring that people are supported at every stage of their wellbeing journey.
Creating a diverse wellbeing programme is slightly more complex, creating a breadth of content definitely plays a part but it has to be more than that. There is no point in implementing an inclusive wellbeing solution in a workplace that is not truly inclusive, it would be like putting a band-aid on a stab wound. In order for a wellbeing solution to be truly inclusive, it must come alongside systematic changes to company culture. This is not an easy task, but having the conversation and having the willingness to make active and lasting change is the first step. (here is a great blog for concrete strategies to foster inclusivity in a diverse workplace). For a strategy to truly be able to foster wellbeing it must be delivered in a workplace that isn’t harming people’s wellbeing in the first place.
It is not enough to simply say that a well-being programme is for everyone because you have made it available to all employees, as this assumes that all employees are starting on equal footing with their wellbeing and we know this is not the case. Those in the LQBTQ+ and BAME face different and unique challenges, including stigma around reporting mental health issues. It is not enough to simply not exclude them, they must be actively included in wellbeing through extra support and tailored solutions.
A workplace that doesn’t foster inclusivity isn’t fostering wellbeing. For a programme to be a ‘wellbeing programme’ in any real sense, it must be comprehensive and actively diverse, otherwise, all it can be called is a failed attempt.