What Can Happen When an Employer More Visibly Supports a Culture of Well-Being?

Madison Agee

As we’ve explored earlier, organizational culture can play a pivotal role in the overall success of a well-being improvement program. If their cultures aren’t supportive of (or even worse, if they’re inhospitable to) well-being, even the most thoughtful, well-designed programs can struggle to deliver the kinds of valuable outcomes employers want to see.

A mid-sized employer in the insurance industry recognized this link between culture and program outcomes, so it worked with Healthways to develop and implement a more purposeful culture of well-being within the organization. Some of the initiatives the employer and Healthways focused on were fostering support among leadership and launching activities such as employee challenges and access to fitness classes. Additionally, the employer partnered with Healthways to create and deploy an overall well-being improvement program, which included assessments, action plans, health coaching and web-based resources.

A study recently published by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) explores the outcomes of this well-being improvement program and the associated cultural enhancements. Covering a two-year period and authored by the Healthways Center for Health Research, “Well-Being Improvement in a Mid-Size Employer: Changes in Well-Being, Productivity, Health Risk and Perceived Employer Support after Implementation of a Well-Being Improvement Strategy is unique in that it’s the very first study to show that employer support for a well-being culture can positively contribute to program outcomes. Specifically, the study established that, for every 1.0 point increase in the perception of employer support for well-being, there was a corresponding 1.9 point increase in overall well-being score.

Over the two-year period of the study, overall well-being among employees improved 7.3 points, a 10.4 percent increase. By the conclusion of the study, overall well-being at the employer had, in fact, even outpaced the well-being of the surrounding community, despite starting significantly below the community average.

The six specific dimensions of well-being measured by the study also all improved. For example, healthy behaviors jumped an impressive 42 percent over the two years, while emotional health improved 12 percent. This improvement in overall well-being and its dimensions was mirrored by a corresponding decrease in the percentage of employees with health risks such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and tobacco usage. The group of employees who have two or fewer of these risks increased 13 percent over the study period.

The study also shows a boost in productivity that occurred after the well-being improvement program was implemented. Self-reported job performance improved 2 percent, and on-the-job productivity loss (i.e., presenteeism) decreased by a notable 21 percent. All of these outcomes support earlier research that showed the positive results that can occur following implementation of a well-being improvement strategy.

Employers interested in seeing similar results may be wondering how they can get started on building a culture that is more supportive of well-being. In our “9 Ways to Think Big, Start Small,” we’ve compiled nine top ways to activate a culture of well-being within your organization. We’ve even included easy examples of each to help start the process today.

Topics: Well-Being Productivity Science and Research