As a population health specialist, your first priority is achieving improved health outcomes. It’s a bonus when you can help your workforce clients improve productivity and morale. In a recent post, we discussed the various ways that workplace culture can have an impact on population health. In this post, we’re flipping the script and talking about the reverse—how population health impacts workplace culture and how an improvement in health can benefit culture.
It can be a bit of a “chicken and the egg” scenario, though. What comes first? A workplace culture that promotes chronic stress and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to employees faced with chronic diseases, but stress due to chronic health problems combined with poor stress management abilities can lead to a workplace culture that feels a bit…well, toxic. There isn’t necessarily a right answer here. Whichever way you slice it; one factor definitely impacts the other.
How Population Health Impacts Work Culture
When an organization takes steps to improve population health—whether it’s by offering a health risk assessment (HRA), resources and interventions, or simply implementing various wellness initiatives—they’re taking a positive step in improving their workplace culture as well. A population that’s aware of their risk of chronic diseases is likely going to take a more proactive approach to their healthcare, and this can have a positive trickle-down effect.
For example, an employee who becomes aware that they may be at risk for diabetes after taking an HRA may begin eating a healthier diet full of fruits and vegetables. These nutritious foods will provide a boost of steady energy as well as a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals. The energy will allow the individual to be more productive and function with a clearer mind, while the nutrients are likely to boost their immune system. Their higher productivity and clearer mind will then lead to tasks being easier to accomplish with less stress, while their immune system boost will result in fewer sick days (or fewer days coming into the office feeling poorly).
One simple step—providing an HRA that lets them know they’re at risk—can clearly have a major impact on their health.
A Positive Impact on Workplace Culture
Even just one positive change from an employee can trickle down to the workplace culture. A team member who’s embracing healthy snacks and a “move more” lifestyle may ask a colleague to join them during a walking brainstorming session. Their manager may see their enthusiasm for “working breaks” and encourage the entire team to partake resulting in a group of individuals who are becoming a bit healthier and a bit less stressed.
Now imagine an entire group of individuals who are tackling projects with enthusiasm. A workforce that feels more energized and healthier will have a positive effect on the overall atmosphere of the organization. Their stress levels may decrease since they’re no longer feeling the pressure to perform at a high-level while personally feeling exhausted or disengaged. Or their newfound healthy lifestyle may include regular exercise which will provide them with a form of stress-relief that they’d been missing.
Improving Work/Life Balance
Additionally, when your population is focusing on making their lifestyle a bit healthier, they’re likely to also put emphasis on certain aspects of their workday. “Work/Life balance” may become more important to them as they strive to make time to hit the gym after work. They may embrace the idea of walking meetings or a break-room stocked with healthy foods.