Live from Seattle: This is what it takes to build a workplace culture of health

With the enormous focus on employee health and well being, a lot of companies are wondering how to effectively build a strong workplace culture of health. During the CoreNet Global Summit here in Seattle, we had the chance to discuss this with the winner of the CoreNet Global Innovator and Excellence Awards, Futurist, Speaker and Author - Rex Miller. 


Supported by evidence and research, how would you describe the current state of the workplace culture of health? Are companies investing enough efforts?

I would say that companies are spending enough – but not in effective areas. We can see that the rate of chronic disease has not slowed, costs have not decreased and participation remains about 10% on average. There are at least four areas that companies should focus on to get a higher return on their investments:

  1. A healthy building (FitWell or IWBI) provides passive health benefits to 100% of your employees. Wellness programs only attract about 10% participation.
  2. Employing behavioral economics to shift group norms is more effective than attempting to induce people to individually change behavior.
  3. If leadership is not personally engaged and walking the talk - then nothing works.
  4. Happiness (wellbeing) drives health (wellness). We have the cart before the horse.

Who is the right person to take on this task?

The right person is the one who cares and can bring together the key stakeholders; senior leaders, HR, occupational health & safety, IT, wellness, CRE/Facilities and users. Beyond that, thought leaders are really the ones who have to walk the talk.  The culture of health must be driven FOR the employees not too them. In other words – if the WHY is to reduce cost & risk, improve attraction & retention then it becomes a means to an end. If the WHY is driven by alignment with the company values or because it is the right thing to do – then it will feel like it is FOR them.

What are your best tips for companies/FM/HR departments that want to invest in building a workplace culture of health?

  1. Get some good guidelines - FitWell, the IWBI, Lead v4.
  2. Pick the low hanging fruit (lighting, food, hydration, air quality and movement)
  3. Experiment before implement
  4. Seek broad participation - create interest, innovation and buy-in
  5. Measure - baseline and then improvement in retention, engagement etc.