5 aspects of work culture that play a role in the success of a wellbeing strategy

Work culture plays an important role in the success of any wellbeing strategy. In a perfect world, workplace culture will instil and promote the value of wellbeing. In reality, there are a few, common workplace issues that can easily create a negative culture where morale, engagement and performance is low. It might exist across the whole organisation, or just in pockets. Regardless, it makes it harder for employees to be happy, healthy and productive and these cultural issues will undermine your efforts to improve wellbeing.

5 aspects of work culture that play a role in the success of a wellbeing strategy

1. Work-life imbalance
A culture that is heavily focused on input, rather than output, can create heavy workloads and tight deadlines that are difficult to meet. Our workplace wellbeing research with the CIPD shows that unmanageable workloads are a leading cause of stress, presenteeism and leavism1.

Although you might not actively encourage a long-hours culture, logging on after work, or staying in the office late becomes the accepted norm, particularly if leaders display this behaviour. This can lead to a work-life imbalance, which is detrimental to both mental and physical wellbeing. Indeed, long hours impacting work-life balance is a cause of stress at work for one in ten organisations1.

2. Poor social relationships
We talked about the importance of social wellbeing in a recent article. Establishing good social relationships is crucial for helping us thrive. This is especially important in the workplace, where feeling isolated and lonely can mean withdrawal and disengagement with work.

Social wellbeing is strongly linked to mental health. If your work culture is not conducive to people developing social connections, mental wellbeing will be affected. Organisations should encourage employees to come together and find ways to nurture social interaction at work; allow some time for socialising, help set up social interest groups, or bring people together through wellbeing activities.

3. Ineffective leadership
Leaders are the people who should role-model your work culture. And leaders at all levels of organisation have an influence on employee wellbeing; so poor management can create far-reaching wellbeing concerns.

Research reveals that over two-fifths of organisations identify management style as a main cause of stress, and 13 per cent say a lack of employee support from line managers also contributes1. What’s missing is training for line managers to help them identify and manage unhealthy practices in the workplace, and contribute to a supportive and healthy culture.

4. Lack of openness and honesty
Silence or a lack of openness will only lead to distrust, concern, and sometimes complaints among your workforce. In this case, employees will close off and become resistant to any changes or developments within the business.

Transparent communication and seeking open conversation with employees is critical to helping them feeling engaged and valued at work. When you show employees that their opinions matter, by asking for their feedback and acting on it, this creates a culture of positivity, trust, and confidence in your business.

5. Unhealthy working environments
The physical working environment is a bit of hygiene factor. If you don’t get working conditions right, any other wellbeing initiative will have limited success. Working environments can have a huge effect on wellbeing. Being too cold, too hot, not getting enough fresh air, sitting at a desk all day; these things can all impact productivity and longer-term physical health.

Adapting the working environment is a common measure for managing short and long-term absence1. This might include providing standing desks to support people with musculoskeletal problems, or offering ways to make flexible working easier. There are also plenty of quick wins for employers to make working environments better; introducing plants to improve air quality, providing filtered water, or encouraging people to get outside for breaks or walking meetings can all help. 

Fostering a healthy culture
An inclusive culture and positive wellbeing outcomes are interlinked. Two in five organisations say that their health and wellbeing activity has achieved a healthier and more inclusive culture over the last 12 months1. Carefully thinking about each of these areas and addressing any issues, can help you to foster a culture with wellbeing at its heart.

At the recent REBA Employee Wellbeing Congress, Simplyhealth’s Camilla Shaw and Chris Bradford discussed the important role of culture in maintaining a successful wellbeing strategy. If you didn’t catch the session, you can watch it here .

This article is provided by Simplyhealth. 


1. CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2019 report

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