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11 Oct 2022
by Debbie Bullock

Six tips for developing an inclusive health and wellbeing strategy

Everyone has different health needs and those needs change. Employers shouldn’t shy away from providing specific support that applies to some, not all, of the workforce

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Health and wellbeing is important to all employees. But that doesn’t mean the support you offer should be exactly the same for everyone, or that all your initiatives have to apply equally to the whole of the workforce.

So, when developing your strategy – or looking at ways to make strategy more inclusive – don’t be afraid to identify sections of your workforce who might benefit from particular support. These six tips will help you with this:   

1.Needs change

Everyone has health needs that won’t stay the same throughout their employment. An inclusive health strategy identifies and considers these diverse needs. Key areas could be mental health, fertility, menopause, men’s health and neurodiversity.

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2. Avoid making assumptions

Everyone is individual and views may differ. It’s important to consider differences between demographics, cultures and communities – differences which even may exclude all mention of certain topics. In some cultures, for instance, there isn’t even a word for menopause.

Other examples of different groups facing different issues include men accessing health care less frequently than women. Or trans people sometimes feeling unwilling to discuss a physiological impact based on their assigned at birth gender, rather than how they currently identify themselves.

3. Seek input from different groups

Your wellbeing strategy should be people focused. Gaining feedback needs to be a continuous process, where people need to know challenge is welcomed and appropriate suggestions acted upon.

To help with this, get people to share their stories, if they are comfortable to. This applies to leaders as well as employees from other levels, so you can demonstrate that no-one should be afraid to show their vulnerabilities. Harnessing the power of storytelling is a great way to help reduce taboos.

4. Look at issues from multiple viewpoints

The most obvious place to offer support for a particular issue may not be the only one where that support is needed. For instance, at Aviva, we’re looking to set up a safe space for people who are supporting partners through the menopause, so they can share their experiences in an environment where they feel comfortable.

We’ve also created content around pregnancy and baby loss, offering support regardless of role or gender. This is particularly important in instances where the non-pregnant partner feels they have to be ‘strong’ for the other and may neglect their own health and wellbeing. We’ll be approaching fertility issues in the same way.

5. Use your strategy to remove gender bias

Policies such as equal parental leave, carers’ leave and fertility leave are good examples of way in which support can be supplied that avoids falling into gender stereotypes.

6. The line manager’s role is crucial

Having an enlightened policy is one thing, but for employees to truly engage with what you’re aiming to achieve, line managers need the tools, knowledge and confidence to support employee wellbeing. Think about a 25-year-old male manager, for instance. How can he support a 50-year-old female team member during the menopause unless we educate him? Or how a manager who is a heterosexual parent can look to support a colleague in a same-sex relationship, going through a surrogacy journey which results in pregnancy loss?

Employers need to equip their leaders to be empathetic, human and, at times, show vulnerability, so you can best support your people when they need it.

Finally, regardless of the content of your strategy, think about the overall culture of the business. No matter what area of diversity we’re talking about, issues can be raised more easily by colleagues who feel they’re in a in a psychologically safe environment, where they know they won’t be penalised for sharing their how they feel.

Employers need to create a space for people to discuss topics in an inclusive way, tailored to their specific needs. One size does definitely not fit all.

In partnership with Aviva plc

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