Company culture is an extremely hot topic at the moment, with many businesses who have never invested time and energy in understanding and developing a company culture bringing this higher up their agenda. There are lots of changes going on across the HR and wellbeing industries at the moment, yet for some the idea of optimising company culture for wellbeing is still relatively new.
So, how do you go about creating a company culture that prioritises wellness and wellbeing for your people? How do you maintain it once you’ve created it? And why is it so important to get it right?
In this article, we’re going to cover some of the key topics around creating a company culture for wellbeing. We’ll cover how to change your company culture, why wellbeing is so important, and why it’s so hard to create a truly future-proof culture.
What is company culture?
The idea of company culture has been around for a while in the business world. However, it’s recently undergone a bit of a shift with people understanding more that culture eats strategy for breakfast. It enhances every element of your business and will contribute to everything from profitability, longevity, to the desire for people wanting to work for and stay with your business. In the past, for some companies, we might have used the word to describe things like the office atmosphere or the number of team offsite meetings the business ran each year or not mentioned it at all. For others who have a great established culture they may have found it easier to navigate the last 18 months. However, if this hasn’t been something your company has focused on, don’t worry, it’s never too late to work with your teams to create your own unique culture. For many the term “company culture” is understood now to encompass how the business treats its people, as well as its attitude towards external factors: does the business have a climate change policy, will it take a stance on political issues?
The important thing to bear in mind when it comes to company culture is that there’s no right answer or one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one company won’t necessarily work for another. It’s all about finding out what works for your people, and for your business. And, your company culture can change and evolve over time – it doesn’t have to be set in stone.
How do you change company culture?
So, if you’ve identified that you need to create a shift in your company culture towards prioritising wellness and wellbeing, how do you go about doing that? Well, you can apply traditional change management principles – but changing company culture requires a bit of a different touch. Unlike other changes, where you can often get away with implementing them from a more top-down approach, to shift company culture you really need enthusiastic contribution and buy in from all of your people.
There are three things that every change of culture towards wellbeing needs:
A change of system
A good place to start is to look at your system and identify what may need to change. Changing a system may seem like it’s letting go of control, however, it’s about empowering everyone to take ownership and responsibility for the part they play. This may involve changing working hours, moving to flexible working, prioritising workloads differently, hiring staff, changing teams around, adding benefits, encouraging workouts and exercise… The list is endless, and it’s really up to you which will work for your business. Whatever changes are made there should be collaboration across the whole business to ensure that everyone is given a voice and the right options for your business are selected.
Be prepared to make some tough decisions here. You may find that you have to shift priority away from other things to make space for wellbeing. This may mean altering lead times for products or changing working patterns for teams. As with all decisions in business, there’s often a trade-off. The thing to remember, though, is that if you do have to impact your business function like this to get to a system that puts wellbeing first, then the system you had before probably wasn’t sustainable, and would lead to higher people churn or your teams burning out.
We believe that most businesses will be able to find ways to move their culture towards wellness in a way that ultimately boosts productivity, as your people will be more focused and better able to rest and recharge in their time off.
Another vital part of changing your company culture is leadership. If you encourage your people to work flexibly, and then all the leaders in the business are still resolutely at their desks until 6:30pm, you may find that you aren’t able to change behaviours and therefore shift the culture.
A change in company culture means demonstrating the new attitude from the very top. If your people see their leaders embracing the new wellbeing culture, they’ll be far more likely to join them. And that’s key to enabling a change in your company culture.
The other thing you need to change your company culture is to get every individual within the business to take responsibility. Especially when it comes to wellbeing, you can have the most permissive policies possible, but if your people don’t feel able to take advantage of them, there won’t be any benefit.
So, you need to encourage your people to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and for implementing the changes to company culture that you’re putting in place. This is all about ensuring that your team has agency and are able to have input into the wellbeing culture being put in place. One of the major benefits of this process is that it will increase the levels of trust within the business which has knock on positive effects with relationships etc.
Why do wellbeing efforts fail?
We work with a lot of companies looking to implement a company culture of wellbeing, and so we hear a lot of stories of why things haven’t worked out in the past. The number one reason why these wellbeing efforts fail is that they’re being treated as a tick box exercise – the company isn’t taking a holistic view, simply implementing a few policies to say that they’ve achieved something.
In short, the culture doesn’t reflect the commitment. This is why changing your company culture is so important when it comes to improving wellbeing. Systemic change is absolutely needed in order to make wellbeing count.
Two key steps to changing company culture to prioritise wellbeing
In this article, we’re not going to give you a huge list of ways to improve wellbeing in your business. Firstly, because you can check out our infographic for 101 ideas! But secondly because the best way to improve the company culture at your business will be absolutely individual – it will be up to the needs of your business and your people.
Instead, we’re just going to give you two key steps that you can take to really make the culture shift stick.
Stop and listen
The first is simply to stop and listen. Invite open consultations with your people and ask them what the number one problem for their wellbeing in the workplace is. Pay close attention to what they say, and then implement solutions that address these issues.
It’s crucial that you do this across the organisation. Different teams will have different issues, so don’t force business-wide solutions – sit down with small teams and address each system individually.
Think long term to future-proof wellbeing
It’s also vital to think long term when it comes to company culture. This doesn’t mean just kicking issues down the road, but it does mean taking a longer view. If your people are overworked and stressed out, you can take some immediate steps to address this.
But, it’s also worth thinking about the root causes of the issue. Are you taking on the wrong clients? Do you have unrealistic expectations for response times? What are the business benefits of adjusting who you’re selling and marketing to? You can then make positive, long-term changes for the health of your business. What’s best for your people is very often best for your company, too.
This might all sound like a lot of work. But, that’s why we’re here to help. At The Thrive Lab, we offer wellbeing consultancy, assessments and strategic planning to help you figure out where you’re at and where you’re going, as well as coaching services, workshops and masterclasses to help give your people the tools they need to take responsibility for their wellbeing.