According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy workplace is one in which workers and managers collaborate to continually protect and promote the health, safety, and well-being of all workers.
This may include the physical work environment, workplace culture, and the health of not only workers but also their families and other members of the community.
The WHO study found that better worker health and well-being can have a substantial positive impact on productivity, competitiveness, and sustainability of enterprises. It means lower turnover, stronger customer loyalty, and better business results.
3 ways to a healthy workplace that will bring results
It's easier to say you have a healthy workplace than to create and maintain one. So I decided to gather perspectives from three leading industry experts on how they've been able to create healthy workplaces.
To them, it came down to embracing diversity, emphasizing empathy, and openly discussing and addressing mental health. In turn, they've developed high-performing businesses, resilient to adversity. Let's take a look.
1. If you don't have diversity, invent new hiring and promotion practices
With years of experience building Rocket Lawyer, CEO and co-founder Charley Moore found the key to a healthy, thriving workplace is diversity.
For many, this isn't a priority. "Silicon Valley is the home of innovation, yet we're severely lacking when it comes to leveraging our superpower of innovation in support of diversity and inclusion," said Moore. "Rather than trying to reform broken systems, we should invent and replace them. We need new ideas in place of outdated and inefficient employment practices that keep teams from reaching their full potential."
One of the main obstacles leaders face to more diversity is a lack of innovation in their hiring practices. According to Moore, current employee recruitment and advancement systems too often lead to biased, non-inclusive, and ultimately suboptimal outcomes.
One step to fix this is broadening the lens through which we look for talent. "Look to nontraditional talent pools like, for example, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and nurture and provide mentorship opportunities for employees from underrepresented backgrounds," shared Moore. "This way, we'll ultimately see more people of color, women, and nonbinary people succeeding at all levels -- from entry-level employees to the executive team and board of directors."
2. Build a culture emphasizing empathy
"Empathy trumps money: every minute, every day," said Umesh Sachdev, co-founder of Uniphore, a company that offers conversational automation and analytics solutions. Sachdev works on the opposite side of the globe from his co-founder Ravi Saraogi.
Leading up to the opening of their headquarters in Palo Alto, California, in 2019, they knew they needed to ensure their new office developed the same empathetic workplace culture to continue their success.
To do this, Sachdev and Saraogi chose to lead by example, being open and understanding with each other and their employees. Sachdev revealed, "Leadership teams need to understand that great organizations are built by strong teams and teams are built by engaged individuals."
Given today's environment, Saraogi added, "During a crisis, it's important to ensure that every individual is healthy and safe, and it's the duty of the leaders to ensure that."
Sachdev added that it's important to find ways to bring people together and enable them to work beyond their swim lanes. This brings a sense of ownership to employees, as well as creates a process of automated empowerment. To do this, Sachdev and Saraogi emphasized compassion is paramount.
3. Address mental health and work-life balance head-on
"I chose to share my struggle with mental health and how it's impacted and influenced my job and my family," said Chris Port, chief operating officer at Boomi, a Dell Technologies business.
By opening up about his mental health journey with Boomi, Port empowered his employees to do the same. This openness is a crucial first step in building a culture that puts mental health first.
Port emphasized the need to establish an environment that allows for flexibility. How can leaders do this? "I check in with my team to ensure they define what balance means to them and are working to achieve it. For me, this means taking breaks to walk my dog or read a good book," Port shared.
It's also critical to listen to employees, anecdotally and through surveys. After Boomi's staff started working from home, one survey found employees had "Zoom fatigue." After learning this, Port said, "we instituted no-meeting Wednesdays." It gives employees time to catch up on work and emails, or to deal with pressing family matters.
It is much easier to imagine a healthy workplace than it is to create one, but these leaders have all achieved it with constant commitment.
As Port says about creating a culture accepting of mental health, "This culture doesn't persist without constant reminders. The same way we check in frequently with employees about career growth and next steps, likewise we need to about mental health, particularly during these times."