What do you think of when you hear diversity and inclusion? Often when we think of employee wellness, we are thinking about moving more, getting employees to get regular health checkups, better nutrition, a flu shot program, or maybe a health fair. All of that can be beneficial for your employees. But there is an opportunity to better support your employees when you think about the intersection of gender equity initiatives and DE&I initiatives in the context of workplace wellness. By taking a more systems thinking approach, connecting wellness to diversity challenges, your organization can move towards an inclusive working culture and gain the financial and well-being benefits.
What You Can Do
One of the most important exercises you can do as an organization is a deep-dive on demographics in your company, including race, religion, gender, age, caregivers (for children and/or adults) and any other key pieces of information about your people that may be important in understanding how they are viewed and if they have voice. If an internal survey may not get you the honest answers you need, consider an outside vendor. There is no way to measure change without a baseline.
Addressing Gender Challenges
Harvard Business Review has published data that even among dual-career couples who claim to give both spouses’ careers the same priority, women are still doing most of the domestic work at home, including caregiving responsibilities. This adds to the cognitive and time burdens that working women in your organization may be experience that are very different from their male counterparts. Not better or worse, but different. And it means different health and well-being barriers for them.
Understanding work-from-home policies, how FMLA is used, and if there is a focus on equal, not equitable treatment, is a great starting point. When working caregiver’s have flexibility and feel seen and heard, they will become more engaged, they feel less stressed, and it allows them to show up more authentically. There is a direct reason to include a focus on caregiving:
According to World Economic Forum data, the disproportionate impact of unpaid caregiving on women is one of the key facets of gender inequality.
Employees of color have always had to deal with inequities that take away their sense of inclusion and respect, even safety. There are sometimes assumptions, based in bias, about their capabilities. There is often a lack of role models who share their identity. In addition, many employees of color are subject to microaggressions embedded in day-to-day conversations and interactions. This type of marginalization can mean missing out on their skills and talent. The constant feeling that they are not heard, seen, or respected for their skills and education can lead to higher costs from burn out, their lack of engagement, and costs related to turnover. They leave for working environments where these issues have been better addressed.
The Intergenerational Workforce
There are as many as five generations in our workforce right now. Some of you may have employees that are as young as 16 or 18 all the way to 75+. Understanding the breakdown of generations in your working culture in the context of employee health can help you target communications, programming, and initiatives. There were companies in areas where their employees lost a lot of friends, family, and colleagues to COVID, in some cases all three. But this issue impacted employees at age 20 in a different way than employees at 60. Knowing how to message to and meet the needs of different generational groups can make your health and wellness initiative more successful.
Just like finally coming to terms with too many fast-food meals, barriers to getting enough sleep, or understanding why the needed walk never happens, it is about understanding where you are now in your organization with diversity and inclusion in your company.
- Take the time to acknowledge the emotional and health toll and the mental health impact of not being respected and included
- Do more due diligence deeper and be more curious about the whys behind the numbers
When your employees don’t feel respected, included, and heard, the repeated experiences lead to fatigue, which can manifest as physiological and psychological health issues. By connecting a focus on employee health and wellbeing to issues around gender equity and diversity and inclusion, your company can have healthier and more engaged employees from all backgrounds, and you can also be seen as an employer of choice by the diverse talent that can help improve your bottom line.