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World Health Day: Building a fairer, healthier workplace

April 7, 2021 — By Barb Veder, Chief Clinician – Morneau Shepell

World Health Organization

This World Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) is focused on building a fairer, healthier world. For businesses, that translates to a commitment to improve employee health and wellbeing at all levels.

Now is the time to take a look at your current wellbeing program and assess if you are doing enough to support your employees.

Inequality and work-related stress

In the workplace, inequalities play out in numerous ways. For many employees, work-related stress is a major cause of poor health. Factors like skills, age, gender, ethnicity and disability can all affect whether an employee is able to cope at work and the level of stress they experience.

In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is clear evidence that certain workers have been more affected than others. According to a 2021 Swiss study, there was a stark decrease in life satisfaction for women, due in part to the increase in unpaid care work. The research also demonstrated that socioeconomic resources had a strong impact on stress levels and life satisfaction.

This evidence is supported by  Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index which demonstrated that across Canada, the US, the UK and Australia, women were more likely to report worry as their dominant emotion in 2021 compared to men.

Similarly, research conducted by Cornell University featuring more than 300,000 employees working in 28 different organizations in the US showed that LGBT employees had worse workplace experiences than their colleagues. These negative experiences spanned across a range of categories including employee treatment, fairness and job satisfaction.

While these findings may come as no surprise, they reveal the very real inequalities taking place within organizations across geographies. Inequalities are often intersectional and are amplified by workplace culture. They can have a significant impact on employee health and wellbeing.

Why health matters in the workplace

Workplace inequalities also influence the effectiveness of your workforce. Negative workplace experiences lead to higher employee turnover and absenteeism. Ultimately, this means wasted time and revenue for businesses.

To attract and retain a productive team, employers must strive for fair and equal access to health services. Without a comprehensive health and wellbeing plan that caters to an individual’s total wellbeing, you risk losing talented employees. Further, the most vulnerable workers in your team may experience chronic health problems that have a serious impact on their quality of life and their ability to do their jobs.

Making wellbeing available to all

As part of their commitment to building a fairer and healthier world, the WHO is working to ensure that all individuals have working conditions that are conducive to good health.

One actionable and effective way to improve employee wellness in your workplace is to implement a holistic, digital wellbeing program. By giving employees unlimited access to wellness solutions, including specialist counsellors and health professionals, you can ensure that your organization is catering to the needs of your workforce.

Building a fairer, healthier world will not be without its challenges. In your organization, you can – and should – start taking steps to address health inequalities immediately.

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