Wellness. What do you think of first? Relaxation? Physical fitness? Healthy nutritional habits? Mind-body balance? What does it feel like? A blank mind? A sense of calm? Did you envision what wellness means for you specifically, or in general, for everyone? How many ways does that vision change to be more inclusive?
Wellness, by definition, refers to a state of well-being. Actually, wellness aims to enhance one’s well-being, affecting a number of overlapping areas. Whether it is the four pillars, five components, six aspects, eight domains, or eleven dimensions, they are all interconnected. Each model contains the three basic areas that are essential to wellness and establishing, maintaining, and enhancing one’s state of well-being: physical, mental, and social.
Additionally, wellness refers to a five step process: education, awareness, integration, implementation, and acceptance. It is often this first step in which the metaphorical ball of diversity is dropped, often in the form of lack of representation. Inadequately addressing the diversity of your workplace wellness committee further compromises, and thereby risks the likelihood of success, for each subsequent step in the wellness plan of every employee.
Educational resources are often one of the most important components of a wellness program. How can people change what they know little to nothing about, right? Right. In other words, education permits choice(s) to be made. The initial presentation of those educational resources has an incredibly large impact on how that information is perceived and absorbed. Often, particularly in health and fitness, there is a disconnect between the target audience and the marketing materials. Are the resources culturally inclusive? Who is represented? Does your target audience see people who look similar to them? If they are, how are they represented?
Various life experiences provide a heightened capacity for understanding. Wellness often features a stress management or resiliency aspect. Managing stress entails understanding what specific stressors exist. Physical, mental/emotional, environmental including social, socioeconomic, and occupational stressors exist for all of us. However, there are often differences in the various life stressors that People of Color and LBGTQIA+ individuals experience compared to white heterosexual presenting - though not necessarily identifying - individuals.
Without question, macro- and micro-cultures exist in the workplace. For example, the macro-culture of the company is the same as a whole, but the micro-culture of the finance department compared to the engineering department may differ. Each micro-culture provides a different perspective that contributes to the greater success of the whole - the same is true for your wellness committee. Multiple voices are able to be heard and represented by having a team of empowered “marginalized” individuals with different life experiences, different levels and areas of awareness.
Being able to understand, or at least be consciously aware of, the environmental stressors (such as microaggressions, implicit bias, and stereotypical racial assumptions to name a few) and how they influence mental/emotional, as well as initiate or exacerbate physical stressors, is greatly enhanced by having wellness committee members who can directly relate. Additionally, individuals who are able to personally relate to some of the aforementioned stressors may have more valuable insights on how to integrate and implement applicable, culturally-sensitive stress management strategies.
Differences continue to persist in our healthcare system, and diversity is imperative for addressing health and healthcare disparities. Such disparities account for billions, nearly $93, in excess medical care costs and yearly productivity loss, around $42 billion. Black Americans are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular-related diseases in their lifetime compared to White Americans. Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to die from certain forms of cancer, such as pancreatic, compared to White Americans related to socioeconomic status and lack of access to adequate care. There is also considerable, historically based, mistrust among minorities in regards to asking for, receiving and accepting care. Personal understanding through physical representation can be a decisive factor in appealing to the target population: gaining their interest, building rapport, obtaining their trust, and maintaining their engagement.
With so many separate but equally interconnected steps and areas of wellness to cultivate, diversity assists by providing several different experiences and perspectives. As we learn through life, experience yields understanding - not only for ourselves, but most importantly for others. Marginalized voices are not only heard but overtly represented. Greater diversity in your workplace wellness committee offers targeted education, enhanced specific awareness, culturally-sensitive integration, socio-affective implementation strategies, and program-wide acceptance through heterogenous wellness inclusivity.
SiteWell Solutions is committed to supporting business and organizations with health, wellness and injury prevention services. A healthy workforce is proven to be more engaged, productive and happier. It is our mission to deliver these outcomes to every organization we serve. Our services include onsite and virtual corporate wellness programs, industrial athlete training, injury prevention services, chronic disease management, employee resilience support services and much more. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org today to find out how we can optimize your organization.
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