Wellness Coordinators – Culture of Health Vs Healthy Culture: What Is The Difference? (Critical!)

Often you can see the terms a culture of health and a healthy culture being used synonymously. But are they really synonyms? And you do want to know the difference, right?

Much is being written and discussed today about the role of the worksite wellness program in creating a culture of health or in creating a healthy culture. Do these two terms mean the same thing? Personally, I don’t think so. Here is my view.

A Culture of Health is generally defined in the worksite wellness field as the ways in which employee health is managed in the workplace. Just like a macro-culture, a culture of health reflects the attitudes, beliefs, values and perceptions that employees of an organization share in relationship to the health of employees. In this type of culture, the health of employees is considered important and viewed in light of how the organization’s practices, management and human factors impact the factors and outcomes related to employee health.

Just like a macro-culture, a culture of health within an organization also acts a guide for how employees and management act in relationship to health related issues and practices. Employee health is seen as being a top-tier priority for the organization and an inseparable part of the organization’s environment.

A culture of health ultimately reflects the way the health of employees is managed. It is also a reflection of the employee health management system – resources, policies, practices, procedures, surveillance and monitoring.

The key point is that a culture of health focuses on individual employee health status and how this impacts the organization and its performance.

A Healthy Culture can be described as a positive culture and a reflection of a healthy organization. A healthy culture values trust, respect, responsibility, honesty, fairness and integrity. It also enables all of the organization’s relationships to be rewarding.

Professor Emeritus Dr. Graham Lowe, in his 2010 book titled Creating Healthy Organizations, describes healthy cultures as being those that meet the following criteria:

1. Deeply held core values define the organization’s operating philosophy

2. Employees see their personal values as being in sync with the organization’s values

3. The organization widely recognizes that its culture is the foundation for its success

4. Everyone within the organization lives the organization’s core values on a daily basis

A healthy culture is supportive of its employees, creates vibrant workplaces, generates positive employee experiences and inspires employees. Positive cultures invest in their employees who, in turn, translate this investment into increased productivity, growth, efficiency and financial growth. Positive cultures result in better overall organizational performance.

A healthy culture has a much broader focus and impact when compared to a culture of health. It is more about employee wellbeing and engagement, as opposed to a single-minded focus on health and health status alone.

A culture of health and a healthy culture are, in fact, two different concepts and should always be viewed as such. They are not synonyms.

I believe our goal as worksite wellness professionals should be to help all employers and organizations evolve towards or to revitalize their existing organizational culture into a healthy organizational culture.

Healthy Workplaces

Healthy workplaces and environments are achievable. As a nationally certified Wellness Culture Coach, I invite you to allow me to help you with your culture change journey. I can help you access numerous culture change tools, resources and materials. I can also help you create an effective, successful and sustainable employee health and wellbeing program. I specialize in mentoring program coordinators and creating Done With You worksite wellbeing programs. You can contact me at [email protected]

Brought to you by Bill McPeck, Your Worksite Wellness Mentor. Dedicated to helping organizations create positive, healthy organizational cultures and program coordinators create successful, sustainable worksite wellness and well-being programs, especially in small employer settings.