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Empowering health inclusivity in the workplace

Employees seated around a table

Diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging make society—and the workplace—a better place. But investing in diversity alone doesn’t translate to inclusivity, equity, and belonging at work. All four of these pillars are critical for supporting an engaged workplace, and that means not just having a representative team but also making sure everyone feels safe, comfortable, and empowered. 

Companies that rate highly in these areas are more creative, profitable, and fulfilling for employees. Naturally, then, diversity and inclusion initiatives have become hallmarks of healthy and well-run organizations.

To include everyone, you have to care for everyone.

Diversity and inclusion conversations are often dominated by professional or cultural considerations, such as curtailing unconscious bias in the recruitment process or allowing employees to choose their statutory holidays. But a crucial part of diversity and inclusion is ensuring team members have access to care aligned to their individual needs, circumstances, and lifestyle.

So it’s not necessarily enough for an employer to provide access to healthcare services and professionals. Instead, true inclusivity means guaranteeing that people can find and work with practitioners skilled in the disciplines that matter most to them—from occupational awareness to mental health—and who have contextual knowledge and sensitivities for delivering services to traditionally marginalized or minoritized groups.

5 ways to encourage healthcare for your company and co-workers.

Whether you’re in a position to make or influence decisions about care services in your workplace, advocating for improved accessibility and equity for your colleagues, or a manager thinking about how to create an inclusive, respectful environment for their team, here are five achievable ways to advance health and wellbeing inclusivity at your organization.

1. Healthcare services need to be flexible as well as responsive.

What’s the opposite of an inclusive approach to healthcare? In short, it’s a one-size-fits-all approach. If you don’t have optionality, you don’t have inclusivity.

These services should also be accessible on an as-needed basis beyond typical workday hours. And they should be available across a range of channels to accommodate different communication preferences, whether by phone, text, video, or in-person.

2. Help create a safe space to talk candidly about mental health.

The last few years haven’t been easy. The pandemic, the Great Resignation, “quiet quitting,” supply chain issues, the cost of living crisis, and international conflicts have made people stressed and anxious.

Meanwhile, many Canadians have demanding careers that compound this pressure—it’s no wonder chronic stress and burnout are increasingly common complaints for today’s employees. Fortunately, employers are increasingly becoming a part of the solution, helping to break down stigmas and offer access to services where employees can receive care. 

3. Co-workers may also be caregivers, and they need support.

The world has changed both rapidly and gradually, locally and globally. Today, more and more people are working on a full-time or part-time basis from home. And a combination of factors, such as high housing and rental prices and an aging population, means that multigenerational households are a new norm for many Canadians.

Parents need flexibility in their schedules to care for their children, and health benefits that extend to their dependents. The same holds true for those who are looking after elders. And it’s important to remember that issues such as caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue are real and challenging, as is the stress of navigating complex care systems and resources for both the young and old.

If you're a team leader, remember what to be mindful of as your team members may have different priorities and schedules. 

4. Accommodate alternative work styles and schedules.

Many organizations now encourage a remote or hybrid workforce and let employees work flexibly. If people are no longer bound to a traditional nine-to-five workday, why should their healthcare be? Having 24/7 access to healthcare—for instance, by providing virtual care options—is a huge benefit, but team leaders also need to embrace flexible working schedules so people can attend appointments during the work day if necessary.

5. People need support in their lives beyond typical healthcare.

A healthy lifestyle is a balanced lifestyle, so it makes sense that healthcare benefits and services shouldn’t stop at medical treatment. Instead, it’s ideal to have additional offerings to support broader aspects of health. Connecting to an ecosystem of resources through your company’s benefits plan, for example, offers you autonomy and choice when it comes to pursuing wellness.

There are multiple digital platforms that can help you track your progress, too, and they can be great for turning your goals into friendly competition.

Workplace inclusivity is inseparable from healthcare inclusivity.

Inclusivity is all about creating a safe work environment where employees feel free to be their true selves. And people can only be their best when they feel their best and know they’re supported no matter where they are in their personal health journeys.

To learn more about how virtual care can help to break down the barriers to healthcare and promote workplace inclusivity, visit TELUS Health Virtual Care