Kellogg’s announcement that it will provide additional support to staff experiencing menopause, pregnancy loss or fertility treatment is progressive and timely, Such challenging life events are part of the human experience. A key challenge for organisations is developing inclusive employee wellbeing strategies that recognise and support the whole human experience. Such an approach is a significant determinant of building an engaging and impactful corporate wellbeing strategy.
As a woman who suffered ten years of miscarriages, no words adequately describe this experience nor its impact. Miscarriage, back then, was a taboo subject. It was something I carried alone, inwardly broken but outwardly stoically facing work as usual. Keeping silent, carrying on as normal was destructive behaviour, which I was completely unaware of at that time. My mechanism of blocking it out kept me functioning; however, it did not heal. Thankfully, through the right support, I have found peace with this part of my life.
Inclusive Wellbeing Policies
Women are an integral part of the workforce. The latest statistics[i] report that the employment rate of women in the European Union is 67%. A wellbeing culture is progressive when it can recognise the needs of different cohorts of workers.
Introducing fertility, miscarriage and menopause provisions acknowledges and recognises a significant cohort of the working population. This is a step in the right direction; however, the issue is deeper than just recognising women’s needs.
Human beings are complex. We are all made differently, with varied sexual orientation, and with that comes different personal health issues.
For an organisation to truly deepen inclusion there is a need for a personal health policy that does not require the need to call out the issue. Such a policy supports an inclusive employee wellbeing strategy that creates a framework and an environment, where any individual, irrespective of their sexual orientation, feels safe to seek support on personal health conditions. Such an approach will deepen an organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace and protect mental health.
Protecting Mental Health
Personal health issues, such as miscarriage or gender identity, create inner turmoil that for far too long, individuals have silently ploughed through masking the associated mental health issues.
Great work is being done around breaking the taboo around mental health in the workplace. I see many organisations investing in mental wellbeing initiatives, however often there is scant reference to personal health issues.
Often, a nuanced approach is required when addressing mental health in the workplace. Kellogg’s policy brings to the fore subjects that previously were taboo in the workplace. Exploring personal health issues enables such topics to be included in mental wellbeing discussions and removes the taboo. This does not mean there is a requirement for people to reveal their issue, but it makes it known they are not alone, and they know support is in place if they seek it. The recent Movember Mens’ Mental Health campaign is a great example of a nuanced approach that successfully targets men’s mental health.
When an organisation creates the right environment to facilitate discussion on a wide range of personal health issues that impact mental health it educates staff on the wide spectrum of issues that impact mental and emotional wellbeing.
Creating a psychologically safe space
If the work environment is not conducive for an individual to seek help or share a problem, irrespective of the policies in place they will not substitute for creating a psychologically safe space.
A psychologically safe space allows people the freedom to share concerns or issues without fear of being judged, and with an understanding that support is in place to enable change.
Put simply, it creates a working environment where no matter what is going on in your life, you can, if you choose, share your problem at work. You don’t need to be stoic and mask the life challenges you are facing. Psychological safety involves allowing you to not be okay at work some days and knowing you feel safe expressing this to your line manager or colleague. It is knowing that you will be supported in work when life throws you a curveball. Psychological safety also benefits the business process. Creating a safe space encourages employees to speak up even when the message is not what people want to hear, so hard issues are addressed, rather than left to fester. In addition to supporting employee wellbeing, businesses benefit from innovation and creativity in environments where psychological safety is promoted.
Many businesses’ default reactions may be looking at this as yet another business expense. Such a reaction is short-sighted and doesn’t align with the intent of an inclusive employee wellbeing strategy which is to create an environment where the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of employees is supported.
Failing to recognise the needs of all employees costs businesses and is an inbuilt inequity in your wellness strategy. When not managed correctly, this escalates into employees taking long-term leave or leaving the organisation.
A policy recognising fertility, miscarriage, and menopause, opens the door to organisations acknowledging personal health issues which impact a significant cohort of the working population. However, a nuanced approach is required if a corporate wellbeing strategy is to be inclusive to ensure the whole human experience is acknowledged in the workplace.
Developing a personal health policy that supports staff during a personal health challenge while maintaining the right to privacy requires a balanced approach. Involving employees in developing a personal health policy will make for rich conversation and deepens understanding of the wide range of personal health issues that impact your workforce.
Introducing a personal health policy does not remove the pain; however, it ensures an organisation’s corporate wellbeing policy recognises the whole gambit of the human experience. It reaffirms the organisation’s commitment to inclusivity and, at a human level, creates a supportive environment for individuals who are going through personal health issues.
When life does throw a curveball knowing that the workplace will support you during those challenging times is corporate wellness working at its best.
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