Improving Employee Well Being with Diversity Equity and Inclusion

Posted on May 24, 2022 by Adam Frei, MS, LPC, CEAP

We all have heard the business case for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But what does it mean? In addition to being a good leader for your employees, consider what an inclusive environment can mean to the business. Could productivity be improved with better employee morale? What about employee turnover and the cost of recruitment and onboarding? If your employees are your biggest asset, as many companies say, then it is important that you provide a healthy environment for them. For companies to thrive and cultivate a diverse workforce, well being of employees must be at the top of mind. Fostering diversity, equity and inclusion by implementing equitable initiatives can lead to a healthier, robust workplace for all employees of varying identities and lived experiences.

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The Impact of an Inclusive Workplace

You know stress can be uncomfortable in general. But repeated discriminatory and exclusionary stressors can lead to long-term mental health concerns. The impact of these stressors are both persistent and long-lasting. Nearly half of U.S. adults report they have experienced a major form of discrimination, leading to higher reported stress levels and poor health.

Racial trauma is a form of stress caused by race-based factors, mostly from both individual and systemic racism. Forms of individual racism such as microaggressions toward a coworker can have lasting effects: increased depression and anxiety. Some studies have even found chronic physical ailments such as high blood pressure, hypertension and cardiovascular disease to be prevalent outcomes.

Although there should be awareness surrounding the severity of racially motivated stressors in the workplace, DEI should not limited to racism alone, nor simply advocate for one identity. For instance, LGBTQ employees experience workplace discrimination as well.

These realities should not be taken lightly nor ignored. If tangible action plans are not taken by company leadership to get ahead of this issue, it could be detrimental to the mental health of their employees.

How Can You Move Forward?

To start, one goal would be proactively creating and cultivating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace driven by company leadership. Part of that goal is to give employees the space to truly thrive. Leadership should be aware of trends and patterns within their workforce, address them, and bring attention to the resources they offer. Two area of focus which with provide tangible steps in the right direction include:

  1. Well Being Initiatives that are Inclusive. Ensure your employees have equal access to health and well being resources to provide a common experience.
    • The reality is that employees have different experiences with healthcare.
    • One study finds that 13% of white employees are dissatisfied with the availability of quality healthcare in their area while 22% of black and Hispanic employees were.
    • Another study shows that healthcare providers are biased against LGBTQ patients, correlating with lack of access to services and poor health outcomes.
    Along with different experiences, there are persistent disparities in access to healthcare and well being resources.
    • When employees experience access to health or well being resources, their interactions with healthcare providers improve significantly, ultimately improving health and well being outcomes also.
  2. Use your EAP to address workplace discrimination and exclusion.
    • EAPs provide solutions prioritizing well being solutions to both employees and organizations. Although the perception may be EAPs only provide short-term counseling options, they also provide:
      • Crisis prevention and response
      • Management consultation
      • Peer coaching
    • These solutions give both the company and individuals the tools necessary to thrive in the company.

EAPS should be designed to address address workplace inequities and discrimination with a trauma-informed lens and employ a diverse consultant network so employees can seek support from those with similar lived experiences. Incorporating a data-driven approach to their work by measuring primary concerns among a broad range of employees will also allow for leadership to address trends and patterns in a tangible way.

We Can Help

VITAL WorkLife offers numerous online, virtual and in-person resources to support inclusive practices and respect in your workplace and daily life.

  • Organizational leaders, managers and supervisors can consult with a Senior Consultant to develop an action plan to assist in fostering acceptance and respect in your workgroup or workplace.
  • Employees and their family members have access to online resources on their Member Website to improve communication, address conflict and enact positive improvement in their well being. They also have access to in-the-moment behavioral health support or face-to-face or virtual counseling.

For more information and to access your EAP Resources, Contact us at 800.383.1908 or 952.230.5117. You can also contact us through the VITAL WorkLife app.

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