Toward Equity – How to Connect Diversity and Well-Being

toward equity
27 Apr, 2022


Toward Equity

toward equity
April 2022

How to Connect Diversity and Well-Being

The research continues to establish that a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce makes for more engaged and ultimately productive employees. Put differently, it’s good for business. What is only beginning to be understood is the connection between a commitment to DEI and the physical health of employees — and how their health and well-being affects the bottom line.

In the Harvard Business Review, Chris Michalak, CEO of Virgin Pulse, and Marlette Jackson, Ph.D., a “scholar, educator, and change maker,” explore the link between DEI and mental as well as physical health, and what companies can do to strengthen their responses to both.

Too often, they find, DEI programs “are disconnected from those aimed at supporting employee health and wellness” even when organizations believe they are committed to both. “Failing to address the intersectionality of DEI and well-being does a substantial disservice to employees,” and ultimately to the business itself.

Police killings, for example, contribute to 1.7% additional poor mental health days for Black Americans. Individuals identifying as LGBTQ are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and substance abuse than non-LGBTQ folks and, because of discrimination, they too often “avoid care, putting their health at risk.” While the pandemic has raised awareness of health disparities, it has also resulted in higher rates of infection, hospitalization and death among Black, Hispanic and Asian people than in whites.

Addressing Special Needs

“It’s imperative,” Michalak and Jackson write, “that companies implement programs and policies that holistically address employee well-being and DEI,” which will require “a series of actions [that] ensure every part of their population has the resources and information they need to address the special needs of marginalized employee populations.”

To that end, they can bring in paid experts who can address such topics as “racial battle fatigue, microaggressions, emotional labor, self-preservation, stamina for systemic change, and Black joy.” They can “upskill” their managers, embed mindful DEI practices in recruitment of talent, showcase stories of people’s “personal journeys in spaces at work,” and create a “well-being-centered ERG,” or employee resource group.

While there is “no silver bullet for addressing well-being and DEI holistically,” organizations can use data and analytics to develop programs “customized for their needs and experiences, and create messaging that drives action and meaningful results.”

In sum, “DEI and well-being are key business strategies. While the business community has made great progress toward both, they can no longer be treated as separate and distinct.” When the connection is understood and addressed, “we will be better leaders and businesses for it.”

Additional Resources

Related Article – Should Inclusion Include Older Workers? 

Related Article – Building a Better Pipeline for Black Professionals

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