When you think about the culture of your organization, what comes to mind? Do people come to work with spring in their step? Do they socialize regularly? Is there shared vision for what the team is attempting to accomplish?

An organization’s culture is the social norms that shape behavior and beliefs. These norms are established through a variety of both formal and informal mechanisms, including reward systems, training, modeling, and communication.

Why is an organization’s culture important to health of employees? If we think about it from a formal perspective, there are concrete policies that define the workplace such as a drug-free and smoke-free workplace policy. Those policies are clearly defined, everyone knows what they mean and understands the consequences of violating the policy.

When attempting a behavior change, people are more likely to be successful if they are supported by the people they spend time with – be it co-workers or family members, and have a supportive environment in which to practice skills developed when making the change. A health focused work culture makes it easier for people to maintain healthy lifestyles.

The Human Resource Institute created a model of the enabling factors of culture change based on research performed in a number of worksites. The model, shown in the figure below, addresses key elements that create a work climate that supports change.
Culture Model
A sense of community fosters a sense of belonging, creates trust, caring and mutual understanding. Worksite wellness programs can play an important role in this.

A shared vision is having a clear definition of success. People understand what their role is in this success and have a stake in achieving it.

A positive culture creates an environment of optimism and enthusiasm. Helping people achieve a personal health milestone and see concrete results supported by those with whom they work, will provide continued motivation.

A worksite wellness program can foster a culture of health by creating an environment that is positive, caring and supportive.


Allen RF, Allen JR, A sense of community, a shared vision and a positive culture; core enabling factors in successful culture based health promotion. American Journal of Health Promotion, (1987) 1:3 40-46

Allen, JR, Achieving a culture of health: the business case. White Paper. Health Enhancement Systems, www.healthenhancementsytems.com