3.1 Diversity and staff wellbeing
Diversity and inclusion play an important part in staff wellbeing. Menzies (2018) suggests that they are linked in four ways:
- Workplaces that are inclusive foster enhanced employee wellbeing
- Employees with high levels of wellbeing are more inclusive
- Effective wellbeing initiatives accommodate the unique needs of different employees
- Best practice diversity and inclusion programmes recognise mental health and wellbeing as a diversity issue.
For a personal view of the benefits, listen to Sophie Washington, one of our employer interviewees, explaining how much she enjoys working in a diverse and inclusive environment.
Transcript: Video 5: Sophie on a diverse and inclusive workplace
And it’s really just a great team to be a part of because it is so diverse and inclusive. I think to be able to work in a place where it is, that it offers so many benefits to an organisation to have that level of inclusivity and that level of diversity. Because you’ve got so many different people with different lived experiences. And it’s just a really great thing to be able to offer.
Menzies goes on to explain that self-concept and self-esteem play a significant role in our wellbeing and ‘when employers celebrate, encourage and value the expression of an individual’s unique identity in the workplace, the employee’s self-esteem and integrity are supported.’
In their Inclusion@Work study 2017-18, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3000 workers, Diversity Council Australia (2018) found that:
- those who felt they worked in inclusive teams experienced higher job satisfaction, greater success and security, and better team performance
- in organisations taking action to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, a similar proportion of female and male workers were very satisfied with their jobs (43% and 45% respectively), compared with those in organisations where no action was being taken (28% and 23%).
Their 2019-20 follow on study (Diversity Council Australia 2019, p. 11–13) revealed growth in strong support for workplace inclusion from 37% to 43%, but they describe one of the key challenges facing organisations as ‘addressing the assumption that diversity and inclusion efforts only benefit people from target or minority groups’.
Of course, the other side of the wellbeing story is that individuals who experience discrimination in the workplace often experience higher stress levels and health issues. In fact, in their study of nearly 30,000 employees from the Finnish public sector, Clark et al (2021), found a direct association between workplace discrimination and an elevated risk of long-term sickness absence due to mental disorders. You’ll explore personal fear as a result of discrimination in more detail in Week 4.
Activity 4 Diversity and inclusion benefits everyone
Consider a time when you learned something from a colleague who was different to you. Identify what that difference was.
What did you learn from them? How did you benefit from that experience? How did your organisation benefit?
Perhaps you thought of a time when a colleague shared a personal experience with you that gave you greater insight and understanding, or maybe they had such a different perspective on a particular problem – it caused you to rethink your position.
It is important to realise that everyone can benefit from a more diverse and inclusive working environment. For example, in an inclusive workplace, personal interactions with colleagues can be enhanced, creating a more supportive environment where challenges are shared and different perspectives can lead to new and exciting solutions.
In the OU survey referred to earlier, several respondents also commented that diversity and inclusion was important because it was the ‘right thing to do’, aligning well with the concept of social responsibility, which you’ll explore in the next section.