Many issues that significantly impact our society often take a while to reach a tipping point. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) is one such issue. In light of a greater acknowledgement in recent times of our long-standing systemic racism, health inequities, and workplace discrimination, DEI has taken on a heightened focus within the workplace as employers try to create practices and policies geared toward increasing inclusion, enhancing culture, and improving employee retention.
And yet, amid all the talk and attempts, meaningful and sustainable efforts are critical for true change. Marginalized groups are sadly more likely to report discrimination, and even as workplace DEI initiatives gain ground, younger workers tend to remain skeptical on their real potential for change (American Psychological Association, 2022).
Total Worker Health (TWH) is an inherently inclusive approach that recognizes that work is a key driver of worker safety, health, and well-being, and aims to improve working conditions for all employees. As a Total Worker Health Center, the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC), continues to make efforts to meaningfully adopt a DEI-informed approach in our planning, evaluation, research, and outreach activities, and every internal monthly meeting includes a dedicated standing agenda item to discuss DEI topics relevant to our work. At a personal level, we dedicate time during meetings to check in with each other following unsettling events around us, and discuss how it impacts us in our pursuit of worker well-being. We plan DEI-focused outreach and education events and highlight key topics in our trainings and biannual symposia.
Read a previous blog post on some of our DEI-focused efforts at OHWC’s home, the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences.
Since 2020, we have also partnered with organizations such as Oregon Tradeswomen on efforts that have led to a state-wide coalition called the Safe From Hate Alliance, an impressively large and robust multi-sector stakeholder-led effort committed to “cultivating a respectful workplace, safe from hate, racism, sexism, discrimination, harassment, and bullying, where all workers are safe, respected and have dignity at work and in the construction industry”.
Additionally, we partner with employee well-being think tanks such as the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), delivering talks on applying TWH strategies to develop inclusive workplace policies and practices. In another recent collaboration, OHWC was an external reviewer on the newly published report, Advancing Workforce Health Equity—DEI Informed Policies and Practices by HERO’s Healthy Workplaces Healthy Communities Committee. The report offers actionable guidance and real-world examples from various organizations as they implement DEI-focused strategies, particularly in areas of recruitment and retention; work-life integration and leave benefits; health benefits; wages and compensation; and communication. Access the report here.
We hope these and other meaningful DEI efforts are only the beginning in our collective work toward ensuring worker safety, health, and well-being for all. We’ll take this opportunity to share news and recordings from our educational symposia on DEI-pertinent topics. Our Fall 2022 topic (held last week) was Supporting a Diverse Workforce in the Face of Ongoing Societal Trauma. You can view recordings from previous events such as Worker Health: Work as a Social Determinant of Health and Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: Impact on Worker Health and Well-being.
As always, we invite you to share your thoughts and lessons from your own DEI work as employee safety and wellness professionals.
Photo credit: Markus Winkler, Pexels