For younger generations entering the workforce, wellness has become a way of life. Taking a cue from the attitude forged by millennials, they no longer view work and private lives being on separate rails, with the train on the work track careening toward utter burnout. Weekdays are no longer characterized as being “on” almost 24/7, with weekends spent recovering from them, speed-recharging in coma-like rest from the rigors and strained relationships imposed by the workplace. That manic, to-and-fro existence is ultimately too painful and unproductive to be sustainable.
Both for company leaders and employees, there’s a better way. And that way is to see wellness as encompassing all that we do — a concept that brings harmony to how we perform on the job, as well as how we spend our time outside of it. Not just by incorporating wellness into our lives and workplaces, but by making it a core principal for how we approach things, we are introducing an essential balancing mechanism to life and work as a whole. Work and community spaces like the Wing are now supporting young professionals in this way by embedding wellness into their core offering through mediation rooms, stress-relief classes, and healthy beverages and bites.
For executive leadership, wellness can be a tool for empowering employees to embrace their work, rather than feeling as though they have to suit up for battle in order to power through each workday. For all bosses, from CEOs to managers, this strategy can also provide peace of mind to enjoy their own time off with friends and family — knowing that they have made positive steps toward improving their workplace culture and, by extension, their employees’ lives. They themselves can be modeling this attitude.
The wellness market is a lot bigger than you’d expect. Globally, it surpassed an astonishing $4 trillion last year. And make no mistake, wellness is no longer synonymous only with top-dollar yoga retreats and shopping at premium food stores for budget-consuming foods and beauty products. We are entering an era in which wellness can — and should — be affordable and inclusive of all people. Although we haven’t yet arrived, we’re getting there in small increments.
Wellness As Fine-Tuning
Although ‘wellness’ is an amorphous term, you can think of it as a comprehensive approach to fine- tuning our work and private lives. As Robin Berzin, CEO of Parsley Health points out, “The idea is to tap into its wellspring so as to reach a level of happiness and overall health that can sustain us at all times. Systematically integrated into office culture, a wellness strategy can boost employee retention and raise overall productivity.”
Corporate wellness, as defined by companies offering a plethora of in-office services from chair massage to nutritional counseling, is expected to be an $84 billion industry by 2025. One company in the corporate wellness constellation, Bravely, connects employees with professional coaches for confidential conversations and conflict resolution. While Parsley Health, is revamping primary care in order to avoid a burgeoning burnout culture and the alarming rise of chronic conditions. Parsley Health’s Berzin, says that this can even be “used as an alternative to an employee wellness program, as this new way of caring for a patient save employers money through improved productivity and lower insurance premiums.”
While wellness isn’t yet as ingrained in society as is, say, the need for showing up to work on time or taking a break for lunch, of late, wellness concepts have seeped into our collective consciousness as a necessity. It wasn’t too many years ago, for example, that admitting to practicing meditation would have earned you a “kook” label at the office. Not so, today. And soon, I believe wellness will become a permanent fixture, on the job as well as at home. And the sooner companies get in the game, the more productive, healthier and happier their employees will be. And it will result in attracting other employees with similar propensities, helping perpetuate a virtuous cycle.
Here are three doable ways companies can step up to this challenge as they institute behaviors that will play an increasingly influential role in the workforce.
1) Institute a feasible in-office Wellness plan.
Many companies don’t have the resources to hire an in-house yoga instructor or personal trainer for getting employees to engage in physical activity and eating healthy foods; and certainly not every organization has a Facebook-size budget to fund hip cafeterias that offer vitamin-rich goodies and bean bag chairs that double as nap-time cubbies. However, every company can make a difference in employees’ lives by giving it some creative thought. Even on tight budgets, a little imagination goes a long way. In wellness, the thought not only counts, it multiplies, so that even small changes can compound over time and numbers of lives improved. Moreover, studies show that organizations with explicit and well-defined wellness programs tend to both attract and retain better employees.
Opportunities to execute against this are limited only by the imagination, and even the simplest ideas and tools can be harnessed into an integrated program. Some affordable but impactful changes include: getting rid of those vending machines that feed employees “sugar bomb” candy bars — offer instead an assortment of fresh fruits, grains and all-natural health bars; have the boss hold walking meetings, in which weekly agendas and pitching strategies are fleshed out during a heart-rate-raising stroll through a nearby park or even around the office; arrange engaging in-office seminars; hold monthly lectures on wellness that make a point of getting employees to participate — for example, invite a meditation instructor who can both teach tricks (and benefits) of the trade and then lead an office wide Zen-out session.
2) Motivate your employees through inspiration.
The days of the boss using fear as a means for motivating his or her employees need to be reposited in the past. Office cultures that run on fear and negativity tend to produce the opposite of the desired effect, and the reasons for this are obvious. No one wants to feel belittled and inadequate. With the workplace changes we are beginning to see with younger employees, not to mention the #metoo movement, it takes far more than the prospect of a raise to motivate workers. What gets people to work with passion? One clue is the truism that humans want to feel inspired. And people tend to feel inspired by sense of purpose, or by acts of selflessness. Businesses are obviously not a charity — they are there to make a profit. But highlighting the things that go beyond naked profits and soulless income statements will inspire workers to feel that they are part of something bigger.
So… get creative about how your organization highlights its stance on, and acts of, goodwill. If a percentage of company profits goes to funding a specific charity, then make this transparent to employees. Let them know exactly how much money the company donates to, say, that neighborhood homeless shelter — and if you’re able to, add testimonials from the people at the homeless shelter who have benefited from your financial support. Another way of inspiring employees is by getting superiors at the company to engage as team members with them, rather than as top-down, my-way-or-the-highway bosses. The feelings of camaraderie this will produce can lead to more efficiency as well as better quality work getting done.
3) Be proactive about avoiding managerial burnout.
We’re all accustomed to the image of an employee whose morning routine can feel like a death march to work. Burnout is an insidious thing, but it doesn’t afflict only employees. Managers can suffer greatly from this problem, too — which can be a major issue, because of their importance in motivating employees, boosting retention rates, and being responsible for the organization’s overall success. It’s imperative for companies to adopt strategies that also cater to their needs and interests. Detecting managerial burnout doesn’t come with a user’s manual, but noticing changes in managers’ appearance and behavior is a good place to start. Senior management should be vigilant in noticing such issues as sudden weight gain and erratic behavior, such as language use. Detection can be a subtle art, but organizations can design employer evaluations to collect feedback that can be helpful in picking up unusual behavior among managers.
In terms of addressing burnout, some preventative measures can also be taken. These can include encouraging managers to delegate tasks and responsibilities, so that they’re not overwhelmed with the weight of their role. Figuring out what is to be delegated can sometimes be. accomplished by designing work performance evaluations to help managers find out what aspects of their work could best be done by someone else. On top of these measures, companies can arrange special stress management seminars that cater specifically to managers’ interests and issues. By taking some of these proactive steps, companies send the signal that they are ready to meet the new workforce where they live — and in exchange they’ll find themselves with happier and more loyal managers and employees.