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Wellness in the Workplace: Preaching vs. Practicing

Promoting wellbeing at work doesn’t have to mean encouraging time off or buying an office ping pong table. Try this instead.

As an agency founder working with wellness-centric brands, I’m always curious to hear from my network how brands bring wellness into their workplace every day. More often than not, I pull this question out during prospecting calls as a sort of challenge, if you will, to gauge whether wellness executives are truly practicing what they preach. My intention is not to point fingers or call out companies that are falling short, but rather to bring light to a topic that’s so often discussed at surface levels or in the context of personal habits created outside of the workplace and bring benefits to teams at work.

Throughout the years, I’ve heard a whole slew of surprising responses from brand founders and executives about how they support wellness initiatives amongst their teams.

“Well, we recently started offering candy in the kitchen and it’s been a huge hit.”

“The whole team takes Fridays off during the summer.”

“We’re looking into mental health benefits that will hopefully roll out next year.”

When I hear responses like this, I feel deflated. As leaders, we’re failing our teams when it comes to promoting actionable, worthwhile wellness practices in our offices every day. We preach wellness as a necessity to our consumers and contribute to the content hamster wheel promoting the same, but we fall short in bringing those practices to life at work. We fall back on blanket wellness perks that may be falling on deaf ears and we equate a fun, casual work environment with one that supports our team’s mental wellbeing.

Wellness in the workplace is about so much more than offering our teams Summer Fridays, and practices like this have little to do with supporting wellbeing at work. Instead, they promote the idea that leaving work equates to living well.

I’ve spent the past several months talking to my peers, researching, and asking questions about what kinds of daily habits I could bring to work with me to support real and consistent wellness for my entire team. So far, these are the best regular practices I’ve found that have received consistently positive feedback and created lasting and measurable change.

Incorporating “User Manuals” Into Our Onboarding Process

New hires at our agency are burdened with the task of reading through a fairly lengthy employee onboarding manual that lists out the rules and regulations of our company and how our team ticks. Every company I’ve come into contact with has their own version of it and I have yet to find a way around burdening new hires with the task of reading through it.

However, this past year, we’ve also begun providing each new hire with what we call a “User Manual”. It’s a how-to-work-with-me guide of sorts that invites new team members to share as little or as much as they’d like to about their personal work style and how they prefer to coexist in a workplace. It digs into preferences about how team members prefer to receive feedback to how best to approach them with questions.

We keep every single team member’s User Manual in an easily accessible binder in the office so our team can refer back to it anytime they may be uncertain about the best way to approach someone for say, a difficult conversation, or whether they prefer to take meetings in the mornings or afternoons. Knowing these little details about our team makes a world of difference in supporting their wellbeing.

Committing to Weekly “Discovery Meetings” to Encourage Knowledge-Sharing

Every Monday at 10 AM we bring the whole team together for Discovery Meetings. We pass the baton to a different person on the team each week, inviting them to share something they’ve recently learned. It does not have to be work-related, but often, we find that the most captivating discoveries are those that have applications both inside and outside of work.

One of our team members recently shared binaural beats, an emerging form of sound wave therapy, during a Discovery Meeting, and I’ve personally found it to be incredibly useful for times when I need to access deep concentration at work.

Asking for Feedback and Recommendations From My Team

It’s dangerously easy to make assumptions about what your team needs, rather than going straight to the source and asking. When I approached my team a few months ago and asked how best to support their mental health and wellbeing at work, I was surprised to learn that they wanted to incorporate more community-focused initiatives into our work. They were less excited about a group yoga class (which I had assumed would be a big hit) and more keen on planning a day-long volunteer trip to a goat farm upstate.

Tying Work Into Team Building Initiatives That Promote Community

Having a sense of purpose at work is probably the single most important ingredient of workplace wellness. I’ve found that aligning my team’s work with actionable community initiatives they care about helps reignite their passion for their day-to-day tasks and brings a greater sense of purpose to their work.

Last week, as we tasked the team with drafting social content in celebration of International Women’s Day, my co-founder and I brainstormed ways to tie that work back to real-world initiatives at Wimze. We invited the team to interview each other about women who have supported or inspired them in their lives, and to share those stories on social media, in an effort to encourage introspection and bring more meaning to the task.

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