By Paresh Shah
What is wellness? Many people think that if you’re not suffering from a disease, then you’re well. However, there are many unseen factors to wellness that are critical to your employees’ creativity and productivity. If you envision a thriving company with healthy, happy employees, then it’s time to update your definition of wellness.
Expanding our definition of wellness
The traditional definition of wellness is typically based on a person’s physical state or a diagnosed mental or physical condition or malady. In a clinical sense, a lack of negative physical symptoms equals health.
Over the past two decades, we’ve learned that there is a direct link between mind, body and spirit that contributes to a broader scope of health. We now understand that wellness includes a person’s happiness and fulfillment. Whether your organization focuses explicitly on the triple bottom line or simple profitability, this type of wellness can be taken straight to the bank.
Wellness in the workplace
Dr. Halbert Dunn, known to many as the “father of the wellness movement,” defines wellness as a method of functioning in which people progress toward their maximum potential. This understanding solidifies a connection between a high level of wellness within a company and higher levels of productivity and innovation from its employees.
People who are mentally and emotionally healthy also tend to be in better physical health. Healthier employees take fewer sick days, are more engaged in work and create a positive dynamic with co-workers. Combining the positive effects of good health and high employee retention with a superior culture gives your company a major competitive edge. Quality people want to work in a quality environment. By embracing this idea, you can form a stronger workforce that will surpass other organizations in your field.
Success through wellness
Companies across all industries are making wellness a priority. They’re designing products and services that promote well-being for consumers and adding benefits for employees to maintain a balanced life and nourish all aspects of well-being.
Here are some examples of companies outside the health industry that are truly embracing wellness:
- In entertainment: Contrary to its reputation for raising a generation of couch potatoes, many companies in entertainment have committed to promoting wellness among their viewers. Disney, for example, requires every TV series to have an episode each season devoted to a “positive, healthy lifestyle message.” Several TV personalities, like Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, are attempting to improve people’s quality of life directly. Self-help has become a multibillion-dollar industry, and physical and emotional health drive topics for successful shows. Dr. Oz and The Biggest Loser are part of a self-help TV niche that teaches people the necessary skills to be physically and mentally healthy
- In technology: Tech companies are known for their demanding work cultures, but many companies are adding health-promoting perks for their employees. ReadyTalk offers employees 20 hours of paid volunteer time per year so they can give back to the community. LinkedIn holds regular meditation hours. Some companies, like HubSpot and Evernote, even offer limitless vacation time with the understanding that people are more productive in a flexible working environment.
- In marketing: Many advertising agencies offer an abundance of extras to keep employees fit, happy and centered. AKQA, Grey, Huge, and Wieden+Kennedy all offer yoga classes. Crispin Porter + Bogusky has an ex-Buddhist monk on its payroll to offer mindfulness sessions throughout the week, and 72andSunny employs a life coach.
Incorporating wellness in your company
Not all companies have the budget to implement an elaborate wellness program, but you can find a variety of ways to make employee wellness a priority. Here are some ideas that work, regardless of what industry you’re in:
- Improve your employees’ commute. Going to and from work sets the tone for your day. Try to locate your company where your employees can live nearby, or offer a shuttle service, a carpool program, or incentives for biking to work to reduce the stress of driving. A Harris Interactive poll commissioned by The Workforce Institute showed that 48 percent of people felt their commutes significantly impacted their job satisfaction.
- Bring in plants. One of the hardest things about working in an office is the stale air and lack of nature. Research shows that plants help people feel better—a simple but effective step toward improved well-being.
- Hold walking meetings. Walking is one of the best ways to create balance in the brain, and many meetings can be done on foot rather than in a stuffy conference room. If your office is located outside an urban area, you can even boost your team’s memory by 20 percent.
- Encourage employees to bring children to work. Kids are a huge part of many people’s lives outside the office. Their presence at work can build continuity between work and home and help people see their co-workers as real people.
- Teach and practice true listening. Non-judgmental listening and being fully present with another person helps increase empathy and bonding. When people feel they are truly heard, it creates a tremendous connection with the other person and can serve as a type of therapy.
- Encourage individual passions. Allow people the time and space to pursue what they love while they’re at work. When you activate people’s ability to express their personal interests, it can lead to innovation and ideas for the company as well.
We all desire true wellness—not just to live, but to thrive. When you value your workers as people, they sense that and work to return that respect to your business through increased dedication and contributions. Achieving a sense of well-being builds community and increases overall productivity. Open your eyes to your employees’ needs, and find a way to improve the physical and emotional health of your staff. Your sense of self, creativity, and energy will flourish—as will the triple bottom line.
Paresh Shah is an experienced entrepreneur, executive, and innovation consultant. He is currently the founder and CEO of Glimpulse, creating products, services, and platforms for well-being via self-expression. Prior to Glimpulse, he co-founded a wireless multimedia company and raised $130 MM. He has served as an adjunct professor in strategy and entrepreneurship and earned an MBA at Harvard University.