Four Ways To Sustain Health And Well-Being In The Workplace

By Thomas LimForbes Councils Member

Public Service Coach (Singapore) and Deputy Chief (Industry & Organization Transformation), SportSG.

Even as businesses reopen and workers gradually return to the office in some fashion, the topic of health and wellness remains a corporate priority with many organizations. The physical environment of offices today must account for both face-to-face interactions and hybrid arrangements. Being physically and mentally well in the office requires a rethinking in terms of spaces and programs with a holistic approach for employees to regenerate their energies. The next generation of institutional wellness must be anchored in humanizing the connection between people, purpose and potential in the workplace.

Redefine Well-Being

Every organization recognizes that a healthy and inspired employee is a productive worker. A motivated team generates positive energy that contributes directly to an organization’s productivity. Only healthy individuals and teams can become resilient in the face of difficulty. To bounce back stronger, you have to be antifragile. Therefore, it behooves organizations to provide an environment that promotes well-being.

One way is to make resources available that help employees appreciate what it means to be “well” across different domains. The components should include aspects such as physical activity, diet, nutrition, mindfulness and sleep. The Institute of Motion has coined a term to shape and power up environments to enhance human health and performance. They call this Wellcology—the ecology of wellness. Redefining wellness in this way helps to reframe how organizations can bring holistic well-being to workplaces.

Review Systemic Structures

Mental models create structures. The attitudes and beliefs of leaders in how they perceive the wellness agenda can translate to policies, processes and systems that either foster or counteract well-being. A policy allowing for employees to exercise by taking an extended lunch break is great until the manager makes it a point to call for a lunchtime work meeting every other week.

Organizations’ wellness policies must go beyond subsidizing health screenings to proactively working with allied health professionals and wellness providers in curating these programs. These professionals can help organizations shape their wellness agenda while minimizing chronic office disruptors. These in turn help create purposeful and human-potential-led workplaces and office experiences.

Redesign The Workplace

Covid-19 has presented unforeseen challenges in the way we work. It would be beneficial if the duty of care could extend to providing rest and recovery spaces in the office, in addition to spaces for physical workouts. For larger enterprises, these spaces may be found within their office premises.

Forward-looking facility owners may create such shared facilities within buildings for their tenants to utilize using a subscription model. The Wellcology concept is about creating wellness structures around employees, which encourage healthy habits and positive behaviors in a sustained manner. A good design speaks to a supportive corporate culture that demonstrates a genuine connection between its people and the organization’s core values.

Remodel The Wellness Designed Alliance

Many organizations already have some wellness concepts in place. The next step is to extract the lessons, reflect upon what works and codify these good practices into the organization’s playbook. Invest in an internal team that advocates for the wellness agenda as part of the plan. Renew the organization’s commitment to well-being through a designed alliance, which represents a pact between management and staff, and set aside sufficient resources for implementation.

The scope of the designed alliance can start by setting up an environment conducive to wellness and connecting the environment to all employees. This necessitates a remodeling of existing structures and the establishment of new workstreams. Some initiatives may include: building awareness, increasing wellness knowledge, promoting participation, training wellness champions, communicating positive outcomes and celebrating success stories. Over time, organizations with interventions that have yielded positive ROI may deepen their wellness portfolio by providing workplace and wellness coaching and investing in more personalized programming options for their staff.

The four ways mentioned above represent building blocks that create capacity within organizations as they set out in their wellness journey. The fruit of wellness is increased resilience for the individual and unlocking and achieving new potential for team performance. One way to kick-start this cycle is to highlight teams that have been successful in turning their own wellness guiding ideas into innovations for their team members, thereby creating new sensibilities and awareness pertinent to the wellness agenda of the organization.

Organizations that thrive are centered on their values and beliefs. Those that are innovative and intentional in creating the ecology of wellness can reap the harvest of productivity and antifragility for their teams and organization. Thriving means not being beaten by headwinds and standing steadfast in the face of difficult circumstances. Healthy teams are not caught up in a deficit and scarcity mindset arising from fragility. Purposefully designed wellness structures can help employees become healthier and better versions of themselves, which in turn build thriving organizations that attain greater heights.