Wellness at Work – Is Meditation the New Caffeine

It is difficult to recruit great staff – I guess that’s why recruitment is such a booming industry in itself.

Highly skilled, positive and loyal staff are literally like gold dust and just as valuable to the companies that they work for.  With this in mind, many businesses, from family-run firms to multi-national corporations have started to implement measures to develop employee-morale and maintain overall wellness in their workforce. With physical & mental health being a major cause of absence from work – wellness programs are great for both employers & employees.

Not only are wellness programmes, in theory at least, great for ‘staff-retention’; according to a study conducted by ‘National Business Group’, companies with worksite wellness programmes experienced an 8% increase in employee productivity.  In addition to this reported increase in productivity, healthy people tend to have less sick days.   

From personal experience – healthy & happy people just make work feel more fun and positive – and this translates into increased enthusiasm in the office too.

Why Bother with Staff Wellness?

As outlined above, there are some very non-Buddhist, capitalist reasons, to help your staff to feel happy, mindful and ‘well’.  

These include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Increased loyalty to the firm
  • Increased levels of happiness
  • Increased ability to cope with stress & anxiety related to work
  • Little cost to implement – a great return on investment
  • Staff will often have an elevated opinion of their employer – good for PR

The benefits listed above are just the tip of a substantial iceberg when it comes to the performance and staff retention. If you are convinced that workplace wellness is worth investing in, read below to learn how to easily implement a wellness program…

Have a Wellness ‘Leader’

If possible, see if anyone wants to volunteer to take the reins and help promote wellness and wellbeing. Promoting things like gratitude at work, can seem like corporate brainwashing if it’s not implemented and encouraged by the right people & personalities.  People will tend to listen and take more notice if the messages around positivity and wellness come from one of their peers; rather than a wellness consultant. 

A wellness leader will put together a plan to make it easier for employees to make healthy lifestyle choices, in and outside of work. 

Alternatively, you could hire a wellness consultant. If you do a local Google search for a wellness consultant or a wellness center, you should find somebody more than happy to help.

Gratitude

Encourage the practice of gratitude. This has been shown repeatedly to help alleviate depression and can help stave off the staleness and apathy some people tend to feel when they have worked in the same place for years.

Gratitude is certainly effective, but it can be tricky to implement at work.  One idea is to ask everyone to chip in with 2 things that they are thankful for at work.  This information can then be used to create a picture or mural, using quotes and drawings related to those things that your staff are grateful for. 

It can be difficult to think of something you might be grateful for at work to begin with but start with obvious things such as free car parking, central heating, your colleagues, central heating, low likelihood of injury (if you work in an office, compared to someone who’s a roofer!), music and of course – coffee!

Alternatively, the ‘wellness leader’ could be asked to share something every day via email that they are grateful for. This is simple, yet effective if people feel that it is authentic.

It can be difficult to make gratitude feel authentic in some situations.  It must be modelled from the top, with owners and/or managers showing thanks for their staff.  This goes a long way into generating and reciprocating feelings of gratitude. Lack of appreciation can be a huge problem; yet it is so easily overcome.  Ensure that staff receive thanks for a job well done, with specific and authentic praise; tailored to the individual.

Mindful Movement – or just Movement!

If budget and space allows, consider bringing in a yoga teacher to take a class in the workplace.  Yoga is fantastic for the mind, relaxing and energising. It is also fantastic for office workers who tend to move very little during the day – something that is extremely bad for the lymphatic system and posture. If there is no floor space, consider Tai Chi instead – which generally requires less room and can be done standing up.

Whether it’s yoga, Tai Chi or another form of exercise, movement in itself is so important for people who sit down all day at a computer. The phrase “sitting is the new smoking” is attributed to Dr. James Levine, who went on to say that:

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death”. source

 Mindful movement is ideal, but movement in its own right is essential for a happy and healthy workforce. Promote exercise and movement in general within the workplace if possible. From walking, to Tai Chi to ‘rebounding’ (jumping on a mini-trampoline to promote lymph-drainage), it all helps with physical and mental wellbeing.

Quirky Team Building Away-Days & Meetings

Instead of stale company meetings and social events down the local pub; think outside the box a little and if possible, hold events at quirky locations to make them feel less formal.  Tipis for example, are regularly used by companies to hold conferences in, whilst other companies are choosing to have “walking-meetings”, which are especially beneficial if you are lucky enough to work in a rural area which can be considered to be ‘in nature’.  

If you are not fortunate to be based in the countryside, you could consider researching company-discounts for zoos and safari parks like Knowsley.   Having a relaxed atmosphere and surroundings is fantastic for creativity. Keeping things fresh and different is generally good for wellbeing and staff morale too. 

Meditation

A growing body of research has shown that meditation can increase productivity at work.  A study conducted by the University of Washington for example, found that meditation training and implementation, helped workers to focus & concentrate better, remember important information more efficiently, stay energised and avoid ‘negative moods’ whilst at work.

Additional research has demonstrated that meditation can directly help to alleviate stress and depression; which in turn can help create a happier, more productive workforce.  Consider encouraging meditation during break times and before work. This may seem strange to your staff at first, but once they feel the benefits, and realise it’s value, not only are they more likely to be productive, but they are also more likely to be loyal to your company.

Plants & Animals

According to the Journal of Experimental Psychology offices are increasingly being:

“…stripped of extraneous decorations so that it can flexibly accommodate changing numbers of people and different office functions within the same area. Yet this practice is at odds with evidence that office workers’ quality of life can be enriched by office landscaping that involves the use of plants that have no formal work-related function”.

The study went on to examine the impact of minimalistic (‘normal’) offices and ‘plant-enriched’ “green” offices on worker’s perceptions of air quality, focus, workplace satisfaction and productivity.

Workers reported a positive impact of the “green” office environments in relation to all markers examined.   Dr Knight from Exeter University, along with the rest of his team, concluded that employees were 15% more productive when ‘normal’ offices were enriched with a number of houseplants.

“If you put an ant into a ‘lean’ jam jar, or a gorilla in a zoo into a ‘lean’ cage – they’re miserable beasties”

Animals at work can be a little more difficult to accommodate.  With allergies on the increase for example, not everyone will be happy about an office pooch making an appearance one random Monday morning.

Dog in the office

Dog in the office

Having said that, a dog-friendly office can help encourage exercise, reduce stress by increases levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and conversely, decreasing levels of the stress-promoting hormone – cortisol.

According to a study conducted by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, over the course of a working day, stress declined for dog-friendly office workers.  In a reverse trend, office workers without the company of animals, experienced an increase in stress during the day, and had significantly higher stress levels by the end of the day.

Having a quirky office, with plants and animals, can, to a certain extent, also give your business a unique selling point of sorts. If you think about it – who would you rather work with?

A stale workforce, in a boring office, or a team based in a fun environment, that appear to be really enjoy what they are doing?

Wellness at Work for the Self Employed?

If you run your own business, wellness is often an after-thought, if you ever think about your health at all. Being self employed can be extremely stressful and it can take a very significant toll on your body & mind if you don’t put in place ways to mitigate any issues. Chasing payments and general income insecurity can be amongst the biggest stressors for the self-employed.

There are a few simple ways to increase wellbeing however. Using virtual assistants and virtual receptionists can be one way to free up more time, reduce interruptions and stress. The right virtual assistant can help you do research, manage your emails, make appointments and reduce the amount of general admin that you have to work through. Virtual receptionists can be hired through websites such as assistantcompany. Just be aware that you often have to trial several assistants before you find one who specifically meets your needs.

A call answering service like Moneypenny, that offer a 24/7 service can help reduce unwanted interruptions in the evenings and at weekends, allowing you to truly switch off and relax at the end of the working day or week. 

Alternating working from home and working from the office can also help. Working at home can free up time, reduce the stress of a rush-hour commute and make it easier to make healthy eating choices. However, it can also be very isolating and uninspiring. Variety is the proverbial spice of life alternating your workspace can have a dramatic impact upon productivity. Working outdoors on your laptop, even for a short period of time can also give a dramatic boost in mood and energy!

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Working outside Can Have a Positive Impact On wellbeing

Conclusion

This has been a short overview, and just a few ideas of how to implement wellness at work.  With stress and mental health problems on the increase in the US, and across the World – it is important to consider the impact on your staff as people that you care about, but also the potential impact on your business.    

Adam Hansen