Last week, I attended one of those fancy conferences where you wear a tag around your neck with your name on it and eat little canapes all day long. In this instance, the food was really yummy and healthy – because it was the Corporate Health and Wellbeing Summit.
There were some pretty impressive speakers there – Sir John Kirwin, Sir John Key, and world brain expert Sir Richard Faull to name a few. Each speaker had a diverse and unique take on wellbeing in business. It’s not often you walk away impressed with every speaker, but in this case, I did (canape in hand).
Finding ways for people to thrive in organisations has become something of an obsession of mine. Our mental and physical health has a huge impact, not only on our performance, but also our fulfilment at work. Beyond the individual, it’s also pretty important for organisations to get right, as it has a huge impact on productivity and profits.
Last year, I suffered from burnout and depression myself (you can read about my experience here). But there have been many silver linings to my cave dwelling experience. For one, it’s started me on a fascinating journey to learn and share as much as I can on this important topic.
So in that vein, let me give you the key take outs from this first-rate conference:
- Wellbeing is a critical business issue and its one that significantly affects your bottom line. Forget about it being a nice touchy-feely topic relegated to your HR department. The costs of stressed, struggling and sick employees is costing organisations NZ$134 billion per annum and disengagement and burnout – NZ$75 billion+.
- Research shows the body and mind are inextricably linked. When employees are fit and healthy, their ability to perform is dramatically increased, as is their resilience and productivity. The best corporate wellness programmes offer flexibility, are holistic, practical and recognise that it is both an individual and an organisational responsibility.
- Stress in and of itself is not bad. It turns out our attitude towards stress is pretty pivotal. Eustress, a word which means positive stress, is something we want to cultivate. We need to think about how to transform harmful stress into eustress to keep ourselves and our employees happy and healthy.
- Get meditating. Today’s professional lives are predicated by juggling obligations, overload, constant change and distraction. Practicing some form of mindfulness, even for five minutes a day, has shown to reduce stress, improve decision making and increase IQ. So whether you take up yoga, download headspace or take up any practice that helps you be present, in the moment, without judgement – you’ll be ahead.
- We’ve got a long way to go to destigmatise mental illness in the workforce. Given New Zealand’s shocking suicide rates, now might be a good time to address this. Talking about it openly at a senior leadership level is a good start.
- The best organisations are treating health and wellbeing as an organisational responsibility, not just an individual concern. Wellness programmes are more than just putting a bowl of fruit in the cafeteria. The Warehouse for instance, has implemented the most amazing programme to address family violence – “Family violence, it’s not OK”.
Bottom line? If you don’t have a health and wellbeing strategy for your organisation, you’re behind the eight ball. It doesn’t have to be fancy, convoluted or expensive, but you do need one. Mental and physical health has a huge impact on both personal performance and fulfilment, and on an organisation’s productivity and profits.
Lastly, get exercising, get some sleep, eat clean and get meditating.