5 tips for creating a work environment that best supports the wellbeing of your employees and clients
If you’ve seen my Facebook any time recently, you might be aware that I’d been on a mind-body-spirit pre-biotic detox of sorts this last month, in between also making a few updates on self care to program content and sections of the book I’m slowly (excitedly) plugging away on and having many conversations about right now. That got me thinking this afternoon, not just about our individual wellbeing in business, but also thinking about the wellbeing values and cultures we create within our workplaces. So this week, I wanted to give some workplace wellbeing tips for those of you who are entrepreneurs with visions of growing much bigger clinics or organisations, as well as for those of you who are Business Leaders or Managers with growing teams and organisations already.
Wether you’re in the Wellness, Creative, NFP or some other form of Service Based Business, here’s a few insights from my years of managing within and visiting some awesome workplaces, with leading examples of practices that can be easily and cheaply implemented to promote better standards of wellness and an awesome culture for those people we care about on our teams.
1- Creating a visually inspirational workplace
Ok, so this one might seem kind of obvious to any one who does any form of personal development, right? You can usually pick the staff members who are into professional development by the number of printed out inspiring quotes on the cubicle walls and screens around them. And you’ve probably seen or been to workplaces where certain managers will have their teams work areas surrounded with themed content from time to time. But I also wanted to speak here to ways in which you can take your organisational values about wellness and your vision to a whole other visual level.
One of the most inspiring workplaces I’d ever been to, literally had used the window of every office and every blank wall in the building as a canvas of inspiration for their staff. They had inspiring quotes in white luxury fonts painted (or permanently stuck) on the windows and walls in every which direction. There was enough to keep your Instagram account busy for months. And it made the building a living embodiment of the organisational culture in every way. But the fact that they were painted/permanently stuck on there also had a psychological quality that went way beyond a bunch of print outs or posters in terms of the commitment to and permanency of those values and that culture. Because we do interior design for the long haul, when we’re decorating our nest for great things we’re going to co-create in the years to come, the act of painting/permanently fixing them on the walls also screamed commitment and we’re in this for the long term, to make a difference long term.
So my question to you is, if you were to pick a handful of memes, quotes, art pieces or images that best reflect the values you hold for your team or organisation, what would they be? And where can you literally put them in your office in ways that suggest permanency, to help create an environment that’s mentally stimulating and inspiring?
2-Build a little lightness and fun into the culture
Can I see a show of hands of everyone who originally made a break from some corporate workplace to start a business because they were tired of the culture of being ground to the bone for every drop of your usefulness and every KPI they could squeeze out of you, before hurling you in the bin like a used condom once you were no longer perceived as useful? (Please, feel my laughs and a lot of love coming at you while I write that one. ) That’s extreme I know. But is there some little element of truth to that for many of you? Does some part of you want to create a much more fun and welcoming culture, with far greater work-life balance than some of the corporate style ones you worked in once, where they timed your every bathroom minute or second away from your desk?
OR, for those of you in the wellness, the non for profit or community service realm, who are doing a lot of emotional heavy lifting with your clients ongoingly, would it help your workplace and everybody’s wellbeing, do you think, to have a whole lot more opportunities for lightness, fun and laughs in there somewhere? Would it help better nourish and sustain your team over the long term?
This is something I often talk to clinic owners and NFP Team Leaders about when things are feeling heavy and stuck within the culture.
-What are literally some team building activities you can do out of hours just for the fun of it together?
-What are some ways you can create some in-house team connection opportunities while you’re working, maybe even in team meetings, or group trainings or group chats, where part of the agenda is to lighten the mood and just have fun?
With some of the teams I’ve worked with, it’s watching a funny Youtube together, with others, its group bitmjoji chats (that everyone is included in), with others we went bowling, in others, we got themed and came as our favourite superhero. Maybe you could play twister, have a Just Dance-off in your next meeting, go paint balling, who knows, the possibilities are endless….it really depends on who’s in your team and what they're into. Ask them for some suggestions and put it to a vote.
But according to studies done by Bright HR and Professor Sir Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the University of Manchester, employees who have fun at work are less likely to take sick days and more likely to report feeling creative at work and committed to their organisation. And according to Professor Andrew Oswald, Dr Eugenio Proto and Dr Daniel Sgroi from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, happy employees are 12% more productive. Plus it worked out for Google. Since they introduced all of their employee support activities, apparently they’ve had a 37% in staff satisfaction.
So, the moral of point #2's story? It’s time to plan for plenty of fun, play, lightness and laughs, for your teams or future teams, both in your work hours and outside of them.
And just for fun, here’s one of my favourite workplace fun moments for later, from the episode of IT Crowd where Jen was “Entertainment Manager” and all the out-of-town business partners end up playing D & D...
3- Managing the energy in your buildings and work spaces:
Now this one is for workplaces in larger organisations and clinic rooms alike and is particularly important for Non for Profits and Community Service organisations dealing with a high clients often in highly distressing circumstances and staff who are having to manage their own self care while supporting their clients.
Wether you consider it from the standpoint or Feng Shui, Reiki, ancient shamanic wisdom or the host of university research that’s been conducted on Quantum physics and the power of our human intention to literally influence energy and the environment around us, there is a tangible human belief humans hold that we are able to pick up and be influenced by the emotional residue of the previous occupants of a building or space. Or activities which just transpired around us, or in that space. And a belief that, drawing upon the power of intention to direct energy, that we also have the ability to clear, redesign and replace that old energy with something more desirable and pleasant to be in the vicinity of instead.
Below are 3 qualitative examples of managing the energy of spaces, which resulted in noticeable quanitative results, that are entirely relevant to the energetic quality of the business spaces you create, and hence, an important part of your workplace wellness picture.
For the first, I remember one time I was sitting with my whole fellow Case Management team from one of the NFP’s I used to work for over a team building lunch, interestingly enough, discussing how every single woman at the table, was having major reproductive health issues and felt like it was, in part due to the nature of our work and the impact of dealing with all that stress on our health. More than that, the majority of them also felt like the office we worked in had bad vibes and it was well known that everyone who had started working there felt like they had to go through a substantial adjustment period in the first few weeks, just to deal with the fluoro lighting in our bright white offices, that were totally lacking in natural lighting on our side of the building. There are several mid 20th century biochemical studies that we done on research participants living in underground research facilities on various schedules of artificial lighting, which were shown to seriously mess with humans’ natural circadian rhythms and mood and sleep regulating hormone levels, so this didn’t come as much of a surprise to me that all our reproductive systems were up the creek. But, about half way through my contract there, I’d done my level 1 and 2 Reiki training and started using some of the Reiki principles and symbols that could apparently be used for room clearing on my office. Not only did I start to feel a whole lot less anxious working in there, but, funilly enough, the foot traffic that actually hung around and sat in my office for extended lengths of times actually seemed to at least triple after that time.
As another example, when I first started Practice Managing one of the Wellness Clinics I used to manage, we had a couple of rooms that no-one seemed to want to go anywhere near working out of. For privacy reasons, I won’t go into the history I know as to exactly why there was bad juju so to speak about the particular room in question, so much as to say there was some completion of business to be done for the energy of that now vacant space to be fully available to anyone new to rent it instead. Once that business had been completed, I went to work every day on Reiki’ing that room and directing as much loving intention as I could pour into that room, INTO that room. Within a couple of weeks, all of a sudden that vacant room went from being 0% booked, to over 70% booked as a clinic room and a small group space. More than that, every one who had been working there for the period of before and after the completion and the room clearing, when they went in there, reported a qualitative shift in their experience of the room. They reported it as looking lighter and brighter and it felt really warm and inviting now.
More recently, in Event Managing and Facilitated numerous event spaces in recent years, I turned those skills to helping creating event workspaces that, according to the participants, felt great and very welcoming, were highly conducive to their participation, growth and transformation, and according to teams I ran them for, noticeably increased all their KPI’s on attendance, sales calls booked and their conversion to paid program participation.
So my point? There's a lot to be said for learning how to manage the energy of a room, a building or an event. I suggest to hire someone to do or teach you how to do space alignments and manage the energy at your events. It’s worth it’s weight in gold for all involved.
4- Feed your tribe well:
When we hire full time employees or contractors, they end up spending up to 40 hours a week with us, right? One of the latest workplace improvement strategies has been to give employees a kitchen full of yummy snack food and regularly deliveries of things like fruit boxes, maybe even workplace sized deliveries of alcohol and other beverages for a friendly Friday night drink together before you go.
But the trouble with much of the food that gets put out to entice employees and is left there over 70% of the time as the go-to option, rather than an occasional treat option, is it’s actually loaded with refined white sugar and refined white flour (which quickly breaks down to sugar when we eat it.) Why is that an issue? Because sucrose is known to knock out your immune system for a couple of hours after eating it. Thus, in winter particularly, where we know the air is teaming with cold viruses, is it a wise strategy to be feeding your staff cheese and bacon encrusted white bread roles, refined sugar loaded muffins and syrup loaded scrolls that will knock out their immune system for hours straight? To be having them loading up their coffees with refined white sugar and running on the vending machine and fundraising brands of chocolate with the highest percentage of refined sugar in them you can get?
I would suggest that, what seems like cost effectiveness in the short term and giving into their desire for junk food is actually costing workplaces more in workplace absenteeism due to illness, plus you having to fork out double the value of their salary to a temp agency to short term replace them, plus the sick leave of the actual paid employee, than what it would cost to, instead, stock your kitchens with raw organic honey in place of refined sugar (which is known to help strengthen your immune response and has widespread antimicrobial qualities that combat cold viruses and infections, but still satisfies the need for a sweetener) and instead, have deliveries of fresh fruit, plus a whole heap of the kind healthy breakfast foods, low sugar yoghurts, and the kind of raw treats or produce you’ll find in any number of organic supermarkets or health food sections, in place of the ye olde faithful Arnotts classic selection of biscuits, cheezles and potato chips in jars on the bench 24/7…. and shout them decent organic teas, coffees and hot chocolate. Things high on nutrients, fibre and antioxidants, as opposed to high on numbers, bad fats, high fructose corn syrup or sucrose. Because, not only have refined sugars like these been linked to wide range of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and obesity, it has been suggested that diets high in certain types of refined sugars may also promote the development of cancer by stimulating synthesis of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), inducing oxidative stress, or promoting weight gain.
If people are spending up to 40 hours a week in service to our business, we can’t deny that what we expose them to within it has a substantial impact on their health and wellbeing. So as you’re planning for your future team culture, or continuing to develop your existing one, it’s worth considering the old Motherly food nurturing principle…how can you be the leader that takes a stand for their optimal health and wellbeing? Is what you’re currently putting on their table in line with that? How can you close the gap between the two?
5-Be a leader who lives your wellness values and rewards your staff doing self care
Finally, could there be anything more valuable than being the Leader who practices what they preach and strives to be a living embodiment of their own values? And in this case, strives to be a living embodiment of wellness and work-life balance?
What used to by the old patriarchal “all work, no rest model,” complete with massive rewards for behaviour for the times when that person sat at their desk, smashed work out until after hours (but burned themselves out in the process) is of dying interest to a shifting generational culture of “what’s in it for me, as well as you?” I might be preaching to the converted when I tell the wellness, creative, NFP world not to let it go when you see staff burning themselves to the ground trying to deliver on performance for you. But for people who are expanding and about to build their workplace culture, it’s maybe a good thing to put on your managerial list to monitor the following behaviour in your (future) staff and be mindful of things like:
-Is their water on the desk and are they drinking it?
-Have they actually taken their breaks? Or do they need to be prompted to check in with themselves and see if they might benefit from a get up and go for a walk outside break?
-Have they eaten?
-Are they looking well?
-Do they sound stressed out?
-Do they maybe need to be prompted or a short meditation break, or a “go listen to 10 mins of funny stuff on Youtube“ break, to help them chill out?
-Are they engaged or withdrawn compared to usual? Is that normal or is it worth checking in to see how they are?
-Are they keeping up with their workload? Do they have enough support and training to successful do what you're asking them to do?
-What motivates and inspires them and their work flow? Maybe it’s listening to music while they’re doing admin, maybe there’s a fire-me-up routine they like to do before sales calls.
Be the leader, or have your leaders be the leader, who takes the time to find out what’s their thing and make sure you show your support around what they need too, in balance with asking them all the time to do things for you and your mission. Yes this is a workplace, yes i know you're busy, but relationship is a two way street. How can you show them that you care just as much about what they want too?
-Could they use a spot of your gratitude and appreciation today?
-Are they clear in understanding the future pathway you’re envisioning for them within your organisation, in your head, relative to their own aspirations of how they’d like to grow and contribute within your larger vision? Or are their things it might help for you to tell them?
Trust me, people will work 3 times harder for you when they know they’re a genuinely loved and valued part of their vision and organisation. And these things very much DO contribute to their psychological wellness within your organisation, not to mention give them plenty of incentive to grow with you over the long term.
So there you have it. 5 concepts to re-think about to help you create a work environment that better supports the wellbeing of your employees and clients, and maybe guide you in the development of your procedures manual for times to come. If you have any further questions about any of this, just let me know. Happy to help out where i can.
Thanks so much to you for reading. And please know that I absolutely appreciate YOU and all of your support in coming to read these week after week. You, my friend, are awesome!
Until next time, have fun, take care.
Too Much Can Make Us Sick, university of California San Fransisco,
6 Immune System Busters & Boosters
Eteraf-Oskouei, T & Najafi, M, Traditional and Modern Uses of Natural Honey in Human Diseases: A Review, Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2013 Jun; 16(6): 731–742.
Smith, E, How exactly does obesity cause cancer? Three leading theories, November 2015
Kaaks R, Lukanova A, Energy balance and cancer: the role of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-I, Proc Nutr Soc. 2001 Feb; 60(1):91-106.
Ceriello A, Bortolotti N, Motz E, Pieri C, Marra M, Tonutti L, Lizzio S, Feletto F, Catone B, Taboga C, Meal-induced oxidative stress and low-density lipoprotein oxidation in diabetes: the possible role of hyperglycemia.
Metabolism. 1999 Dec; 48(12):1503-8.
World Health Organization (WHO)/Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 2003. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases.
Tasevsk, N, Jiao, L, et al, Sugars in diet and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, Int J Cancer. 2012 Jan 1; 130(1): 159–169.
Dr Mercola, Sugar Identified as a Top Cause of the Surge in Cancer, January 2016
Bright HR, “It Pays to Play”, 2018
Michael Y. Mak1 and Janet X. Ge2, A study of modern sustainable buildings in Sydney from the Feng Shui perspective, 22ND Annual Pacific-Rim Real Estate Society Conference, Sunshine Coast, January 2016
McTaggart, M, The Intention Experiment, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2008
Oswald, AJ, Proto, E, & Sgroi, D, Happiness and Productivity
Wang, Q.H., Research of Feng Shui Theory. Tianjin, Tianjin University Press [Chinese], 1992
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.