In Q&As I’m often asked what makes a happy, healthy and resilient human being, specifically in a work context. By this I mean an office environment or equivalent. It’s an interesting question because it’s where many of us spend most of each week. So you’d think we’d have workplace wellness nailed down by now.
But I don’t think we do.
Most office-type environments are set up to maximise use of the space. This means clustering people together in a set-up which very often isn’t conducive to work at all. I appreciate this is generalising somewhat, as people vary in their preferences according to personality type and the nature of their work, among other factors. I recall an interview I did on our Remove the Guesswork podcast with Jayne Cox, who introduced me to the term free range people to describe the existing battery-hen like conditions that many are working in (particularly pre-pandemic).
Setting aside generalisations, there are some common factors that I believe are essential for both workplace wellness, and for us to thrive as human beings.
We all require access to natural light to thrive. To use a phrase I heard recently, ‘we are all light farmers’; nothing survives or thrives without light. Access to natural light via windows or skylights is essential, combined with access to spaces where natural light or sunlight is available. Encourage mini breaks that allow people to access light. Technology such as the Human Charger can be used to hack natural light but are a poor second to the real thing.
Punctuate your day with movement snacks such as squats, brisk walking, push-ups, star jumps – whatever works for you. We were designed to perform small movements on a regular basis, yet many office environments don’t encourage this. Consider implementing walking or standing meetings, shorter ‘huddles’ instead of sit-down meetings and play with our fun ‘Pelican Rule’ whereby the speaker stands on one leg whilst talking. Obviously, this needs to be reviewed to ensure it is inclusive to all attendees.
Humans thrive best when we’re connected. Encouraging social relationships and positive connections in the workplace is important, keeping in mind we all respond differently according to personality type and preference. Good social connections have physical benefits as well as mental, but this doesn’t just relate to other people. Connection to meaningful work, purpose and values is just as important in a working environment.
Lastly, the importance of rest and recovery is critical to a health human. Many of us think we have to perform at a very high level all year round. And this can be detrimental to our mental and physical health. Introducing the concept of Cadence, preparing for big events and then getting in little slivers of recovery and deliberate rest afterwards before going again, often results in reduced incidences of burnout and better stress management. It’s the smart way forward.
Hopefully that’s given you something to think about. Promoting wellness in the workplace can do so much more than improve quality of work. I recently appeared on the Bang the Drum podcast by the firm Azets, where I discuss burnout and the concept of Cadence in more detail alongside other interesting guests. Check out the episode here.
Find out more about the Cadence Approach by buying Leanne’s bestselling book Cadence.