What comes to mind when you think of wellness in the workplace? Employee assistance programs? Maybe fitness and meditation class opportunities jump to mind. It could be a discount for health insurance if key milestones are met. Ninety percent of organizations report offering at least one form of wellness benefits to employees. While any of the pieces mentioned are helpful, there are key elements being overlooked in many organizations to ensure wellness goes beyond a program and becomes a part of workplace culture. Let’s review some of those overlooked components.
Provide Opportunities for Understanding the Full Spectrum of Emotions
Today’s workforce wants authenticity and the ability to bring their full self into the workplace. This is driving the opportunity for vulnerability. What does that mean to each employee though?
Imagine being told by your leader that you can be your genuine self at work. This could be exciting and debilitating at the same time, depending on your understanding of the full spectrum of emotions and boundaries. As Dr. Brené Brown shares, “Vulnerability minus boundaries is not vulnerability.” This is vital but can be hard if you have not embraced boundaries in the workplace before. You may struggle with the process. Boundaries require employees to embrace their full spectrum of emotions and share what is okay and what is not, as well as listening to other team members. How often do employees talk openly about emotions at work? Why isn’t this the norm, and can it be?
As one of the leading global experts on emotional health, Nataly Kogan shares, organizations must offer learning opportunities for employees to understand how to embrace emotions. What may be an easy emotion for one team member to embrace may be hard for another. Companies that truly want to bring emotional wellness into their teams must invest in providing learning opportunities for employees to understand all emotions, and healthy and unhealthy ways those emotions can be addressed.
Leaders Need Help, Too
Just as employees need opportunities to learn and grow in emotional agility, leaders need it, too. Often, leaders are asked to lead the way but are not provided an outlet to share or express their feelings. The role can often be a lonely place.
Dr. Johnathan H. Westover states, “Developing and practicing emotional agility, what some have termed ‘radical acceptance of our emotions,’ is critical for effective and impactful leadership.” Too often, leaders are asked to be the messenger, to carry out initiatives the organization sees valuable, without being provided a psychologically safe space to share when they don’t feel comfortable or need more growth opportunities before moving forward.
This cycle only continues as organizations fail to hire the right leadership talent, which Gallup research suggests occurs 82% of the time. Is it that the wrong talent is being hired or are organizations struggling to transition from an emphasis on business results to a human-centric experience that creates a diverse, equitable and inclusive place? Perhaps a sense of belonging comes with investment in leaders’ growth.
If organizations want well-being to be embedded in their culture, they must lead the way by taking time to allow their leaders to fully grow in vital well-being skills, like emotional agility, so they are equipped to model the way with vulnerability and courage.
Explore the Connection of Trust and Wellness
Another often-overlooked piece of wellness is trust amongst teams and their companies. If organizations are going all in with the first two areas – providing opportunities for employees to explore the full spectrum of emotions and providing grace and help to leaders – they are opening the door to grow and extend trust. Leaders must openly talk about trust and provide examples of how it is incorporated throughout the company.
One good example comes from senior workplace consultant, Zoe Humphries, who points out, “Choice and control over the workspace: Trusting and empowering people to work where, when and how they want is an essential first step to building greater trust in the workplace.” Empowerment must not only be given; it must be stepped into as part of a partnership. When organizations make explicitly clear scoping of empowerment, it allows employees to step into it, knowing the boundaries clearly. Processes like this also open the door to how employees can be innovative and curious with that empowerment because they are not stressing about the scope of the partnership or if it is appropriate to seek clarity when needed.
Trust can be taught but is often a side note, as people use the word without openly discussing ways it does or doesn’t exist on a team. Human behavior expert Betsy Allen Manning provides a great method for assessing trust within a team and how to openly talk about areas for improvement with the acronym TRUST. This involves being transparent with verbal and non-verbal communication. Respecting others’ time, ideas and insights. Uniting the team with words and actions. Bringing boundaries into the discussion on what is and is not acceptable. Showing team members you care. And lastly, being deliberate in devoting time to trust building activities.
Trust, like all pieces associated with well-being, takes deliberate and devoted focus to grow and build.
Well-being programs are an $8 billion dollar industry, showing that organizations see the importance. Like anything important, continuous improvement is vital to growth. Normalize growth opportunities in the workplace for employees and leaders that go beyond traditional well-being programs – enabling employees to bring their authentic selves to work.