What we’re now seeing – whether in Kuwait, China, Brazil, Bangladesh or the U.S. – is that the world needs wellness! Diseases and conditions traditionally associated with urbanization and higher standards of living, aka “Western lifestyle,” are not only happening in non-Western parts of the world, but seem to be happening at a faster rate in countries outside of the US. For example, the rise in childhood obesity is happening 30% faster in developing countries than in wealthier nations.
So, what can we do? The last step I recommend, drawn from my book Workplace Wellness that Works, is to go global. That is, we need to share best practices across borders.
The mandate for lifestyle change has gone international – and our only way out just might be to channel our friend and inventor, Thomas Edison.
I was recently in Kuwait, and in preparation for the trip, was shocked to learn that Kuwait has both the highest rate of obesity in the world, according to the Food Security Index, AND the highest rate of stomach stapling. A shocking 43% of the population is obese – and nearly 75% is overweight. Wow!
A "plus size" mannequin in Kuwait City.
Two young fish encountered an older fish. “Morning boys,” the older fish said, “How’s the water?” – and the two younger fish kept swimming. A moment later one of the younger fish turned to the other and asked, “What the hell is water?”
This is the story that the late philosopher David Foster Wallace used to open a commencement speech - and the one that I shared in Step 3: Uncover the Hidden Factors to illustrate the fact that like water, our surrounding environment is so ubiquitous, we might not even see it (much the way these two young fish did not). Yet, it shapes our behaviors in ways that we might not imagine. Therefore, while we often hear the expression that we are creatures of habit, I would argue that in fact we are more creatures of culture and environment.
I often hear leaders and wellness professionals ask for products and services that will “get people to change” or will “get people motivated.” Here’s the thing: nothing will ever “get people to change” or “get people motivated.” Rather, people change themselves. The best we can do is to create the conditions in which people are more likely to motivate themselves.
So, what can we do? We can follow the lead of Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, who aptly titled his book “Let My People Go Surfing” – as opposed to “Get My People to Go Surfing.”
To transition from “get” to “let” – we must move away from our over-reliance on incentives and penalties. Currently, the average employee incentive has reached a whopping $742, up from $651 in 2016. It’s gotten so high, in fact, that employees are leaving money on the table, according to a recent study.
What the research overwhelmingly and repeatedly shows is that at best incentives will get people in the door, but they will never keep people there. Moreover, there’s evidence to suggest that incentives may perversely undermine the intrinsic motivation and willingness to sustain a behavior over time.
Shortly after delivering a training workshop, I received an email from one of the attendees (let’s call her “Anna”):
“I am looking for some of the studies that have been done on the correlation between happiness and wellness. I am presenting to our “C Suite” on Monday and wanted something to reference. “
I shared a few resources and followed up a couple of weeks later to see how it went. And, here’s what she said:
“Despite my efforts to come prepared with data, studies and big ideas, my presentation wasn’t well received. My “C Suite” was more worried about the bottom line than any impact we might be able to make. So, back to the drawing board. It was the most frustrating Monday meeting I’ve had in a while and honestly, took the wind out of my sails.”
Every August, I travel to a remote island in Maine for our family vacation. This annual ritual of disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with the natural world is what keeps me sane. How do you keep your sanity in an Always-On Culture?
Or, consider this: If you were to describe your life as a ladder, which step would you say that you are on (on a scale from 0-10)? How about in 5 years from now?
This is a measure that is often used to determine where people are on the spectrum from suffering to struggling to thriving. And, what scientists are seeing is that the number of Americans who are suffering right now is at record highs. As measured by Gallup, 5.6% are considered “suffering” on the Life Evaluation Index, the highest since the index’s inception in 2008.
Over and over again, we’re told “More self-care!” Yes, self-care is good, but team-care is even better.
Case in point: I once worked extensively with a medical department, helping them to tackle some work performance issues. Almost immediately, I observed how within a cesspool of dysfunction, backstabbing, tolerated toxicity and wasted energy that reigned across the department, there was one team that stood out. It was a bright spot. These team members were innovative. They provided outstanding patient care. They proactively supported one another. They always had each other’s backs.
This was a team that prioritized team-care, not just self-care.
Juneteenth, the recently established (but long overdue) federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery, is a reminder of the progress we have made as well as the work that is still to be done.
What’s one thing you might do in the workplace to mark this important holiday?
Engage in peer-to-peer conversations with your coworkers. Chipping away at systemic racism begins with talking about it – which can be daunting for many, especially if you’re a manager.
To make it a little less daunting, here are some suggestions.
March 9th, 2020. I was in Palm Springs, CA. Overnight, the shelves went from being stocked and “normal” to wiped clean. I recall how spooky it felt to be in a grocery store surrounded by bare aisles and an unmistakable feeling of panic as the world lurched into the unknown.
When did the pandemic become real for you? Was it relatively mundane, like seeing shelves wiped clean of basic supplies? Or, was it much more significant, like losing a loved one or contracting long Covid?
Each of us experienced a moment in which we crossed over from life-as-usual to world-turned-upside-down. What that moment looked like, of course, varied across a huge spectrum.
Now, the world is ready to move on. Just go into any airport to see how quickly most have shed their masks following Judge Mizelle’s elimination of the nationwide public transit mask mandate at the end of last month. Unfortunately, though, as we’ve all heard, “While we may be done with the pandemic, the pandemic is not done with us.”
The pandemic rages on.
Just this past weekend, we hit the unthinkable threshold of over 1 million Americans lost to COVID. Alongside Covid, however, there are pandemics within the pandemic. These may be with us for years to come. What are they and how can we reckon with them?
At first, news came out about the Great Resignation, with over 4 million leaving their job every month since June of 2021. Now, we’re hearing about the Great Regret, or people wishing they hadn’t left their old job for the new one. What’s the difference? Not much. Whether it’s leaving for the first time, regretting the next one, and then leaving once again (which many are planning to do), all of this is more accurately cast as the Great Renegotiation. (Thank you for sharing that pearl, Ryan Picarella!) Today’s employees are flexing their bargaining muscles, demanding continued flexibility, as well as a host of other conditions.
In the time of a world turned upside down, the most existential time to date in our lifetime, people are stepping back to consider what matters most. In Thrive, Arianna Huffington urged her readers to redefine what success really means, offering up the metaphor of a stool needing three legs to stand. The stool cannot stand on the two legs of money and status alone; a third one is needed, one that encompasses wisdom, well-being, and wonder. Well, it looks like people followed your advice, Arianna! In droves.
So, what do employees want?