60 years ago, Don Clifton, former CEO of Gallup and "Father of the Strengths Movement," asked the simple question: "What would happen if we studied what is right with people versus what is wrong with people?" Since then, this strengths-based approach has revolutionized the way companies approach workplace culture and management.
Now, how might we apply this same kind of strengths-based approach toward workplace well-being? Or, put another way: What would happen if we started with what’s right, as opposed to what’s wrong, in our well-being efforts?
Photo of my good friend, Ryan Wolf, Employee Wellbeing Lead at Gallup. Taken during a personal tour of Gallup HQ.
Research suggests that starting from a place of hope and optimism (as opposed to scrutiny on all the things we’re doing wrong) can be hugely beneficial.
1. We’re more likely to change when we are experiencing positive emotions. As explained by leading positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina, “Positive emotions, especially when experienced with others, light the path to lifestyle change. Positivity improves our health and also fundamentally changes the way the brain works. We are able to see the big picture, connect the dots, try something new and engage in systemic thinking to solve problems like obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.”
Does your company have a mismatch between its wellness programs and its larger culture?
Most do. Even those that boast about having a “Culture of Health” often have what I call a “Pretend Culture of Health.” Sure, they might have healthy options in the onsite cafeteria, walking paths that crisscross the campus, a meditation room at every turn, and all the bells and whistles of a state-of-the-art comprehensive well-being program. But, meanwhile, toxicity reigns. People are overworked and underappreciated. The wellness programs are there, but nobody uses them.
Before going full throttle on your well-being efforts, it’s essential that you take the time to “uncover the hidden factors.” (See Step 3 in Workplace Wellness that Works.) Take a deep dive into your organization to assess the culture. Is it a culture in which well-being is likely to thrive? Or, is it one in which well-being is likely to be undermined? Is it a “have to” culture (as in, people feel like they have to go to work) or is it a “want to” culture (as in, people actually want to be there).
You might have the best-laid well-being strategy in the world. But, if the larger culture doesn’t support it, it’s unlikely to flourish.
Here are 8 tell-tale signs that you’ve got a mismatch on your hands:
Liz Kimball with her husband Michael Balderama | Photo Credit: Studio 22 Photography
Can you think of a time when you felt like your most creative self?
I love hearing people answer this question. They talk about particular collaborations, classes, work projects, or a beloved mentor or coach. When they answer, their faces inevitably light up and their voices blossom, saying things like…
It was so fun and collaborative. I surprised myself and was inspired to try new things. The space was free and full of possibility. I felt like my voice mattered.
It feels good to be our most creative selves. And we never forget those experiences.
Now, imagine with me a moment—what if your current workplace could feel the same way? What if it could feel like the most creative environment in your life? What impact could that have on your employees’ well-being? And on your energy as a leader? On your company as a whole?
On June 15, 2015, my first book was published. Note that I wrote "first." I am hoping that it's the first of many.
It was one of the hardest, craziest, and most gratifying experiences I've had - and I thought it might be useful to share some of my experiences.
The first thing I had to do was to get over my lack of confidence. Writing a book, I found, dredges up every insecurity that might be lurking in the corners of your insides. I was always a math & science person in high school, whereas writing always felt hard. I’ve never quite fully shed that self-identifying as a “non-writer.” So, what did I do?
“Retirement be damned, Betsy Warriner, almost 78, continues to give to our community.”
Photo taken by The Source, Bend, OR.
After most have retired, my mom, Betsy Warriner, is more engaged with her community than ever.
Voted “Woman of the Year” for a lifetime of giving back and championing justice and equality, Mom is leading the way. Her service extends from teaching in Ethiopia to volunteering in North Carolina, Seattle, Portland, and Bend. Founder of Volunteer Connect and most recently, Community Conversations, “she has given thousands of hours of her time, energy, guidance, and wisdom.”
Now at 82, Mom is the embodiment of the benefits of giving back. As I often tell her: “You make 82 look great, Mom!”
Martha Graham once said: “If I could say it, I wouldn’t have to dance it.” The work that she did as a modern dance choreographer was a manifestation of her deepest calling.
That’s great for her, but what about for the rest of us? Can we all say that we are living out our deepest calling? Sadly, most of can’t say that we are.
If asked “Are you excited about work when you get up in the morning?”, only 20% of us can give an enthusiastic “Yes!”. And now in the time of “The Great Resignation” – when millions of Americans are quitting their jobs in search of something more meaningful – this has only gotten worse.
Career well-being, or loving what you do, is considered by Gallup to be the “trump card” to our well-being. Those who are thriving in their career are 50% more likely to be thriving overall. Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, professor at Yale School of Management and expert on work identity, has identified three levels of work satisfaction: job, career or calling.
Betty's Wedding #1. Spoiler alert: This was not the last!
My grandmother Betty, known to us as “Grandbetsy,” was a devout Christian (and in fact dubbed “Bible Betty” behind her back, which she loved), a leader (ran for US Congress) and funny. One time when we were shoe shopping, the store clerk asked us what our shoe sizes were. Without skipping a beat, Betty responded with: “Well, my size is 8, but 9’s are so comfortable, I wear a 10.”
Most notably, Betty was a woman who lived on her own terms. That is, she married 5 times. And, with each marriage, her net worth went up.
What is financial wellness? And how can we achieve it? Or, more specific to Betty - did marrying up increase her happiness? Can money buy you happiness?
I often pose this question as an entrée into a discussion about financial well-being in my workshops and talks. And, usually the responses are divided between "Yes" and "No." Up until recently, I’ve said: “Well, you’re both right.” Now, that may no longer hold water. A new study came out showing that actually, the answer is more “Yes” than “No.”
Did you know that stress and burnout are on the rise? Of course you know that. Who doesn't?
After a year of living through a world turned upside down - pandemic, financial distress, societal reckoning with systemic racism, and political divisions - we are all feeling stressed and burned out. And, we all know it.
Consider some recent stats, uncovered in a recent survey conducted by Jennifer Moss, author of forthcoming book "The Burnout Epidemic," Christina Maslach of the University of California, Berkeley, Susan E. Jackson of Rutgers, and Michael Leiter of Deakin University:
So, who's the biggest culprit when it comes to our failure to adequately address this rising epidemic?
"Nothing happens until something moves."
- Albert Einstein
If ever there’s a time that we need to move, it’s now. It’s one of the best things we can do for our health and our state of being. Period. It is one of THE best coping mechanisms we have.
THE KEY IS MORE “NEAT”
The real question is less about exercise – and more about simply infusing more motion, aka “NEAT,” into our daily lives. As described by researcher James Levine, “EAT,” or exercise activity thermogenesis refers to any kind of intentional workout – going out for a run, going to the gym, going for a swim. “NEAT,” or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, refers to any kind of incidental movement throughout our day – running errands, doing household chores, or getting up from our desk. It’s the NEAT levels we should be focused on the most. We just need to simply move more – and sit less – throughout the day, especially throughout our workday.
So, what can you do so that you can move more at work?
Here are ways that you and your team - even if you're virtually connected - can get in motion.
"There isn’t any other factor in medicine – not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery – that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness, and premature death from all causes than loneliness and isolation."
—Dean Ornish, MD
Social wellbeing is vital to all of us – especially now. The effects of social disconnections - or loneliness - are devastating. One study found that loneliness is as detrimental to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Meanwhile, trends indicate that rates of loneliness have doubled over the past 40 years, only to be accelerated by the pandemic.
So, what can we do about it? Here are three things you can do:
1. Love is all you need: Remember, that your social wellbeing matters as much - if not more - than your physical wellbeing. Just as you may be tracking your steps (hopefully getting at least 10,000 a day), can you track your time that you’re connected with others? Research shows that the minimum we all need to be socially well is at least 6 hours a day. And, while in person is best, virtually counts as well.