Now more than ever, organizations are recognizing the importance of mental health in the workplace. Encouraging employees to make space and time to recharge, not just after hours or on vacation, but every day and at work, is key to achieving work/life balance and increasing productivity, loyalty and motivation.
“Happy employees are twice as productive and have higher creativity,” says Dr. Gillian Mandich, a happiness researcher, the founder of The International Happiness Institute of Health Science Research and a member of the Staples Work from Anywhere Advisory Council.
Here are four easy ways your employees can incorporate wellness at work and how your organization can set an example.
In December 2021, Ontario passed “right to disconnect” legislation requiring businesses with more than 25 employees to provide a written policy about contacting workers outside of business hours.
But sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night and knock off an email to a colleague. Or, if in another time zone, sending messages where the recipient is probably trying to put the kids to bed. Even if you don’t intend the recipient to act immediately, they still might get stressed out by your message.
The simplest solution? Be mindful, do not message, and use timed email instead. Most email programs offer a “Schedule send” button so you can set the delivery time of your message. As an organization, you can set an example by encouraging leaders to make themselves unavailable off-hours and ensuring your communications are sent during the timeframe when business is conducted.
Likewise, messaging services like Slack make it easy for teammates to share and collaborate in real-time. But because many people use their personal cell phone or laptop for business, sometimes even innocent chats can feel a little intrusive. Fortunately, these apps can be customized and offer features (including timed send messaging) to help workers find a balance between the work and when they’ve wrapped up their day.
Strike a pose
Yoga is a popular form of exercise because it promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and improves mental clarity. And chair yoga is a great way for employees to practice their poses at work.
Like other forms of exercise, seated yoga may also help improve mood, confidence and relieve anxiety and depression. According to Jennifer Wilson, a certified yoga instructor in Maple Ridge, BC, “Chairs just make the asanas [poses] more accessible as you don’t have to get down on the ground and the chair holds your weight. For office workers who often have tight necks, backs and hamstrings from sitting, chair yoga breaks can make a difference and help with headaches from tension. For people doing manual labour, yoga stretches can be used as a warm-up and throughout the day to relieve muscle tension.”
“Employers need to support people who want to be healthy and taking breaks is important,” says Wilson. The instructors at the studio where she works (Free Spirit Yoga & Pilates) have years of experience and can team up with organizations to create short sequences that can be used at work.
While meetings are intended to enable communication and collaboration, many people find them stressful because they go on too long, and often stray from their intended purpose.
In a recent Harvard Business Review, Mathias Birk, a leadership and mindfulness adjunct professor at NYU and at Columbia Business School, stated that “taking a moment at the beginning of a meeting (virtual or in person) to get present, notice your own emotions, and start the meeting with an increased ability to listen and be open to ideas can help teams to be more thoughtful about problem solving.” Moreover, a recent study published in the Journal of Management Education found that managers who introduced mindfulness at the beginning of meetings discovered that it improved team dynamics, friction and communication.
Originally a Buddhist concept, mindfulness is focused on being aware of the present. In a mindful meeting, participants must represent diverse points of view, must be made to feel physically comfortable and should be able to express thoughts and emotions without worrying about the potential consequences. Meetings are kept brief and to the point, with breaks and refreshments provided if necessary. Implementing mindful meetings within an organization begins with education — get senior leaders onboard and have them integrate it into their weekly status calls.
Research has long shown that our surroundings can affect our minds. Take Feng Shui, for example. Rooted in Taoism, Feng Shui is the practice of harnessing energy to harmonize individuals with their environments. Most commonly, Feng Shui is applied by rearranging furniture to create balance in the home or at the office. However, practitioners also use colour, sound, lighting, artwork, plants and flowers to alter mood. Colour is often a powerful tool used by many interior designers as well and can play a critical role when setting up a workspace. Certain shades can evoke different psychological responses: for example, blue and green are often associated with calm, while grey can make you feel detached. If a redesign is in your organization’s return to office plan, think about what you want the space to convey and how to leverage interior design or Feng Shui elements to reach that goal.
There are many avenues workplaces can take to help employees achieve wellness.
Consider what sets your organization apart and let that be your guide in determining solutions that will lead everyone to a happier, more balanced lifestyle.