I read a couple of thoughtful articles this week that I’d like to share with you on the topic of healthy workplaces. Yep, that is one of those vague statements most organisations believe they have, or say they are striving for, but holistic efforts to actually address the full health of employees in the context of working is difficult to achieve. There are small nibbles around the edges: paying for gym memberships, ergonomic chairs, and sometimes healthy snacks.
In his article “Mindshift sets sights on understanding well-being in the workplace”, Bob Fox, publisher of Work Design Magazine, and the founder and CEO of the Washington, DC-area design firm FOX Architects, states:
“We are realizing that the way we work today is the root cause of a tremendous amount of sickness, disease, and other health-related issues, that, beyond affecting an employee’s personally, also reduce productivity, create performance issues, and are ultimately a significant cost to businesses today. And sometimes, the workplace is working against these employees. What we are realizing is that our increasing focus on attracting top talent; people and their performance are going beyond wellness, engagement, creativity and general productivity issues have more to do with our entire well-being. Our mental, physical, emotional, and social state is critical to our ability to perform well consistently; and the spaces where we work are influential in our success.”
There is finally a recognition that every person at work needs to be emotionally as well as physically healthy in order to do their work effectively and in a sustainable way. This clearly affects any organisation’s bottom line, from their ability to sustain product innovation to reducing staff absenteeism and turnover.
Not only do workplace practices and values (such as trust) help support the positive health of employees, the physical workspaces within organisations can also be aligned to improve well-being. In a separate article in Work Design magazine, Bryan Croeni, AIA, MA, LEED AP, director of B+H Architects’ Seattle office and cofounder of B+H Advance Strategy, describes the goal of creating office space, “that advances the social and cultural infrastructure necessary to create a sense of belonging and shared community”.
Given the decline of community in general in society, as well as the younger generation of workers showing a strong dedication to community and service, Croeni proposes that perhaps our offices can help move us towards reestablishing a sense of community in our lives. The article goes on to suggest that designers look at workplaces as the new village, with main street, marketplace, meeting halls, schools for learning, pubs for relaxing, and so forth.
These articles provide intriguing and positive perspectives that you might want to consider and attempt in your own workplaces. As always, if you want help or additional direction, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Links to the articles
Bob Fox Article:
Bryan Croeni Article
Fun Friday Workplaces
As always, get in touch if you have any questions about any of the content here, or want to talk more about how I can help you with you brilliant organisation.
When the world is experiencing dramatic events on an almost monthly basis, we need to process and manage our responses to them. While it is not always relevant to our workplaces, sometimes the events hit too close to what we do and believe in to ignore, or to expect people at work to carry on as if nothing has happened.
So how do you deal with the emotional response to traumas in your workplace?
The linked article (below) by Michelle Kedem has some useful suggestions for how to get discussions started in your organisation, starting with this:
“You don’t have to take sides or have the perfect words. Acknowledging what people are going through and creating safe spaces for conversation goes a long way toward cultivating a workplace culture in which everyone on the team feel invested.”
Over time, I’ve experienced a number of dramatic events while employed at a variety of organisations. Sometimes, when there was no acknowledgement of the event or trauma, the individual conversations turned heated, repetitive, and sadly, sometimes hurtful. After the events of 9/11, there were months of intense internal conversations covering every topic under the sun, and it was exhausting. We have learned now to always acknowledge an event; sometimes it is appropriate to just let people vent a bit, or talk about where they were and what happened to them. Some people like to share and take action, others process on their own, or with non-work friends and family. It is important to always be reinforcing a workplace environment where people are respectful of others with differing feelings and opinions so that when these events arise, awareness of and respect for differences are already part of the culture.
There is no right way to respond to traumatic events, and no one should be required to to share their opinions or feelings at work. Providing official acknowledgement and a place and time to process emotions at work is healthy and useful for many of us. It is also part of allowing staff to be their whole true selves at work, complete with emotional robustness and weaknesses.
Allowing emotional responses to traumatic events is also important for those events that happen internally. When we had a suicide in one small company I worked with, we immediately brought in a professional facilitator, as we realised the leadership was not equipped to deal with the avalanche of feelings that cascaded through the organisation. Bringing in an outside facilitator not only acknowledged the importance of the impact of this event to all of us, but it also allowed the leadership to deal with their own feelings as well, and learn to help others over time. We provided time for people who wanted to attend a group session with the facilitator, as well as time for people who wanted individual session with this facilitator.
Whilst it is not an easy part of managing, spending time with staff processing through emotional events does lead to greater understanding, insights and empathy between individuals throughout your organisation. And hopefully that will make everyone healthier and more satisfied.
Here is the article:
Fun Friday Workplaces
In my second year of University, I joined a supper club in order to try to meet some new people. I joined mid-year, so by then all the table groups had formed, and the only space left was at a table of people who hadn’t really jelled into a talkative group. There were long painful silences each night. One of my dorm-mates sat at one of the other tables, and although he often dominated the conversation, he also managed to keep it lively, eagerly seeking out participation by everyone at the table. Eager to have more fun at my table, I quietly observed his methods in the hopes of trying to learn how he did it. I realised a lot of what he said was crap, really, but his running banter provided something for others to respond to. And by drawing in others by calling out their names, people joined in eagerly, keeping the conversations lively, once he provided a starting point.
As an introvert, the idea of trying to start a conversation at a table full of very quiet people seemed impossibly difficult, but on the other hand, sitting at a table night after night with a group of people who didn’t talk was pretty miserable too. So, one night I plucked up my courage and told a story about something funny that had happened in one of my classes. I can’t remember what it was about, but everyone listened and I think someone laughed. So I told another story, and asked questions to the group by addressing a couple of individuals by name, and eventually the group was talking, albeit a bit awkwardly. But there was also a sense of relief around the table, that not only was someone making the effort to have a conversation, but that maybe there was a way out of the endless quiet.
Before I went to dinner the next night, I thought of a couple more stories I could tell, and I did that on my way to dinner each subsequent night. And each night at dinner, I told another story, and soon someone else joined in, and because I do like a good laugh and generally am not shy about laughing out loud, our table got a bit louder, and slowly over a period of a week or so, our discussions became more fluid and it wasn’t always me who started the conversation. It turns out of course that there were some really interesting people at the table who had just needed someone to start the conversation, and take up the responsibility to make sure there was a topic or catalyst each night.
Eventually, we had our own fun table gang that I looked forward to spending time with each evening. I felt really proud when my talkative friend from the dorm eventually came and sat at our table, as clearly we were having a whole heap of fun that he didn’t want to miss. And his moving to our table actually precipitated a lot of other people moving around the table groups and mixing things up every night, because it had become clear there were a lot of really interesting people at all the tables and we all wanted the opportunity to spend time with each other. Which was the point of the supper club to begin with; they had just gotten stuck in the table group rut.
So I want to encourage you to remember that sometimes it is worth the temporary discomfort of pushing yourself out there a little bit, especially when the rewards can be so huge. My efforts could have flopped if no one laughed or engaged in conversation at my table, but since we were all there to meet people, the risk to me was pretty low, and the alternative to do nothing was pretty bleak. And the result was really amazing! We ended up not only gaining a whole group of people to enjoy who had been unengaged, but we also ended up changing the way the supper club was organised so that each member got more access to everyone else, and with a lot more fun on the way.
Never underestimate the power of your introverted skills to quietly create change in your organisation for the better, for everyone.
A few resources for Introverts...
The science explaining the differences between introverts and extroverts
Just say Dopamine or acetylcholine. Here is the link to the article:
The power of quiet selling
Using your introvert strengths to excel at selling, something we all need to do at some time for something, even if it is *only* the benefits of a specific holiday booking to our partner!
Leading as an Introvert
How to turn your strengths as an introvert into leadership strengths:
For more resources for and about introverts, please take a look at a few of my recent blog posts and the resources section of my website.
Fun Friday Workplaces
According to our first article this week by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, apparently most of us think we are good listeners, just like we all believe we are good drivers. Many of us have even been given instruction on how to listen actively: stay quiet whilst the other person is talking, nod appreciatively and say um-hm, give good eye contact, and state back what we think we heard the speaker say. All of which is a good start, and certainly better than interrupting, talking over someone else, and immediately rebutting with what we want to say that may or may not acknowledge what the speaker was trying to convey.
So, knowing all that, I found the article fascinating in its findings about what makes a GREAT listener. And I really enjoy the comparison of good listening to that of a trampoline: “It gives energy, acceleration, height and amplification.”
The other articles this week address mindfulness as a great tool for more perceptive and thoughtful listening, and how we are beginning to understand the lasting benefits of silence time for our brain health. Who knew?
Hope you enjoy these articles and as always, let me know what you’re thinking!
Great Listening, mindfulness and blessed silence
What GREAT listeners do
Great listening includes cooperative, positive back and forth conversations that support idea growth and development.
Here is the link to the article:
Listening can be enhanced by practicing mindfulness, in order to become more observant. Effective listening is about more than just using your ears.
Prolonged silence is good for brain health
I'll just cut to the chase here: "some recent research is suggesting that prolonged and repeated exposure to silence may result in improved health."
Fun Friday Workplaces
Since it is summer, hopefully you are getting some time out of the office (remember what I suggested last week?). These days, you can do at least some of your work from most anywhere, and so why not try to spend some of your time working outside. And remember, thinking and quiet time create brain health and also new idea generation. So, I'll just leave you with a photo of a quiet time outside. See you next week!