"...big business is finally realizing that the health of their employees and the health of their bottom line are inseparable."
It is interesting to see the discussion of well-being migrating from health and wellness magazines to business magazines.
It has become the hottest topic, which is no surprise, because 'big business is finally realizing that the health of their employees and the health of their bottom line are inseparable.(1)"
As Dr. Rajiv Kumar, CEO of the wellness solutions company ShapeUp wrote in the Harvard Business Review(2), "a growing body of research suggests that nurturing employee health and wellness has a significant impact on productivity -- which, as we
all know, has a direct bearing on company profitability." Kumar cites a study(3) from Harvard that found that for each dollar spent on wellness programs, large companies got back $3.27 in reduced health costs, and $2.73 in costs connected to absenteeism.
That's huge since, according to a study by the Milken Institute(4), the U.S. loses $1.1 trillion as a result of lost productivity due to chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension, pulmonary conditions, and diabetes.
As Co-Director of the Emotional Intelligence Consortium, Dr. Daniel Goleman makes the connection between sports and business, pointing out what is required in both to achieve high performance, "this work-rest-work-rest cycle
also applies to helping our brain maintain maximal focus at work."
It's something we all know about ourselves and is just common sense, but have we really taken it into account when we are trying to maximize our employees' productivity?
"Top performance requires full focus, and sustaining focused attention consumes energy -- more technically, your brain exhausts its fuel, glucose." writes Goleman. "Without rest, our brains grow more depleted. The signs of a brain running on empty include, for instance, distractedness, irritability, fatigue, and finding yourself checking Facebook when you should be doing your work."
The good news is that more and more companies are putting this wisdom -- ancient but newly validated by science -- into action. Kumar cites a 2013 RAND study (6) that showed that 80 percent of employees working for businesses of 50 or more employees are offered some sort of wellness program at work. And the range of companies seeing the upside of giving their employees some downtime is growing every day.
Here are a few highlights:
action: relaxed schedule, trusting employees to get the job done -- how and when is up to them.
result: turnover runs about 4 percent, compared to an industry standard of 20 percent.
action: 9-week mindfulness program "Awake@Intel"
result: on a 10-point scale, 2 point decrease in stress, 3 point increase in well-being/happiness, 2 point increase in creativity/ideas.(7)
3) LL Bean
action: employee-created wellness initiatives, company funds with 15 or more(8)
action: two organic meals a day, yoga, massages, life coaching, employee-customized workstations.
action: employee stipend to customize handmade workstation, digital device-free "breathing room," Etsy School(9).
6) Johnson & Johnson
action: Energy for Performance in Life program, employees paid to create health profiles to tailor wellness program.
result: employee participation up to 90 percent. ROI $4 for every $1 spent.(10)
action: wellness program (11)
result: participation up nearly 60 percent from 2009.
8) Boston Consulting Group
action: invested $14 million in wellness programs in 2013; "Red Zone Report" generated to revise schedule if an employee works more than 60 hours a week for 5 weeks (12).
9) General Mills
action: "Take 10" program, "Mindful Leadership"(13)
action: mindfulness-based wellness program
result: health costs decreased by 7 percent in 2012, stress down 30 percent, 69 minute gain in productivity per week.(13)
Even in the industry most known for extreme schedules and burnout, big change is afoot. Many of these changes came out of a mounting suicide count. (14)
1) Bank of America
action: employees advised to take four weekend days off each month and required to take their vacation days (15)
2) Goldman Sachs
action: "junior banker task force"; employees banned from office from 9pm on Friday to 9am on Sunday; strongly encouraged employees to take three weeks of vacation per year.(16)
action: junior bankers mandatory leave of two non-consecutive weeks per year, no more than 12 consecutive days in the office. (17)
"...workplaces have a unique power to reframe the mindset around health itself -- from one of sickness to wellness..."
Some banks, like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Credit Suisse, don't quite get it and are giving mixed messages. You can't encourage junior bankers to take the weekend off, then tell them they are still expected to reply to work-related emails.(18)
We all know that if you're responding to emails, or even reading them, you're at work -- no matter where your body happens to be. Even if no urgent emails come through, just keeping that in your headspace means you're not going to be fully present wherever you happen to be, and with whomever you happen to be with.
And, just as important, it means you're not going to be getting much of the proven rejuvenating benefits of having time off from the office.
Yet, even their talk of "protected weekends" and "mandatory vacations" is a sign of progress.
As Quartz's Mark DeCambre writes, the new policies aren't just a reaction to the recent
suicides, they're also "a reflection of the fact that top graduates now appear to be less inclined to view Wall Street -- and the long hours of financial services-as an ideal career path(19)." According to a Harvard Business School study he cites, in 2006, 42 percent of HBS grads went into finance -- the number now is 27 percent.
We believe this point cannot be underestimated in having the power to change. The upcoming generations have experienced the fallout of their parents being owned by the company, and they simply aren't willing to do it to themselves or their children.
It's clear that the way we work in America -- by working ourselves into the ground, if not the grave -- is not sustainable. Not even for Wall Street. And as more and more of the corporate world realizes this, the benefits will become contagious.
"Thanks to their reach and influence on employees, workplaces have a unique power to reframe the mindset around health itself -- from one of sickness to wellness," write Cortney Rowan and Karuna Harishanker, design strategists at the innovation firm Altitude. And that, in turn, we hope will help bring about the larger change from a model of success based on money, power, and overwork to one based on well-being, wise decisions and good ideas.
There's still a lot of work to do -- as entire industries, especially those that employ our most vulnerable and struggling workers, cling to archaic workplace methods. But here's hoping that in another year's time the types of actions listed above will permeate our society.
1 Huffington, Arianna 7/7/14 "Big Business Finally Learns Wellness is Good Business," Huffington Post,(http://www.linkedin.com/cws/shareurl=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/big-business-finally lear_b_5559758.html)
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Rylan Klaseen & Associates
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