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Prioritizing Wellness In The Workplace

Repost Article Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2011/05/16/prioritizing-wellness-in-the-workplace/

I know I’m not alone when I say I want to live more mindfully. If the billions of dollars Americans are spending on wellness practices and preventative healthcare are any indication, plenty of people out there agree with me.

In 2008, Americans spent $5.7 billion on yoga, almost double the amount spent in 2004. The same study from Yoga in America showed that half of yoga practitioners took it up to improve their health. I know I contributed to those numbers, and I have no doubt that some of you reading this did too.

We hear it all the time: We’re staring at computer screens too much, working more hours than ever before and are sicker than we’ve ever been. But the trends in wellness spending tell me a different story. We might be feeling the strains of our hectic lives, but we’re also more aware of them. We’re informed in ways that were impossible a generation ago, and the concept of prevention is finally making sense.

So we care about our health. We also care about our jobs and our families. Often, for women especially, self is at or near the bottom of the list. I’ve been there. It took me leaving a 20-year career on Wall Street, having a baby at 43 and a living through a couple of serious health scares to realize that my own health and wellbeing greatly affect the health and wellbeing of everyone and everything around me.

What I’ve learned is that whether you’ve just landed your first job out of college or you’re running a corporation, wellness has got to be the priority in the workplace.

Why it matters:

Productivity: Emphasizing wellness allows us to operate more energetically. We work better because we’re there, in body and mind. If we are allowed to be truly present when we are at work, companies can say goodbye to unnecessary absenteeism.

Decreased Stress: Research shows that stress has the most significant impact on employee productivity. Put a premium on actions and habits that encourage peace and calm and reap the benefits of an engaged, effective workforce.

Improved Morale: When we know that our wellbeing matters in the workplace, it’s easier to identify with

h the long- and short-term goals of the company.

Savings: When team members are sick, time and money are lost. When they’re repeatedly sick due to stress and unhealthy lifestyles, health benefit costs are higher. Be proactive about preventable illnesses by putting wellness first and you’ll lower your costs while making the most of your time.

Simply put, wellness is a smart business investment, and it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

A few simple things we can do:

Start a wellness program at work: If you’re running a company, invest in the health of your employees by implementing a worksite wellness program. Programs that offer health and wellness education along with incentives for healthy actions (such as a bonus for those who smoking) are most effective.

Rethink the workday and workweek: We’ve watched as 9 to 5 has morphed into 9 to 7 or even 9 to 9 over the last few decades, but how productive are we when we’re on 24 hours a day? There is a point of diminishing returns. Consider de-structuring the typical workday so that you and your employees can be most effective and efficient. If this means working 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours at night or telecommuting some days, make it possible. We can maximize the productivity and minimize the stress. We just need to change the way we think about work.

Practice stress reduction methods in the workplace: Whether it’s meditation, breathing exercises, or going on a walk at lunch, take some time every day to pause and gain perspective. Even those of us working very corporate jobs can take a few minutes to refocus and breathe. I’ve heard people recommend escaping to the bathroom to meditate midday, and if that’s what you’ve got to do, then go for it.

Ultimately our health is in our own hands. If you’re high up in your company or in a position to lobby those who are, start making healthy changes in your workplace. If not, start by taking responsibility for your own wellness. Our company practices yoga together at least once a week and has a flexible workday. It doesn’t seem revolutionary, but all big changes start small. Our motto is simple: Be Well, Do Well, Live Well—for yourself and for others.

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