Wendy Kuhn, Principal
Break Through Consulting, LLC
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Healthy Policies for Healthy Outcomes
As my regular readers know, I spend a great deal of time thinking and writing about how to create healthier organizations.  Healthy organizations have healthier, happier, less stressed, and more productive employees and experience higher morale, lower turnover, and improved bottom lines.  With the advent of fMRIs and other research into how the brain works, there is increasing evidence that behaviors that are good for our bodies are also good for our brains.  For example, a walk or a stretch is good for your cardiovascular system and can also increase your creativity and reduce your stress.

Of late, I have been thinking about how an organization's policies can unintentionally positively or negatively impact health and stress levels. 

Here are six strategies you can incorporate into your organization's policies to positively impact employee wellbeing and the organization's bottom line.  You can define organization broadly as your entire organization or narrowly as your own team.
  • Establish an email strategy.  Set expectations and establish practices for email.  This could include that it is not necessary to reply to emails between 6 PM and 9 AM.  It could be that emails should indicate NRN when no reply is necessary or it could be a policy of reducing the number of emails in any given exchange.  Email is a great communication tool but, when overused, can be unduly burdensome and important communications can be ignored or overlooked.
  • Establish meeting policies.  Meeting policies could include stretch breaks every 20 or 30 minutes.  Another healthy practice is to start meetings at five minutes after the hour (or end them at five minutes before the hour) allowing people time to transition between meetings, check email, or even take a bio break.  This reduces the need to repeat items when people arrive late and the number of people frenetically checking email as the meeting begins.
  • Establish a policy that supports walking meetings.  If employees feel that their employer recognizes that they can be productive when they are walking outside in the sunshine, they are more likely to do so.  When people say that they are too busy for this, I like to remind them that it is a favorite practice of the President and Vice President, and I cannot imagine two busier people.
  • Provide employees the opportunity and incentives to participate in volunteer activities in the community or a group outing or athletic event.  I often work with clients who tell me how well everyone in their organization knows each other, but do they really?  There is always an opportunity to get to know each other differently or better.  And, in learning how to support each other in an athletic event or a volunteer activity, we earn a lot about how to be more successful in the work place.   Giving back to the community is not just good for the community, it is good for us. There is research showing that giving is of greater psychic benefit to the giver than to the recipient.
  • Create a policy that encourages managers to support employee wellbeing and flexibility in the workplace where appropriate. Research repeatedly shows that employees who believe that their managers are committed to their wellbeing are more likely to stay at their jobs. Statistics show that lowering turnover reduces disruption, increases productivity, saves money, and reduces stress on co-workers.
  • Establish a policy around quiet time.  Perhaps the policy is that if a door is closed, do not enter, or there is an office space set aside for quiet time, or that meetings and phone calls do not begin before a certain time in the morning.  Alternatively, employees could be encouraged to block quiet time on their calendar and not be interrupted (short of an actual emergency).
While policies do not replace human interaction, policies can be a starting point for creating an organization committed to employee wellbeing, to adopting organizational change towards a healthier organization, and to improving the bottom line. Be innovative, co-create these policies with staff to discover what they are looking for or what works best for them.  Try different things until you reach the policies that work best in your environment.

What are your thoughts? Do you have policies that support or impede employee well being.  I'm very interested in hearing about them.

Learn about Wendy Kuhn:

My Philosophy

I have often seen projects, programs, and strategic plans fail or not be fully implemented.  One of the contributing factors is often a work force that is over-stressed, unhealthy, and not committed to the end result. At the same time, corporate health and wellness programs tend to be underutilized with employees not taking advantage of available opportunities.  

One common key component of successful strategic planning, successful programs, and successful project management is a fully engaged workforce.   By incorporating health and wellness into these efforts, rather than having health and wellness programs as separate functions, the employees have a voice in what is included in the program and see their ability to influence corporate strategies. They are also more likely to embrace these strategies.  In my experience, including employee wellness in corporate strategies demonstrates the organization’s commitment to their employees and leads to a more productive, healthier, more creative, and more engaged workforce. 

My focus is working with organizations to help them grow and reach the next level.
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