I had the pleasure of attending the 2018 WELCOA Summit on August 16-17. As expected, I came away refreshed, energized and re-enthused for this impactful work that we, as wellness professionals, do each day: inspiring the health and wellness of people through organizational strategies.
The theme of the Summit was “the human behind the numbers
” and the event offered several opportunities to expand our understanding of the concepts that affect our health and wellbeing as humans. And it also stretched and challenged our thinking, practices and methods that we use to impact and influence wellness in the workplace. In short summary, the conference speakers did a phenomenal job of further conceptualizing WELCOA’s recently released definition of wellness
, and WELCOA held the space for attendees to really think differently.
As I’ve reflected on my experience at the Summit, one of the most important and recurring notions that I took away from the theme and the speakers, is an idea that I strongly agree with and have believed in for some time:
An individual’s health and wellbeing is a dichotomy – it is both simple and complex.
It is simple in that every individual has similar core needs to be well: physical health of the body, connection to each other and a community, tie to purpose and meaning, sound health of the mind, achievement, opportunities for growth, safety – to describe a few as mentioned in WELCOA’s definition of wellness.
But it is complex in that all of these facets are so deeply and inextricably connected. Not one of our needs exists in a vacuum, and each of our needs has impact and effect on the others. And, to further complicate, the nature of our everyday lives may not allow for us to focus or give attention to all of the factors of our wellness at once (common deflectors may be our loved ones, our careers, our life circumstances, illness, etc). We are also influenced by other factors – some within our control, some not – like the physical environments that we spend our time in each day, the people that we’re surrounded with (by choice or not by choice), the systems and processes that we work or live within, and the behaviors and habits that we choose.
Organizational strategies for employee wellness must consider and accommodate these multi-faceted – simple and complex – needs of health and wellbeing.
It may sound like a tall order, but the speakers at the WELCOA Summit added context, research, examples and most importantly, actionable ideas to how wellness professionals can consider the whole human, and all of our many needs, in our strategies. And here in Wisconsin, WCWI is continuing this conversation with our own ‘meeting of the minds’ where we will continue to inspire, explore and create this shift in organizational wellness strategy at our 28th Annual Worksite Wellness Conference
in Madison on October 30.
Read on for my summary of key takeaways from the WELCOA Summit. I’ve also linked to additional sources and learning opportunities for you to dig deeper into these concepts, and highlighted where you’ll find more insight at WCWI’s conference in October! As you read, please feel welcome to reach out to me if you have questions, comments and ideas of your own!
Positive workplaces, strength-based leadership, high quality connections, and tie to purpose help people thrive.
Chris White, Director of the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan
spoke about creating a positive workplace through high quality connections. Chris shared a touching quote at the beginning of his talk that helped to shape the simple concept of positive workplaces: “Other people matter” recognized as a favorite saying of Christopher Petersen
, one of the founders of the field of positive psychology. Chris shared research and evidence that high quality connections strengthen an individual’s psychological safety, creativity and resilience. He also talked about shifting the way that managers and leaders provide feedback to frame it as ongoing and with a strengths-focused approach. Chris shared additional recommended resources
such as blogs, books and articles for more on these themes. You can also dig into the Center for Positive Organization's website resources
to learn about the themes of Positive Culture, Leadership, Relationships and more.
More on this topic from WCWI: We welcome MJ Shaar, an expert in the field of applied positive psychology, as our opening keynote at our annual conference
on October 30 where she will share strategies to influence a more human workplace!
- An article from the Harvard Business Review discusses how “the last half-decade of research has demonstrated that loneliness threatens not only our physical health and well-being, but also our livelihood.”
- Big Potential, a book by Shawn Achor, describes how potential is determined by how we complement, contribute to, and benefit from the abilities and achievements of people around us.
The environments and systems that we experience each day, have passive effects on our health and wellbeing.
And many of these health effects are actually within our control to change and improve, both through modifications to our physical environment and to the systems and processes that we work within. Rex Miller
spoke passionately and insightfully about the research and work he’s done with positive outlier organizations. He posed a powerful question: “are we addressing root cause” of health and health behavior in the environments where we work? He shared concepts from his most recent book, The Healthy Workplace Nudge
, such as behavior economics and healthy building design.
The Harvard School of Public Health is developing a comprehensive Worker Well-being Survey to measure wellbeing, productivity, engagement, culture and built environment – and the impact of all of these items on health and performance. Leigh Stringer
spoke about the correlation to our built environment and the work settings we experience each day, and how they affect our health and wellbeing. She shared ideas for how to modify the work environment to positively impact movement, stress reduction, sleep and community connection.
We should be thinking about work as a human experience.
, Founder and President of Habits at Work and BRATLAB, asked the thought-provoking question: “if my company was a person, what kind of person would it be?” He posed that the habits of leadership, managers, and colleagues do in fact, define the company culture. Andrew outlined essential habits for all humans to practice, especially leadership, to make a true positive impact on happiness, performance, and health in the workplace. 1.) Deliberate and repetitive practice, coaching and feedback 2.) Listening empathetically 3.) Ask questions 4.) Make and keep promises 5.) Share stories. He described that helping employees with their self-care and personal wellbeing must be earned, only after the other habits are in place throughout the organization.
Jason Lauritsen, a consultant and speaker dedicated to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits, made the bold connection: “work is a relationship, not a contract.” He talked about how, even though companies are investing now more than ever in employee engagement technology solutions ($7 billion in the last year), employee wellbeing is not showing meaningful improvement and employee trust is at an all-time low. He framed work as a relationship and described five elements of a healthy relationship that also translate to a healthy, engaging and productive employee experience: Appreciation, Acceptance, Communication, Support and Commitment. A few of Jason’s actionable recommendations:
- extend trust in ways that you can such as dress code and flexible work policies;
- create conversations and dialogue, not just pushed communication;
- give appreciation beyond just recognition, acknowledge both effort and progress;
- use a “relationship test” with your policies and processes.