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You may have noticed, workplace health and wellbeing is currently flavour of the month. Every man and his dog are jumping on the bandwagon of a $55bn industry that’s forecast to grow to $66.2bn in the next five years.

Is workplace health and wellbeing on your radar?

Earlier this year, I attended a 4-day immersive “Think-Tank” organised by Audrey McGibbon, powerhouse leader of GLWS and Eek and Sense held at the Elysia Retreat in the Hunter Valley.

Our purpose as a collective of individuals, business owners and corporate leaders was to come together and start a conversation including defining what workplace health and wellbeing is, and isn’t, and examining what would make it a top business strategy in every workplace, embedded within the culture, so it’s not one more thing to add to our overextended burden of so much we already have to deal with.

While workplace health and wellbeing is something you may intuitively recognise as important, why is there so much resistance to or lack of awareness around the concept?

Is it because you’re,

  • A bit over being told what’s good for you. You’re fine as is. So, please stop trying to make me feel guilty about not engaging in all the wellness and wellbeing programs on offer.
  • You’re fed up with the assumption that you’re somehow lacking because you don’t attend the lunchtime yoga class. You don’t like yoga and you’d rather spend your precious lunch break when you do get one, catching up with a colleague.
  • You’re thinking it’s for other people. You’re trying hard to manage your self-care, because that’s what we’re talking about right, so you’d rather focus your time and energy on getting your work done and aiming towards maybe getting home a bit earlier for a change.
  • You’re thinking, it’s all fluff and no substance, irrelevant currently because you want to ensure you keep your job, and to understand better how the organisation is faring. Spending money on something that may not work (– where is the evidence?) that could be very expensive, (– and there’s no budget for this) and time and energy consuming, of which you have neither to spare.

The truth is there is a wealth of evidence and research that supports the notion that health and wellbeing, (which is not just to eat more kale and drink more water) is essential to everyone at work. When the benefits are fully understood from the individual, team, organisation, and societal level, it makes complete sense.

But like being a parent, while you know it’s important your kids eat their fruit and veg and spend less time on their digital gadgets, knowing doesn’t change their behaviour.


We know, but don’t do.

That comfy armchair of status quo is difficult to want to get out of, especially if the dog/cat or your partner is eyeing up your warm spot on the sofa.

The better question to ask is,

What will create the desire?

Hint, it’s about understanding the ‘why’. When you know what’s in it for you, you’ll be attracted to looking at doing things differently, for a better outcome, one small step at a time.

We look for short-term quick fixes for a long-term multi-dimensional and highly complex subject because we’re wired for that dopamine hit of instant gratification.

The question to ask here is around how you can reframe expectations about the “how” of introducing health and wellbeing into your workplace. What is needed? What needs to happen first? How will it be measured over the fullness of time?

How can you overcome your brain’s need for a reward now, and be willing as the proverb says, “to sow the seed of the tree, you may never get to sit under the shade of.”

Real and enduring change is slow. Turning the oven up to high won’t bake your cake more quickly and runs the risk of a culinary failure!

Complexity and misunderstanding aside, can you afford NOT to be thinking

  • How can I make what I do for my own health and wellbeing, add to the motivation, fulfilment, and fun of great work?
  • How can you as a manager, role model those habits and behaviours that lead to a collective upswell of positive mood, collaboration, and inclusion?
  • What can an organisation do to nurture a workplace culture founded on care, where struggle, adversity and high levels of stress are recognised as assisting in developing the resilience and support needed to get through the bad times as well as the good?

Workplace health and wellbeing matter, because YOU matter, as does everyone else.

While we are a little way off coming up with more answers, what has been recognised is

  • This will be a joint venture between individuals, teams and the organisation. Meeting the specific needs of the individual (because one-size simply won’t work) in the background context of the collective good.
  • It requires the desire, understanding, commitment and willingness to bring it into being.

Because this is a long-term strategy not a sprint to a near-by destination.

  • It is about acknowledging and being open to the understanding we may not get this right at first. It will be a work in progress requiring ongoing exploration and experimentation.
  • There are a number of organisations already steadily moving into the implementation phase. As their experiences become public, this will provide the social proof for others who remain unsure whether to take the plunge.

If you are excited about what this could look like as much as I am, my question to you is, what needs to happen next?

Dr Jenny Brockis

Jenny is a Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician, author, coach, and workplace health and wellbeing specialist. Her latest book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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