The goal was simple:
Host a global workshop to share mindfulness techniques that could help my team through quarterly reporting – a particularly stressful time across our company. Then, see who may be interested in more resources or events based around internal and external wellbeing. Simple, right?
Now, I have been surrounded by the science of wellness for nearly 10 years. I have an osteopath dad, and a therapist mom. My close friends are either Yogis, meditation-lovers, or simply amateur life-hackers that get a thrill from improving their day-to-day lives. More recently, I’ve even obtained a qualification in anatomy and physiology. Wellness is more familiar to me than I suspect it may be to the general population. Being entrenched in this space, however, can sometimes make it difficult to think back to before I believed in the effectiveness of “this stuff.”
Before I started preparing for the workshop, I knew I would have to do more than gather the usual information required for a workplace presentation. I would have to don a hat labelled “AISHLING FROM 10-YEARS AGO,” roll up my sleeves, and find relatable, science-backed research in support of integrating a wellness practice at work. Luckily, the evidence backing its effectiveness is substantial.
Jen Fisher, Deloitte’s Chief Wellbeing Officer, summed it up best, stating that “the wellbeing of our people is the wellbeing of our organization.” And if that’s not enough to convince you, McKinsey also reported that workplace stress “costs US employers nearly $200 billion every year in healthcare.”
Steps to Create a Workplace Wellness Culture
The simple fact is that physical and mental health strategies are effective and there is a wealth of information on the benefits. Rather than convincing you of why you should implement the practices, my aim is to provide you with a step-by-step guide – based on my personal experience – to create global wellness workshops for your company that are casual, relaxing, and feel local.
Connect with Leadership
I’ll reference Jen Fisher again. She created her role at Deloitte after taking a career break prompted by a period of work-induced burnout. Fisher learned through personal experience that her company needed a strategy to avoid future widespread employee burnout. When she returned, Fisher made the case for implementing wellbeing at Deloitte by proposing her current role to the company executives. In my case, however, our leadership reached out to me directly and asked if I’d like to give a presentation on mindfulness.
Whether your company would like to create an entire role devoted to wellness, or simply ask an individual to take it on as an additional responsibility, both instances have one thing in common: you need the support of your leadership. This is incredibly important because your leadership team sets the tone for your company. If they don’t care about implementing wellbeing practices, why should (or would), your co-workers?
Understand Your Target Audience
While I frequently reach out to people across my organization, I still get a little nervous doing it! What I must remember is that we all work for the same company. Therefore, it’s not that strange to reach out to someone new and introduce yourself. Most people are delighted to converse with someone “new.” By doing this, you can learn about people in your organization and find out what wellness-based tips may serve them best.
Similarly, by connecting with your audience, you can identify the formats for presenting information that will resonate with them most and use them to guide your workshops.
I – and therefore my colleagues – work in analytics and media, so I always back up my claims with data. Alternatively, I may point out articles from highly respected publications. However, I also found out who loved music, who responded best to visual stimuli, and who built relationships through pop-culture or sport. The mental health space is endowed with numerous resources that cater to everyone.
In the case of my first global workshop, understanding my audience meant delivering a presentation with stunning zen visuals, and referencing an article by Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, which spoke about the benefits of practicing gratitude for mental health. This combined two elements that I knew worked for my company: reliable sources and great visuals that make the information easier (and nicer), to digest. For you, a more personalized approach tailored to your unique workforce may work better.
To become a positive mental health leader at work, you need to find something to ground you. This will serve as a stabilizing device that will allow you to host or speak from a place of confidence.
For me, it’s often something wearable. Let go of the idea that an in-house health “service” of any kind requires you to lock up your personality. Your “you-ness” can be an additional audience-attracter, so don’t be afraid to shine!
Provide Additional Resources
Actively reach out for feedback from your participants. Ultimately, this is for your colleagues, and you can best serve them if you are aware of their experiences of your workshop and individual stress-points. This follow-up is also an opportunity to provide them with tools and external resources that can support their first steps into practicing healthy habits at work.
It’s also important to be transparent about where the wellness industry can fall short. For instance, Dr. Angela Rose Black speaks out about the “white-washing” of this space. We need to be upfront about the issue and have conversations about interrupting bias in our own work-sphere to tackle it.
In my presentation, for example, I incorporated references to articles by Harvard Business Review about how mindfulness reduced implicit bias in a diversity and inclusion workshop held by Patricia Thompson. In addition, I included TED Talks about creating a positive lifestyle, like the famous “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness.” I also mentioned a few free mindfulness app suggestions: Prana for breathwork; MindEase to work through anxious moments; and Presently to track moments of gratitude. These resources can both convince others that “this stuff really works!” and give my colleagues the tools they needed to implement invigorating healthy practices into their everyday lives.
Create a Safe Space
Create a group chat for people interested in more physical or mental health tricks, resources, or inspiration. Once you’ve opened the space, allow a support network to form by permitting other personalities within your group to shine.
You can also create monthly inter-office chats about the importance of health and happiness, then let the new voices appear. This can help identify others who may be interested in hosting health-based events. You’ll still be head honcho, but you won’t be the only source of support, which will prove beneficial to you, your co-workers, and your company’s leadership.
At Barometer, we knew there was interest in further wellbeing support when, after my presentation, questions began to trickle in. People wanted more resources and suddenly we had a wellness community at work!
If you’ve caught even a whiff of inspiration before reading this post, you will have heard of the term “surrendering.” Before you start creating your own workshops, accept that you can influence and suggest, but you cannot force people into showing up for mindfulness events at work. So, don’t take it personally if there’s low attendance. It’s also possible that some of your co-workers simply want to keep mental health topics separate from their interactions with colleagues - that’s perfectly fine, too. By remembering that your objective is to serve, you may find that wellness at work holds its own momentum.
Now It’s Up to You
If you were to ask me what prompted the events that followed my initial workshop at Barometer, it was the simple recognition that my colleagues may not have the same mental health toolkit that I do.
After our forward-thinking leadership initiated the first workshop, my curious co-workers made our continuing sessions happen as much as I did. The calm cafés (sessions dedicated to discussing current stressors over our favorite beverages), group meditations, and yoga sessions that we’ve held since are due to the support we had from our leadership in creating wellness at work.
These events and spaces cannot be about, made for, or sustained by one person alone.
That’s both the joy of being a wellness promoter at work and the scariness of it - you have to completely let go of the idea that you can “control” someone into participating or starting their own unique practice. Your job is to empower another person to take the first step towards implementing healthy practices at work, not to overpower someone into a practice they may not be comfortable with.
Before I go, I’d like to say thank you for visiting our blog today. Just like the initial preparation for my first global wellness workshop, I was so excited to write this piece. These steps work, but don’t rely on my experience alone. By putting them into practice, you can create global wellness workshops that will help your team to improve their workplace wellbeing.