YOU NEED TO SEE WELLNESS FOR WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS – THE MOST IMPORTANT INVESTMENT IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE
Today, many employers are struggling with high sick leave figures. In Sweden the costs of sick leave are SEK 57 billion, according to a new report from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. Enfo is a company where we have a low amount of sick leave, which I am extremely proud of and grateful for. But, I also want to make sure that it remains this way in the future and that we are a company that promotes a culture in which we can talk in depth about stress and mental illness, in a relaxed manner.
WELLNESS IS AN INVESTMENT – NOT AN EXPENSE
We must go back to ourselves. Force ourselves and dare to leave things aside and put yourself in the front seat. As I said before, I believe you build your own wellness from within. You usually know what is good for you as well as your well-being. You recognize the things and situations that steal your energy, and you also know the things that fulfill and give joy and meaning to your life.
“In the same way that we have guidelines for mail management, we should have guidelines for wellness”
THE WELLNESS CLUB
Last year, in May 2018, Enfo called for a wellness initiative to incorporate wellness into the workplace. I got the opportunity to start a Wellness Club in Stockholm. We have Wellness Clubs at every Enfo office – with voluntary Wellness Ambassadors at each site. The main purpose of the club is to encourage activities that create wellness for the employees. Today the Wellness Club is an established concept, although we are still trying to figure things out as we go along. That is the best part of it, we build this from our inner will and we have the benefit to try things on the go. What I want to achieve with the Wellness Club is to provide support for my fellow employees, by first creating a culture where we feel comfortable talking about the WHY, why mental and physical well-being is important, then creating various activities that promote both.
WELLNESS IS NOT THE SAME THING AS FITNESS – GOT IT?
Despite focusing on creating an encompassing culture of well-being at Enfo, I want to mention a few examples that I have seen during this first year with the wellness initiative. We have completed yoga sessions that became very popular, and during the last few times I and the instructor could both see that everyone released their tension. The focus was truly on themselves and the attitude to giving this moment to themselves was unbeatable. They had decided that this is "my moment and I dare to let go and invest in me". This is really hard to put into words, you have to experience it.
LECTURES, YOGA, MEDITATION, WALKS, BOOK CLUBS, HEALTHY LUNCHES – DO WHATEVER YOUR EMPLOYEES WANT TO DO!
What I also want to convey is that wellness is not just about fitness. Most people associate wellness with fitness. It was the first comment I got when we started the Wellness Club. "Should you make me lose weight through athletic competitions," a woman said to me.
We must challenge ourselves in different ways. Just because I like physical exercise, it does not mean that others feel the same.
I have employees who have come and said that they have started walking, attending lectures, meditating, continuing yoga, investing in an activity they enjoy, leaving the job at work and not bring it to home, started to eat better, sleep more, etc. And they all say the same thing – that they are feeling good! How cool is that?
“Companies must stop doing prestigious competitions that rather destroy well-being than keeping us happy and motivated”
In our Wellness Club we have a variety of activities. I would like to avoid prestigious competitions that exclude people. Because after all, my desire to is to reach out, to the people who do not move, who do not invest in their own well-being – to the people who are silent or who say they are fine even if they are not. I want to show that it’s the little effort that matters most. It's not about what you do, it's about how you do it.
THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION MANY LEADERS FORGET TO ASK
My interest in people has given me deep knowledge of human behavior and being a leader has given me an enormous understanding of people. The absolute biggest trap that leaders fall into is not taking the time to get to know people. When we ask how someone feels, they answer – "quite ok". I can bet that in 9 out of 10 cases you accept that answer and stop listening. Because often you're constantly in a hurry. We are good at listening to each other at Enfo. I want to continue to build a culture that has the ear and eye for the employee. I want to be in an environment that consists of leaders and employees who have an interest and desire to understand what lies behind the individual’s mental health. And I just want a company where we ask each other – how are you? For real. And that we are listening to each other – for real.
WE MUST stop stigmatizing mental illness
However, I constantly ask myself how participation can build a common goal of well-being in the company and how we should work together to ensure a sustainable working life.
Health and well-being are not focus areas for most companies. Companies are getting better at it: they do often arrange activities but they're far away from talking about mental illness and why it’s so important to prevent it. There are many reasons why mental illness starts in the workplace. Numerous studies indicate the same reasons to why this is. For example; constant connection/accessibility, too big workload, lack of leadership, lack of communication, cluttered organization, constant pressure to make money, etc. It should come as no surprise that these contribute to stress and mental illness. And it is often these reasons that you talk about when addressing what lies behind mental illnesses. Still, I also believe that it depends on other things as well that are not discussed as often. For example:
• We are not talking about mental illness. I cannot clarify how important it is to talk about it, as a first step, in changing the attitude towards mental illness.
• We do not listen, we are not responsive, we do not ask "how are you" and really listen to the answer.
• Lack of a common set of values around how we work with well-being in the workplace.
• Nonexistence of trust, when we don't feel confident and safe our focus is shifting towards finding security. Hence, commitment and productivity become less prioritized and our performance is affected negatively. The negative spiral continues and spreads among us all.
• Nor do we require the employee to take responsibility for their own well-being. It is a shared responsibility for the common good that we all will benefit from.
We as a company and as individuals must begin to act effectively and wisely based on what we see and hear happening around us. As a leader, my drive and commitment to promote a good work environment both physically and mentally is vital. I do my best to lead by example and I take every chance that comes up. I hope that my passion can enable people to perform and to develop everyone not only in their role in the organization, but also as a person.
What I mean is that we, as leaders, must become better at seeing the best in our employees, because in many cases they do not see it themselves. From the very start, we must start building a common goal of well-being at the individual level. As a company we can supply our employees with various health activities which is great, but we must also look to the person itself. If we do that from day one, and openly talk about what can cause mental illnesses and how we as a company prevent this, I am absolutely convinced that it will spread "rings on the water". In the same way that we have guidelines for email management – we should have guidelines for wellness.
5 things a company can do to get their employees to feel and perform better at work!
1. WALK THE TALK
Many people talk about how important wellness is for employees. We need to be better in standing up for how important well-being is and WHY we think so. And do it from day one and stand behind our decisions all the way.
2. TAKE IT LEVEL BY LEVEL
The power of small steps. Think of it as a game. Take one small step at a time. Maybe start listening to how your employees actually feel. Sometimes it’s the small daily 15 minute conversations that matter the most.
3. STOP COMPARING – START HELPING
Take every chance to try to stop a culture which means that your employees compare themselves to others in a negative way. Instead, try to build a culture where employees use each other as support and constantly learn new things from each other.
4. TECHNOLOGY FREE MEETINGS
Book meetings with employees where it is forbidden to bring technology. Meetings that are completely free from distractions create space to speak about things that are important for real, not just what is happening here and now.
5. CREATE COMMON VALUES ABOUT WELLNESS
The most important asset a company has is the employees. Among the worst things that can happen to a company is that our employees leave. Create a culture around well-being which encourage openness. Incorporate wellness discussions in coaching sessions and get people to focus more on working with themselves to improve.
In other words: There is NO reason not to start your Wellness Club today!
CAROLINE WENNERHOLM, CONSULTANT MANAGER
As a person, I am driven by making changes on both a personal and a professional level. I enjoy having an environment that gives me positive energy and where there are activities that benefit each other. Which is reflected in my choice of social interaction and exercising as main activities in my spare time. A great feeling is the sense of that the two activities complement each other. I enjoy achieving the same feeling at work, along with like-minded, determined people.
About Enfo Wellness Club
Since a year back Caroline Wennerholm runs the Wellness Club in Stockholm at Enfo. The main purpose of the club is to encourage fun activities that create community and increased well-being for all employees. Today, there is a Wellness Club in each office, run by Wellness Ambassadors.