When you think of health, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it taking care of yourself with images of yoga, or maybe a quick pick-up basketball game? Or getting a “re-charge” day off from your company?
Although World Health Day is in April, the data on burnout is only rising. Just like enjoying pie should not be limited to International Pie Day, shifting our everyday work patterns toward health isn’t a one-day deal. We’ve been building practical frameworks and learning experiences for how our clients address burnout (more on that in a minute). But first, what does health mean exactly? And equally importantly as professionals, what role does it play in how we support one another at work?
Given your brain is part of your body, the argument for health in both your work team and your home team matter. The need (not just desire) for us to take care of our whole selves is directly correlated to how well you problem solve, and how well you feel at the end of a (hopefully productive) day.
So how do you start to think about and practice health holistically in order to do your best work and feel good in that brain and body?
Bring your whole self to work.
You might want to think feelings are like a water faucet. You freely turn them on when you’re away from work, and shut them off once work begins. Yet, you might be smiling right now as we know that’s not exactly (or at all) how it goes down. In order to show up in an authentic way at work, it’s important to figure out how to handle the work “feels”.
Our favorites on this topic are Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy. They literally wrote the book on it, and if reading a book feels overwhelming, just start by following them @lizandmollie on Instagram (their humor is spot on). They really drive the point home that like it or not, feelings drive our behavior.
Another favorite read of ours is by the brilliant neuroscientist, Lisa Feldman Barrett, who up-ends everything we’ve thought about emotions in her book, How Emotions Are Made. Even though our culture reveres logic and rational thinking, it turns out we’re creatures who feel things first, and then take action.
So, are you allowing space for your full self in your teamwork? How are you supporting your team members emotionally and psychologically? Do they feel listened to? Included? Like they belong? If you’re not quite there, we have experience in how you can get there (pssst…call us).
But…what about oversharing?
It’s tricky, right? Some people are very comfortable merging their personal and professional lives. Others, not so much. So, how do you handle that?
As Adam Grant and Brené Brown say in the TED podcast, “How to be vulnerable at work without spilling everything” it’s not an either/or. You don’t have to share all the things. And feeling pressure to share when you don’t want to is definitely not a “psychologically safe” space. Vulnerability and authenticity at work have turned into buzzwords, so consider (i.e. be intentional and think ahead about it) on how best to navigate this culture shift in a way that helps everyone feel safe.
How? Decide on your boundaries. It is possible to maintain privacy and also be vulnerable. One suggestion we like of Brené’s is to let people know you’re struggling and how they can support you (which might be to not talk about it further, or might be a request for resources and ideas). You can share whatever details you’re comfortable with, and the simple act of letting others know you have things going on is very empowering, while also keeping your privacy.
Don’t forget about managers.
Back to that burnout data. One of our clients, Sonos, was experiencing so much growth during the pandemic (who doesn’t want gorgeous speakers in their home?) that they put multiple actions behind their goal of mitigating the overwhelm for its employees, and we took on one for supporting managers. We designed a learning experience that is ‘only’ two hours, but the feedback was this was “immediately impactful” and “gave us practical ideas and solutions for how to strengthen a team’s ability to prioritize, focus, and set boundaries.”
The challenge in a fast-changing world is how quickly priorities change, and the ability to navigate that up, down, and across is a muscle that needs attention and steady building, so this experiential learning is just the beginning. Focusing on team health is just as important as focusing on your individual health, so consider what will best serve them both!
Your brain is part of you. Consider these options.
Boundaries for your emotional health, team collaboration time, and individual health are guardrails to keep you moving swiftly in the direction of your choosing. For your individual health, adopt a healthier ratio of “default video on” meetings to audio conference calls so you can walk while working as your brain gets disproportionately exhausted by video. Additionally, after a productive half day, consider a mid-day nappuccino (down a cup of coffee and then take a power nap – hat tip to Dan Pink for this idea!) to re-energize yourself. One of our favorite brain-health action items is blocking out chunks of time in your calendar for deep thinking, collaboration time, and reinvigorating yourself with a bit of nature, exercise, or Nasa-researched nap boosters!
As our lives shift to a “new normal,” many will be able to opt into a hybrid back-to-work approach so you can be more physically active instead of sitting in a car or at a desk. Encouraging data is coming out from leading economists and CEOs that we can’t unsee the productivity gains of hybrid work, and how this is a better long game for our health, our companies, and our planet. Holistic, healthy living is a shift from the “do more” forces that swirl around us. The more we’re able to enjoy our non-work lives, the more productive and creative we’ll be at our paying gigs. That’s the long game we’re always about at Forshay.
Health as a collective muscle
Although we’re following the longevity scientists (still kinda hoping for that magic pill), the holistic health plan still takes daily work…like any muscle. But the results are worth the design and attention. Doing our best work is about continually learning about how we improve our health in our teams, our emotional health and psychological safety, our brain/body health, and maybe a vegetable pie now and then (because everything is better in pie form).
Want more tips on creating a healthier team and healthier work life? Be the first to see what we’re thinking and working on by subscribing to our YouTube channel.