Today’s workplace is wired for communication, but the human connection is often missing. That’s the message coming through loud and clear, according to data collected in a recent survey. (K & S Blanchard 2014). People want to feel connected with a significant correlation existing here and a positive sense of well-being and wellness (2014). There are a staggering 87% of employees worldwide not engaged at work. The world has a crisis of engagement, one with serious and potentially long lasting repercussions (Gallup 2014).
Workplaces provide a valuable setting to implement wellness education and activities (Merrill et al). When a company has a culture that takes the wellbeing of its employees into consideration as well as its profit margin, it sends out an important message not only to its employees but also to the general community (Allen 2008). Where does the future of workplace wellness lie? For too long we have teetered on the edge of promotional health programmes, pretending to be offering a wellness solution, if workplaces are going to be serious about wellness, let’s start looking towards addressing connection as the first step.
Wellness subjectivity makes it somewhat tricky to apply a measure of wellness as a one “size fits all”. However there are definitely factors that enhance our ability to thrive to move beyond the place of neutral, beyond survival and health, nurturing human condition and spirit.
Across mammalian studies, from the smallest rodents all the way to us humans, the data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment, we are wired such that our wellbeing depends on our connections with others. (Lieberman 2013).
Social connection is strongly correlated with subjective well-being (E, Seppala, T. Rossomando, & J. Doty et al 2013). Individuals who are socially active with satisfying social relationships for example, report above-average levels of happiness, lower levels of depression and anxiety, and higher resiliency across a broad array of stressful life events and environments (Diener & Seligman 2004 as cited in E Seppala et al 2013),
Well-being, in turn, has been linked to a host of psychological benefits. Positive emotions help broaden resources and optimize performance such as intellectual resources (creativity and flexible thinking), social resources (ability to connect with others), physical resources (improved health and coordination), psychological resources (resiliency and optimism); (Fredrickson cited in E Seppala et al 2013). Positive emotion has also been linked to the state of flow—(Csikszentmihalyi cited in et al 2013), which is the ultimate fusion of mind with one’s work in an inspired, engrossed, focused, and productive way. Moreover, positive emotion and happiness are often a precursor of success, leading to the development of qualities that lead to success (Lyubomirsky, King, and Diener cited in et al 2013).
Improving workplace wellness
Research strongly suggests that connection underpins our journey towards high level wellness, yet only about 25% of business leaders have an employee engagement strategy. (D. Carnegie 2014). What is equally alarming is that the least engaged cohort are our youngest. According to Gallup only 28.9% of employees (aged 18 to 35) reported being engaged by their workplace in the 2014 poll (Gallup 2014). Millennials already form 25% of the workforce in the US and account for over half of the population in India. By 2020, Millennials will form 50% of the global workforce. Are current wellness practices capturing the needs, are we listening to what is important and what changes are required to start reconnecting (Price Water House 2013)?
The multidimensional model of wellness does not work independently, but rather interdependently. It is not enough to look at each area and work within. There needs to be an innate understanding that each factor that constitutes what makes us well, is related not only to each of us but also to those around us and our environment. The future of Wellness lies in something far more foundational. It lies within the realisation and importance of how we connect; an opportunity to develop a mindset that has the ability to grow utilising individual strengths and values and the environment for it to flourish. The workplace provides the perfect opportunity to promote and grow in wellness. A more productive goal may be to focus on what each person offers to the team and organizational performance, and how these qualities affect workplace communication, behaviors, and relationships (Myers & Sadaghiani 2010). Through connecting not only with what is important to us but to those around us, and begin to truly engage.