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Battle Of The Big Ideas: Should Wellness Have A Place At Work?

What role should your employer play in your health and fitness? Two camps of thought go head to head in this Battle of the Blinks.
by Michael Benninger | Aug 29 2017

With many work weeks spilling over the “normal” 40 hours these days, finding time and energy outside of the office to exercise and eat healthily can be a challenge. These shifts in the workplace have led to the implementation of wellness programs at many businesses. But should your boss also be your spotter? Or should your exercise routine be wholly your responsibility, allowing you to live life on your terms? The authors of these two titles offer far different takes on the topic in this round of our ongoing Battle of the Blinks.

Workplace Wellness that Works: 10 Steps to Infuse Well-Being and Vitality into Any Organization

by Laura Putnam

Wellness is about more than just “being healthy,” according to the author. This guide to workplace well-being outlines steps to improve one’s own quality of life and that of one’s coworkers. All it takes are these steps:

Become an agent of change.

Identifying the need for a healthy new direction in your company is one thing. Convincing others to join you on the journey is something else entirely. Regurgitating boring facts will not inspire others to follow your lead. Instead, use metaphors, emotions, and relatable stories to build a stronger case and provide authenticity for your argument.

Define your vision. Make a plan. Realize your goal.

Like any journey, before you can chart your course, you have to know where you are going. In setting up a wellness program at work, start with a collage of images that answers the question, “What’s possible for your organization?” Once you are done, post the pictures so you will regularly see and draw inspiration from them throughout the process. A tip for starting your plan: address physical well-being first, then focus on emotional and mental needs.

Achieve victory over skepticism through subtlety

Not everyone will follow your lead when you start a new wellness program. Some people may even directly challenge it or question its usefulness. However, the chance of bringing everyone onboard increases when stigmatized words are replaced by more innocuous language. You can also pretend you have withdrawn the wellness program and sneak it piece-by-piece into other programs your employees or coworkers already embrace.

Lengthen the lifespan of changes with cues and nudges

Small adjustments to the workplace environment can improve chances people will follow your lead on a wellness initiative versus a sudden and complete overhaul. By divvying up healthy options into smaller pieces, you also make it easier to incorporate them into the rhythm of the workplace and more likely the plan will succeed. Put up motivational signs near stairwells. Have fruit within easy reach instead of candy. You could also mandate that all meetings under 30 minute take place standing up.

Launch now. Tweak later.

Waiting until you have the perfect plan to launch a wellness program almost guarantees it will never get off the ground. Don’t fear iterative development. Start in on your ideas and make adjustments as you go. Collect feedback from your colleagues, and monitor the program’s impact before fine-tuning the features.

The Wellness Syndrome

by Carl Cederström and André Spicer

With society so focused on fitness these days, the authors of this book come off as contrarian. They argue we are really hurting ourselves and benefiting only a few by chasing a certain physical ideal. The book also sheds light on how more balance would make our lives so much better.

Our obsession limits our thoughts and actions

One of the wellness movement’s more harmful, implicit tenets is that a fit, fat-free body is the foundation for success and happiness. Without such a physique, you will also never attain the kind of elevated state of mind that allows you to enjoy life to the fullest. Such a mindset restricts freedom of thought and the choices you believe are available to you, which can lead you to miss life’s important milestones.

Fit = Good. Fat = Bad.

Modern society tends to associate a healthy physical appearance with heightened morality. Unfortunately, this can lead to the false belief that people who do not fit the bodily “ideal” are inferior from a number of standpoints. Such notions can lead us to disregard people who act in ways we claim to admire. In the end, this causes our social niceties to degrade as we strive towards what we think is “good” and demean those we think are “bad.”

Social pressures put the squeeze on you

Wellness ideologies can undermine themselves, too. With their all-or-nothing mentalities, strict dietary and exercise regimens lead to stress when we can’t follow them constantly. Just one misstep—giving into a craving for a cookie, or a skipped workout at the gym—can make us feel like utter failures, especially if others guilt-trip you for it. The toxicity from this kind of thinking seeps deep into our minds and can create a sense of self-loathing or anxiety that in turn forms a perpetual feedback loop, leaving you less willing or less able to pursue any kind of self-improvement.

Companies use wellness to shift responsibility to employees and make everyone work harder.

Many major companies offer programs or incentives to keep employees healthy, but there are negative consequences that come with these initiatives. Workers who don’t take part can be stigmatized and unhealthy forms of competition can begin to form between groups or individuals, diminishing the quality of work and life for those caught up in the gamesmanship. Such programs ignore factors that might prevent employees from participating and may also create the impression that employees should be able to thrive under any set of conditions simply by taking care of themselves. This can then lead to the Fit = Good/Fat = Bad mentality we mentioned above.

Fitness has become politicized

Wellness might not appear political on the surface, but it is becoming more common for contemporary politicians to incorporate the ideologies Cederström and Spicer discuss into their platforms and policies. By continuing to rail on these kinds of cosmetic issues, politicians deflect attention from deeper, more important topics. Claiming that constituents are solely responsible for their own personal success or failure allows politicians to shrug off any accountability, regardless of the influences political or economic policies have had on struggling individuals.

So, is this culture of wellness a critical component to the success of modern organizations? Or, has this self-help/self-improvement mentality become a useful distraction, the wool the powers-that-be pull over our eyes to prevent us from asking deeper questions. Join our Facebook Group and share your thoughts on this #BattleoftheBlinks and find out what other Blinkist users have to say about the subject.

Want to take a deeper dive into either of these titles? Launch the Blinkist app today to discover more of key takeaways from these two books, or explore more than 2,200 other bestsellers in more than a dozen different categories.

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