A Healthy Team Benefits the Bottom Line

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When we bring out the best in our individual staff members, the entire team shines — including leaders. A quick search for “How to bring out the best in your team” yields 1.4 billion results in less than a minute, offering countless suggestions: Identify each team member’s strengths and knowledge. Establish clear goals and then let your team members determine how to achieve them. Put yourself in their shoes, and really listen. Be generous with recognition of goals met and a job well done. The list goes on and on.

But when a member of your team is ill, no form of leadership is going to bring out his or her best. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs — a common element of the study of psychology — builds the bottom of the pyramid with physical needs (food, water, rest, safety), which must be met first, followed by psychological needs, such as a sense of belonging and feelings of accomplishment. Anything we do to challenge, encourage, and reward our team members will be less effective if the base of the hierarchy is weak.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the importance of wellness in the workplace since I found myself fighting a summer cold. Like many of us, I pushed on through my illness. I came to work, met my deadlines, led meetings, and kept my team on track as we worked together toward our signature event, the FAA Annual Conference & Trade Show.

Still, I wasn’t at my best. Now that I’m feeling great, I’m taking steps toward workplace wellness.

As executive coach Victor Snyder writes in Forbes, “Team wellness has been shown to improve a business’ bottom line. Employees who lead healthier lifestyles will present fewer instances of absenteeism, higher morale, and increased productivity.”

 ENCOURAGE HEALTHY HABITS

  • If you make snacks available in your office, be sure at least some of the options are healthy. Instead of bringing in doughnuts for a morning meeting, opt for fresh fruit and protein bars.
  • Discourage employees from eating lunch “al desko.” In fact, encourage them not just to get up from their desks at breaks and lunchtime, but to actually get out of the building and take a walk (taking turns if needed so as not to leave phones unanswered).

LET SICK EMPLOYEES STAY HOME

Enforce a policy that sick employees should make use of the sick time available to them. Several recent studies have found that more than half of American workers admit to going to work sick — even when they have a highly contagious illness such as the flu. Reassure team members that there will not be repercussions for appropriately using sick time, and adjust work flow among the team so the sick employee will not fall too far behind.

 ADDRESS THE STRESS

  • Is it a given that “work is stressful”? It doesn’t have to be. Sure, there will always be peak times when demands increase, hours get longer, and employees turn to sugar and caffeine to keep going. But if employees are feeling overwhelmed and anxious on a regular basis, ask yourself whether there are things you can do differently.
  • Involve team members in solutions, and in decision-making overall. A lack of autonomy or control has been blamed for an increase in stress-related ailments, such as heart disease and depression. Encourage team-based problem-solving.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

  • Inform team members about available resources, such as a confidential employee assistance program (EAP) or programs available in the community.
  • Assure employees that there is no stigma in taking care of themselves, and that includes seeking help with depression, anxiety, or other mental or emotional ailments.

In Inc. magazine, executive Susan Steinbrecher reports, “Studies show that even in market downturns, caring, health-promoting employers sustain the same level of performance as in periods of growth. This and other research points to the importance of balancing supportive management with health promotion and self-care.”

Workplace wellness may seem simple, but it’s important. Encourage your team members to take care of themselves so they can take care of business.