nurture employees

Rethinking Employee Wellness: Speaking to the Mind

“Wellness” is a relative newcomer to the buzzword family of corporate life. But it matters, and it’s quickly rising to a high priority in many organizations.

By Jared Lafitte

Historically the term has had a health connotation, bringing to mind exercise programs and group yoga options and on-site dieticians. But wellness is much broader than taking care of one’s physical body. In recent years Google conducted a study on what makes great teams. Psychological safety, a sense of trust and security and freedom to express oneself without penalty, was far and away the most common and dominant characteristic named in the study. Team strategies, the accomplishments and expertise of the leader, and the skill blend of the team all stand behind psychological safety as the primary predictors of a team’s long-term success.
This is because psychological safety and an environment of trust are a precursor to these other behavioral and tactical elements of a team’s culture. One must have a healthy environment in which to function if one is able to function at all. And the assumptions one has about their environment, such as whether they will be respected and trusted, must be solidly and healthily in place for them to be able to execute their duties effectively.

This helps explain why there are organizations the world over that brim with talent and expertise and experience, yet cannot catalyze or capitalize on what they have, because they are fundamentally flawed in the environment they create and perpetuate.

It stands to reason, then, that employee wellness, or the enterprise of ensuring that employees are healthy, happy, and whole in their environment, is inextricably tied to the psychological safety of their workplace. Wellness is not simply a matter of physical health; it’s a matter of mental health and one of nurturing the right environment of psychological safety in trust to ensure an employee is well taken care of.

And so any company that endeavors to craft a solid employee wellness program should focus first on Maslow’s list of priorities before yoga mats and diet seminars. Are they primarily, actively and regularly concerned with developing a basic environment of security and trust and psychological safety before moving up Maslow’s ladder toward more advanced things like exotic exercise and retreats?

Employees have greater flexibility and options in choosing their work environments than ever before, and the war for employee talent is fiercer than it’s ever been. Money is great and perks get attention, but the company that actively fosters the best environment for an employee’s mental well-being has the greatest chance of retaining him or her.

Are you taking active steps to nurture an environment of psychological safety in which employees are free to express themselves and there is a basic standard of trust and respect?

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