Wellbeing that Works!!

February 28, 2024

Thursday we had an illuminating conversation about workplace wellbeing initiatives with three wise panelists, Raelynn Douglas, Larissa Bartlett, and David Schneiderman. To kick it off, I was curious how we think about well-being beyond the dictionary definition. What the word means in a “boots on the ground” sense. David, a business owner for 35 years, said for him it is important that his people know there is an open door policy and flexibility. Although at his trailer company Seismic they are mostly back to work, “If the dog is sick and you need to work from home, there’s room for that.” Traditionally, his most effective wellbeing effort has been engaging everyone in charity work. An initiative that was actually noted in this NY Times article as the most effective approach for nurturing employee wellbeing.

Raelynn, Executive Director of the Drug Plan with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health and a consultant who is passionate about creating healthy work cultures, agreed with David about flexibility and making space at work for people’s feelings. Her interpretation of the word was more broad, citing four quadrants of wellbeing. For her work-life balance is not the presumed 50/50 ratio, but that work should constitute one quarter of your life along with relationships, health and other responsibilities. “If you're really thriving at work, it can help you in difficult times at home and vice versa, right? If you've got a really good home life, you might be able to be productive and successful at work. But when something is off in one of those quadrants, it really affects us, how we relate and how we feel.” As Raelynn hails from Canada. Of course I had to joke that having work be twenty five percent of your life seemed highly un-American! Talking about the session after, I was a party of one in my response. The rest of the company loves this idea.

Larissa, acclaimed researcher on mindfulness, brought her unique lens to the conversation focusing on resources. For her, attention to wellbeing is about making sure people have the access to support that keeps them healthy. “So I've got access to the things that I need to be able to do my job. So there's a kind of a sense of the capacity to thrive.” As a mother and a wife she responded wholeheartedly to Raelynn’s quadrant interpretation. Which was a wonderful set up for David to respond, “And…none of you work in the entertainment business.”

The conversation grew from there to sharing experiences, from government constraints in Raelynn’s case, to budgetary limits for accurate research for Larissa, to multiple strikes and the fierce competition David has faced to keep employees in Hollywood. As we signed off everyone could agree on certain tools for wellbeing that you didn’t need to get permission for or have unlimited funds. Everyone agreed that daily meditation was the foundation for wellbeing - and it doesn’t cost anything. Next is putting your attention on simple, compassionate gestures at work like expressing appreciation and recognizing a jobe well done. Surprisingly, it was Raelynn, from Canada, who told us outdoor walks at lunch year round is the key. Taking a break and breathing some fresh air. “I feel the difference when I don’t do it,” she said.