Wellbeing in the Workplace

Over the weekend I attended an event called Radical Wellbeing, hosted by Deepak Chopra and Danielle Posa.

I have an article forthcoming in The Muse about how changing our corporate cultures is the first step–and perhaps the most efficient method–of changing our national culture. It’s a bold statement, but I think it’s true. Approximately 96%(ish) of us spend most of our waking hours at a job, and the way employees feel about their work has a dramatic impact on their overall happiness and, consequently, how they behave in the world. If we want to make lasting change in our culture (less violence, more kindness)

I’ll write more about what employers and corporate leaders can do to promote wellbeing in the workplace in my article for The Muse, but for now I want to share a few key takeaways from the event.

1. As a leader, you must acknowledge the impact you have on your team’s lives.

If you’re a company leader, business owner, or manager,  you have a social obligation to care about your employees’ lives. Employed adults spend most of their time (and life) at work, more time than they spend at many of the social organizations we’d expect to be more active in people’s wellbeing (churches, gyms, volunteer organizations etc.). Their level of fulfillment and engagement at work has a direct impact on their lives: According to Gallup, disengaged employees are less healthy, less resilient after injury or hardship, less adaptable to change, and less likely to volunteer. And what has the biggest effect on engagement? An employee’s relationship with his or her manager, which accounts for 70% of variance in employee engagement. 

2. The person you’re speaking to right now is the most important person.

I expected to leave the event with a long list of inspirational and eccentric quotes from Deepak Chopra (and, believe me, I do), but one of the most compelling ideas he shared was one of the simplest: the greatest leaders are the greatest listeners. And to be a good listener, you have to recognize that the person in front of you is the most important person in the world right now. Refraining from multi-tasking and giving your undivided attention to your employees is one of the most powerful changes you can make as a leader.

3. Feminine leadership is the leadership of right now, not the future.

I was thrilled to hear both Chopra and Posa acknowledge that feminine leadership–leadership characterized by demonstrating power through empathy and respect for community–is the type of leadership that most organizations need right now. While many other thought leaders (e.g. John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio in their book The Athena Doctrine) have argued for the value of feminine leadership, Chopra firmly placed this type of leadership in the present, not as a distant dream. 

4. You probably need more sleep.

Though Chopra didn’t reveal too many details, he’s currently in the midst of a large multi-organizational study of sleep, and the bottom line is that we all need more of it. If you’re one of those leaders who proudly tells people that you’ll sleep when you’re dead, you’ll, according to Chopra and his friends researching the neuroscience of sleep at Duke University, be able to sleep about 10-15 years earlier than people who get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.