If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.
~ Andrew Carnegie
What is wellbeing? One definition says wellbeing is the “state of being happy, healthy or prosperous”. All of us would like to be happier, healthier or more prosperous, right? In our work we’ve seen employees at all kinds of organizations work together to improve wellbeing—this can truly happen.
Improving our wellbeing is more important now than ever before. As “advanced” as we have become in things like information technology or medical science, the truth is that wellbeing for many of us is headed in the wrong direction:
- As a nation, we are more obese than ever before, which is a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
- The rate of how much we save has gone down, and more of us face financial challenges such as bankruptcy or losing our homes than ever before.
- The percent of employees who dislike their jobs, who are “disengaged”, is disturbingly high.
- In spite of all the ways we can be connected, many of us feel more alone, in some ways more isolated, than ever before.
- Happiness in the United States, as measured by surveys, has not increased in decades.
We can do better. We have to do better. Addressing these problems by increasing our wellbeing may be the most important challenge of our time.
How do we do that–how do we increase our wellbeing?
We think our wellbeing matters. We believe we can work together to improve wellbeing, and the workplace is an excellent place for this to happen.
You might be asking yourself—isn’t “our wellbeing” a contradiction in terms? Isn’t wellbeing something I have to do for myself? Isn’t that my responsibility, not my employer’s?
To be sure, wellbeing is about what each of us decides to do. No one is holding a gun to our heads as we chow down on a greasy, cholesterol-laden bacon cheeseburger. No one is forcing us to sit on the couch watching yet another rerun of our favorite sit-com instead of exercising. No one is telling us to spend money on an item we can’t really afford and probably don’t need. And though some of us may feel “locked” into a job (even one we hate and is not a good use of our unique talents) career changes are possible.
Those are choices we make.
But you might be surprised at how much our wellbeing is impacted by those around us—our family, people we meet in school, people we associate with in community groups, and folks with whom we work:
- When we tell someone about a personal goal we have set for ourselves, the chances we will achieve that goal increase dramatically.
- Our friends, at work and elsewhere, can have a profound impact on our health, such as if we smoke or are overweight.
- If a coworker we are close to is unhappy and talks to us about leaving her/his job, we are more likely to leave our job.
- Seniors who have weak social ties are more likely to die than those who have strong relationships and social networks.
- Most of us will find a new job by leveraging our current network of friends and their contacts.
As the musician Bruce Springsteen sings, “nobody goes it alone”.
Every now and then we have one of those rare moments when everybody can win if we all work together toward a common goal, when, as they say, all boats rise with the tide. In the case of increasing wellbeing in our places of employment, working together, deciding to not “go it alone”, can be a “win-win”. If each of us increases our wellbeing, we’ll likely experience more happiness and health and joy. And we’ll also likely be far more engaged and productive at work, so our employer will be happy—everybody wins!
We know of numerous examples of where improving wellbeing in the workplace has specific, measurable returns. It’s already clear that investing in wellbeing activities can reduce health care costs and improve employee engagement and retention.
Let’s work on wellbeing– together.