What is a ‘well’ workplace?

Written by Zara Rush and Becca Pelly-Fry | Co-Founders of IMPRINT

If you google the definition of wellness you get:

“Wellness is the act of practising healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, you’re thriving.”

This definition places emphasis on the individual but what if we could support each other in wellness and thriving? How could workplaces build healthy habits to better support their people to feel well and bring their vital, unique energy to fuel a thriving work ecology. 

To update the famous 17th century John Donne poem, “No human is an island, entire of itself; every human is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Despite the currently pervasive Western cult of individualism, the scientific reality is that we are not bounded, separated entities; we are porous. Molecules and microbial beings pass in and out of our systems all the time, through the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat; everything breathes everything else. We exist in a living ecosystem, where all life depends on all other life to survive and to thrive. Human beings exist in community, in relation to our surroundings, our society, our colleagues, our inner and outer worlds. When we take this interconnected mindset, we become more aware of the impact of our actions on others, and their actions on us. 

 Diagram: S. Lehmann, 2010

The holistic view of wellness encourages an awareness of this interdependence, citing eight dimensions, or pillars, of health and well-being: physical, occupational, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, financial, and environmental. As this diagram below suggests, all the pillars overlap like the petals of a flower, influencing each other and the sense of the whole:

The challenge is that we are currently living in a set of intersecting systems that are in crisis (economic, ecological, societal and philosophical); constant exposure to these stressors forces our nervous system to dysregulate, making one feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. Ever more people are recognising the fight, flight or freeze response in themselves and others; we are almost having to work against all odds to retain balance and to thrive. The outcome, as Matt Haig puts it, is that we are living on a ‘Nervous Planet.’ We know from psychologists and scientists that frequent exposure to stress has adverse effects on our mental health and causes an overproduction of adrenaline and cortisol which in turn can hinder important bodily functions; lack of focus, disturbed sleep, frequent headaches, weakened immunity, memory loss – to name a few.

In the ancient Indian modality of the Vedas there is the principle of Sattva, the quality of goodness, positivity, truth, serenity and balance. In nervous system language we call this the ‘green zone’, and in this zone a person can communicate well in their truth, be present, feel resourced, connected to others, engaged, curious, at ease, grounded, safe and able to cope with complexity; in other words…. THRIVING. In this zone all the petals of the diagram above work smoothly together as a whole, and the wonderful thing is that we can actually co-regulate each other to be in the green thriving space by tending to and befriending aspects of wellbeing which are being diminished or often get neglected. 

It’s important to remember that everyone responds to situations and challenges differently; not all brains or all bodies are the same. While one person might have a set of responses that follow a typical pattern (such as the Kubler-Ross Curve that Richard Watts talks about in his blog here), others might have a different set of responses. Being aware of our differences and being compassionate towards each other’s needs helps build trust and a sense of togetherness; co-regulating to survive and thrive. 

So how can we build healthy, supportive practices into our workplaces that make it easy for the Sattvic, green, thrive zone to exist?

Today for the purposes of this blog we are offering a top 10 of tips and tools to support building a well work ecology, but the call goes much deeper than this. At IMPRINT we are dedicated to supporting organisations to integrate holistic wellbeing into workplace culture. We believe it is people that make organisations and that collective care goes a long way to creating happy, sustainable and ‘well’ workplaces for the people that work in them. The key is practice, practice, practice, so it becomes integral.

10 tips for a well workplace:

  1. Start each meeting with sharing something from your life beyond work, opening a space for everyone to be truly human, e.g.:
    • Talk about your name, the meaning of it, how you feel about it 
    • What was the best/worst thing that happened in your life last week?
  2. Take your meetings on a walk (no phones, no pens, no notebooks)
  3. Create space for just BEING (without the DOING): 
  4. Bring plants into the office – share your space with non-human beings; they will rely on you to care for them, and in return they will take care of the air quality and the environment for you.
  5. How are you creative in your working day? What space can be made for creative (non – ‘productive’) meandering? Away from your desk? 
  6. Have a dedicated quiet space with soft furnishings, blankets, warm low lighting, tissues, a set of headphones. Anything that supports comfort and calm. 
  7. Offer incentives for mindful and physical practice (ie link up with gym / fitness offers, regular wellbeing workshops, a company Headspace subscription)
  8. Put up visual or written prompts around the workspaces that encourage mindful, heautiful practice 
  9. Create a shared community board – to share titles of podcasts, articles, books and more 
  10. Leaders within the organisation can find ways to creatively involve all staff in early stage plans, proposals and organisational direction, creating a listening and responsive environment. This toolkit provides guidance and a framework.

As a team, come up with your own list of ideas to make your workplace a well place to be.

And here is a free well-being resource from us to you:

Click here for five freely available hour-long well-being sessions, curated and produced by IMPRINT for people make it work and Freelance : Futures.

The sessions include sound healing, meditation, yoga and astrology. 

Zara and Becca are working in partnership with people make it work to develop bespoke holistic programmes for the cultural sector. Get in touch with us if you’d like to know more: https://www.peoplemakeitwork.com/holistic-programmes/