How Integrating Health and Well-Being Into an Organizational Culture Promotes Sustainable Employee Wellness
On this week’s episode of the Digitally Irresistible podcast, we welcome Laura Putnam, founder and CEO of Motion Infusion, a San Francisco-based company focused on transforming organizations to inspire better health and well-being. Her company merges evidence-based methodologies on wellness with best practices in learning and development to deliver creative solutions that address employee engagement, behavior change, and human performance to build healthier, happier, more innovative, and resilient organizations.
Laura’s bestselling book, “Workplace Wellness That Works,” has been featured by MSNBC, Forbes, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and NPR among others. She’s a frequent keynote speaker and has worked with a range of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, academic institutes, and nonprofits to be a catalyst for change.
On this episode, we discuss the tremendous impact an organizational culture can have on employees when it prioritizes health, well-being, and the benefits of staying “in motion.”
Laura’s Career Path to Create a Movement
As a former competitive gymnast, professional dancer, public policy staffer, international community organizer, and public school teacher, Laura’s career journey and personal experiences led her to the important role of movement builder in the world of health and well-being.
As a thought leader on health and wellness and CEO of Motion Infusion, Laura is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, trainer, and consultant who helps organizations recognize and address the critical need for more movement and wellness in our lives. Her revolutionary work has centered on leveraging every workplace to promote better health and well-being for our nation and our world.
An Organization “In Motion”
Laura’s mission is to energize individuals, teams, and organizations to, both literally and figuratively, get in motion and make a positive change toward wellness. Her mission centers on closing the knowing and doing gap in health and well-being.
Although we know we can improve our health and well-being simply by being active, eating healthily, not smoking, and maintaining the recommended body fat percentage, less than 3% of Americans actually exhibit these basic healthy lifestyle characteristics.
This is the knowing and doing gap that Laura is on a mission to close by empowering every workplace to promote better health and well-being. She finds that the problem, unlike in “The Field of Dreams,” is that if you build it (e.g., a workplace wellness program) they (e.g., employees) will not necessarily come.
Although workplace wellness programs are created with the best of intentions, they often don’t generate significant employee participation, and the employees that do participate don’t necessarily become healthier.
Getting organizations in motion to close the knowing and doing gap leverages the workplace to promote better health and well-being by inspiring employees to become healthier and a little closer to their best selves.
3 Stages of Workplace Wellness
In Laura’s book, “Workplace Wellness that Works: 10 Steps to Infuse Well-Being and Vitality into Any Organization,” she breaks down wellness into 10 steps that any organization can implement. Today she highlights the three overarching stages of this framework.
1. Start It: Workplace Wellness That Excites
Laura says workplace wellness that inspires change begins with shifting our mindset from being an expert to being an agent for change. People don’t get excited about yet another program or company initiative, but they do get excited about feeling like they’re part of something bigger—part of a movement.
This involves tapping into what matters most to people: envisioning what their best self looks like and moving closer to that goal. Rather than scaring people into making a change by measuring what’s wrong with them and expecting them to get excited about it, we need to help people start with what’s right and take steps to get even stronger.
In Laura’s experience, the most important part of this initial stage is to look honestly at the organization’s culture and see if it enables people to become their best selves simply by the way business gets done.
2. Build It: Workplace Wellness That Grows
The second phase builds on the why. This is where you develop strategies to engage everyone in the organization in the movement. Although it’s important to connect this to the emotional and physical well-being of employees, Laura recommends calling it anything but wellness so employees are more likely to get involved.
To do this, look for opportunities to integrate it into other initiatives such as leadership development, safety, and onboarding. This can include appealing to leaders with subtle references to wellness such as sharing practices to help them maintain the energy to be effective leaders and develop high-performing teams. You can also appeal to their desire to develop sustainable engagement and build winning teams. This ingrains wellness in the company culture and integrates into daily job functions.
At iQor, we live by our employee motto to Be More with iQor. This belief that we can all be our best selves permeates our organizational culture so we are empowered and supported to reach our goals. This leads to amazing employee experiences and a better customer experience from the inside out.
3. Make it Last: Workplace Wellness That Works
This final stage is about optimizing the organizational culture and environment to create a new norm so people are naturally healthier simply by being in the organizational environment.
This stage focuses on creating a sustainable movement that becomes the organization’s way of doing business going forward. On a simple human level, the sustainability of wellness initiatives often presents challenges even though we want to prioritize our personal health. For example, New Year’s resolutions often involve healthy practices that start off strong and dwindle by March.
To avoid this fate within an organization, Laura says it’s important to tap into our deepest human psychological needs. Avoid using extrinsic incentives, and instead appeal to the need to master skills, feel more connected, or fulfill a purpose.
Wellness for New Hires
When health and well-being permeate an organizational culture, new hires know things are good from the start, even if they can’t pinpoint the cause.
Laura illustrates this idea with a story about two young fish who swam by an older fish that asked them how the water was. As the younger fish kept swimming, one asked the other, “what is water?”
This is how we can describe culture and environment: it’s the water we swim in. Like the two young fish in the story, we may not see it but it impacts our behaviors.
Though we think of ourselves as creatures of habit—especially in the realm of wellness—Laura argues that we’re more creatures of culture and environment. New hires can feel that the water is different and they swim in it naturally without necessarily defining what’s different.
Implementing a Framework for Wellness
Laura notes how we’re all born to move, but are told to sit from an early age. Her framework guides organizations to create a culture that changes that. People know how to be healthy, but often struggle to sustain a healthy lifestyle, despite the abundance of guidance on how to do so.
By appealing to other workplace motivations, organizations can promote wellness in ways that actually work for employees. And by leveraging the workplace to promote better well-being, we can close the gap between knowing and doing and create a more sustainable commitment to healthier lifestyles.
What Laura Does for Fun
For fun, Laura moves as much as she can with others! She brings out her inner gymnast whenever possible, whether in yoga class, on the ski slopes, or hiking in nature.
To learn more about Laura and workplace wellness, connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, her speaking engagement website www.lauraputnam.com, and her organizational wellness company website www.motioninfusion.com.