Mindful Workplace Culture? Let's Talk R&R

During my early childhood, adolescent, and younger adult years, I remember these cherished and vivid memories of my mother sitting-cheerfully and pleasantly-at either the kitchen or dining room table with a pen and note card in hand, writing vivaciously to friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors- detailed and thoughtful notes embodying an unwavering and bountiful sense of love, gratitude and appreciation. My mother always had an endless (and impressive) supply of pens (collected from college bookstores along the way), note cards, envelopes, stickers, and stamps, quite representative of the infinite and perpetual love she showed and bestowed upon not only her family but those she came in contact with. My siblings and I always joked that my mother could independently keep our local post office in business as she hand-delivered the notes to be mailed rather than stopping by the mailbox up the street from our house. The truth of the matter is, despite the laughs and jokes, there was no greater eagerness and fervor expressed when opening a letter from mom. From "Thank You" and "Just Checking In" (making sure we stayed out of trouble in college) notes to "Happy Birthday" and "Thinking of You" cards, we always knew these letters were coming from a genuine place of heart, compassion, thoughtfulness, and kindness. How is it possible, that with such embodied compassion and thoughtfulness, that we have diverged from care to convenience in a short 1-2 sentence text message?

When have workplaces become less human? This seems like a rather silly question considering the surge of big data and digital technology, allowing us even greater access to people, more and more people. From a like and share on Facebook and a 5-second Snapchat to a 140-character Tweet and personalized Instagram, humans are all around us. However, even with unlimited access, we are MEANINGFULLY CONNECTING with so few. In this particular instance, the limited amount of intentional, meaningful human interaction and communication can negatively influence both our personal and professional lives. This disconnection from meaningful human interaction towards pseudo communication can adversely impact workplace metrics closely associated with employee health, happiness, appreciation, recognition, morale and satisfaction. However, despite such influx in digital technology, humans have always been a part of the picture. We-similar to the power we possess in applying self-care and preventative measures- have the power to step outside of the box (i.e our digital tech devices) and meaningful interact and engage with those around us (unless they are a Yankees fan ;) ), an action representative of strengthening our emotional IQ.

Even through the diverse generational changes and interdisciplinary, holistic well-being employee perks, the number one reason employees are leaving their place of work is due to lack of appreciation. Even more, this turnover is costing employers as high as 150% of an employee's base salary. As we look to provide a cultural imperative of meaningful and purposeful human interaction, connection and collaboration, the integration of R&R can positively impact workplace culture. From personal and professional development and employee happiness and satisfaction to productivity, retention, and engagement, the R&R components forming your foundation are keys to successful and healthy culture. Although I am a HUGE proponent of rest and relaxation (and, of course, Arianna Huffington's book "The Sleep Revolution"), the R&R for which I reference here is recognition and reflective listening:

  • RECOGNITION: As humans, despite diverse races, languages, religions, ethnicities, cultures, etc. we are all connected by one commonality. This one commonality is a need and want to be appreciated and recognized (Recommended Read: "How To Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie). This appreciation and recognition is not reflective of a Hollywood red carpet rollout. Likewise, recognition and appreciation do not need to come in the form of lavish gifts or rewards (although, no one's mad if a cruise to the Bahamas was part of the deal!). Rather, the simple gesture of writing a genuine and thoughtful "Thank You" note for the hard work produced by employees to maintain and sustain a profitable and growing business with satisfied customers/clients is received with more gratitude and appreciation than another financially-charged reward (Check out "How To Say A Super-Charged Thank You here). Thank you notes, handwritten with care, thoughtfulness, and appreciation, provide a sense of warmth and personal flare, components that digital technology cannot provide. Additionally, organizations with recognition programs had 31% lower voluntary turnover than organizations without recognition programs. So stock up your communication toolkit with more stamps, letters, pens, and post its!
  • REFLECTIVE LISTENING:"Effective listeners remember that "words have no meaning - people have meaning. The assignment of meaning to a term is an internal process; meaning comes from inside us."- Larry Baker. When it comes to the workplace environment, the possession of hard skills, such as software development or project management, are integral to company success. However, just as, or even more, important than these hard skills is the presence of an individual's soft skills. In a 2014 CareerBuilder survey it showed that 77% of employers seek out candidates with soft skills. These soft skills, such as communication, personal habits, ability to listen, and temperament, are gateways for both company innovation and growth. In order to expand upon such company innovation and growth, reflective listening and effective questioning must be embraced by not only job candidates but leaders as well. Leaders that possess such soft skills approach communication from a "sense and respond" perspective rather than a "command and control" perspective. As written in an article in Fast Company, "The sense and respond leadership style is fueled by democracy within the workplace. Companies that outline democracy as a key value communicate that employee participation is a prerequisite to innovation." In providing a foundation of reflective listening and effective questioning, workplaces are able to build stronger cultures of trust, camaraderie, and collaboration.

Here's to more pens, note cards, envelopes, stamps, and stickers. Here's to open and collaborative communication where reflective listening, innovative growth, and genuine interest are the norm. May your workplaces be happier and healthier because of it!

Best in health,
Colleen M. Faltus
President and CEO
Healthy Fusions, LLC

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Colleen M. Faltus

With a passion and enthusiasm for workplace well-being and lifestyle medicine, I founded my own company, Healthy Fusions, an interdisciplinary and holistic workplace well-being company based in Boston, MA. As the President and CEO of Healthy Fusions, I am an advocate of the power self-care, prevention, and lifestyle medicine has on adding years to life and life to years.

I earned my BS degree in Applied Exercise Science from Springfield College (2008) and MS degree in Nutrition and Health Promotion at Simmons College (2015). I currently hold certifications through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and National Wellness Institute (NWI) as a certified personal trainer and worksite wellness specialist. Additionally, I am a member of the Worksite Wellness Council of MA as well as an active committee member for their annual conference.

Colleen has experience writing and speaking about lifestyle medicine at both the individual and population health level. My expertise also lies in the design and implementation of people-centric health and well-being programs, with previous experience in both the commercial sector at Sports Club LA and Equinox as well as corporate sector at Google and State Street Corporation. My knowledge and expertise in the development and implementation of individual and population-based health and well-being programs embodies the significance of lifestyle medicine solutions for sustainable, positive health outcomes. For more information or to contact Colleen, please connect with her on LinkedIn here

Specialties: organizational health and well-being program planning and implementation, lifestyle medicine practices and solutions, disease and stress-management, individual and population-based exercise prescriptions

Read more from Colleen on Women's iLab

1) Jacobsen, D. (2014 , April 4). 25 Great Statistics on Employee Recognition . Retrieved from Globoforce : http://www.globoforce.com/gfblog/2014/25-great-statistics-on-employee-recognition/

2) Lucas, S. (2013, August 30 ). How Much Employee Turnover Really Costs You . Retrieved from Inc.: http://www.inc.com/suzanne-lucas/why-employee-turnover-is-so-costly.html

3) Nowogrodski, A. (2015 , February 23). Why Listening May Be The Most Important Skill To Hire For . Retrieved from Fast Company : http://www.fastcompany.com/3042688/hit-the-ground-running/why-listening-might-be-the-most-important-skill-to-hire-for