Workplace wellness and wellbeing seem to be the new buzz terms floating around on the internet today.

Numerous articles offering insight into statistical research, strategic decisions made by corporate giants and advice from wellness specialists, seem to flood us with so many conflicting tools and tips.

It’s no wonder executives are grinding in their place trying to figure out the next step to keep employees performing optimally and numbers where they need to be.

Let’s look at the situation we are in from a multi-level approach.

The Big Picture:

The workplace has not just changed with Covid-19 but seems to still be doing so at an increasing alarming rate.

Many incredible and wonderful initiatives were born because of this crisis and in the long term the world will rise to become a much better place all together.

However, to understand what workplace wellbeing programs, tools and strategies can be applied, I invite you to understand the Human Brain and its modes of operation.

Why is the “Big Picture” so important?

It serves as the frame in which our brain sees the world.

Over the past three months as a specialist in human behavior and a Neuro Integrative Coach, I have delivered over 20 wellness webinars starting with a few key questions meant to capture the general state of the 3,000+ employees that attended them from 13 countries.

When asked: “Where on the stress curve do you think you have you been in the past couple of weeks?” on a score from 1 to 10. 1 being Boredom and 10 being Burnout, the score was 7.8 from 298 participants in just one of these webinars. On average the score ranged from 6.9 to 8.3.

What valuable insight can this simple question provide us when it comes to the Human Brain? We are still mostly in a “Survival State”, otherwise known as a highly active Reptilian Brain and an activated Sympathetic system.

In simple terms our brain and body being fully interconnected, and one, are still in survival mode and we are mostly making decisions based on the primitive choices available to us by our reptilian brain:

  • Fight – Aggression
  • Flight – Anxiety
  • Freeze – Surrender or Submit

As you can see those choices are fantastic for an immediate threat, not so fantastic for chronic instability in a VUCA world.

The Human Picture:

For the sake of simplicity allow me to showcase two different operating states of our brain and neurology. Remember the Brain and Body are one, meaning which ever brain is driving our thoughts is also driving our actions and biology.

The two brains:

The Prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the modern brain, the computer if you will that is highjacked by the reptilian brain in a state of danger or “perceived” Threat.

The PFC is a miracle of biology allowing us as humans to thrive by overcoming our survival-based difficulties and creating the modern world we live in.

When we are operating out of the PFC in a rest and digest state we are:

  • Open to ideas
  • Receptive
  • More creative
  • Enjoy solving problems
  • Access higher order thinking
  • More compassionate towards others
  • Feel peaceful and stable

Let’s get real, which operating state do you really want your employees in? Naturally, the PFC.

Zooming in further:

The big question is how do we stimulate our employees to operate from the PFC and stay there?

Step 1: Re-define the Mental “Perceived” working Environment Through a New Culture

As we are starting to adapt and normalize to a Covid-19 world for now, keep in mind that the brain and our neurology will always be hijacked by the Reptilian when faced with a “perceived” threat.

Companies would be wise to rethink what the definition of a working environment is by starting with the perception prior to physical changes.

Similar to how an architect designs the environment first prior to implementation. Most companies rush to make the workplace Covid safe on the ground, reacting to the threat’s vs thinking strategically how to make the work environment Covid safe in the minds of their employees and clients first, and making changes on the ground accordingly.

Questions to serve as a guide can be:

  1. What makes our employees feel safe?
  2. What message is leadership sending out to the company about its corporate family?
  3. What and how can we show them we care about them first?
  4. How can we share knowledge with them to put their minds and hearts at ease?
  5. What kind of an energy do we want circulating on-premises and digitally through conference calls?
  6. How do we start our meetings, what is the theme or mood we are spreading and anchoring?

Step 2: Build Stronger Teams and Leverage Emotions through Purpose

Heard the phrase: “We are stronger together”?

In a VUCA world, cohesion and a sense of purpose is the magic medicine that will boost health and wellness both remotely and on premises.

We were never designed to live alone; in fact, we are designed to function as tribes.

One of the primary concerns for remote working and a virtual reality is that we can lose touch of our belonging to the tribe and that can counter the benefits of working from home.

The solution is to keep people communicating not just about work but also about how they feel and reinforcing why they belong.

Questions to serve as a guide can be:

  1. How can we let them (our team) know they are missed and matter?
  2. How can we be more transparent and invite them to join in creating the solutions we need?
  3. How can we use digital tools like Zoom, Teams, Menti, and more to bond vs work related topics?
  4. How can we all use digital tools to share valuable cross departmental data and make more effective informed decisions together?
  5. How and when can we create a safe space of unconditional positive regard where team members can share their fears, pains and ask questions to gain clarity?
  6. How are we recognizing great values like honesty, collaboration, care, sacrifice, hard work, long hours, dedication, seeing things through, taking on responsibility, supporting others, listening with love, leading change, bravery, and going the extra mile?

Step 3: Reflection and Upskilling are the Soundest Investment

To overcome any fear we face in our lives, we simply need to recognize whatever it is, “We can handle it”

In the simplest terms, your team will solve their own problems if you create the necessary time and space for them to reflect together on their own challenges and re-wire their brains through coaching, mentoring, and training.

The more they are reminded they can handle it, the more they will!

The best way to re-build faith in their abilities and that or your organization as a whole, is to train its mental and emotional muscles.

Questions to serve as a guide can be:

  1. What are they most afraid of? ask them.
  2. What knowledge and skills do we all need to cope and thrive in this new reality?
  3. How can we provide them with the knowledge and skills effectively?
  4. How much time do they have to reflect on what is happening strategically and operationally?
  5. Can we provide them with coaching support either internally or externally?
  6. Can we assign them to mentors internally or externally to drive skill levels and action?
  7. Can we use group coaching as a method to drive action learning and streamline operations?
  8. What are the next 10 steps they need to be ready for?
  9. How can we make sure they recognize their worth and power?
  10. How can we make sure they are valuable partners in our strategy in facing VUCA?

As a conclusion, allow me to simply state that since the brain and our neurology is the ultimate master of our actions and results, it might be wise to start with the brain as a framework for strategic initiatives in re-vamping workplace wellbeing.

To not just make our employees survive this storm but thrive in it with the greatest resiliency and readiness for change.