Many businesses are sick, or at least unwell, but you can make your’s better.

Somebody asked me whether I thought business was sick referencing my use of the word wellness. I said that I thought some businesses, like people, were sick, some unfit, and some fit and working to stay that way. However, overall, much like the general population, today’s workplaces are largely unwell in one way or another. Since some of you might be wondering what I mean exactly, I’ll explain.

According to Gallup, only 13% of employees are engaged at work worldwide, and in another poll, when surveyed anonymously, 85% of employees report hating their jobs. Read that again, not just disliking their jobs, hating their jobs. Now, couple those ugly statistics with the fact that in 2017, New Voice Media and Forbes reported that $62 billion was lost to poor customer service. And if you’re asking why, some of the main reasons cited were that the customers felt unappreciated and encountered unhelpful, rude staff. And if you’re having trouble seeing a connection, think hard, unhappy employees aren’t exactly prone to deliver happy service.

So, do I think business is unwell? Yes! And it seems to be getting worse. Since 2013, we’ve seen a steady increase in lost dollars to bad service to the tune of about $5 billion per year. That’s a lot of loss. It’s like watching your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol steadily increase over the years to the point where something has to be done or you’re going to have a heart attack or stroke … or both.

So here we are with sick or at least unwell businesses marked by symptoms that are largely going unnoticed by the people in charge. However, things can be done to turn it around.

Much like individuals, wellness involves both mental health and physical health, and if we think of the culture and environment of the workplace as its mental health, the processes, systems, procedures, and policies can be likened to physical health. The well being and health of both is necessary to personal wellness as well as business wellness. And, as being well makes us happier people who are friendlier and more fun to be around, so it is with businesses. When the workforce that is impacted by environment, culture, processes, and systems, feels good, they can and are more prone to make customers feel good.

Now, before we go any further, fear not, I’m not going to tell you that your business needs to get some pool and ping-pong tables and that you’ll need to start providing daycare and free lunches with happy hour on Friday. Although these things would be pretty cool and I’m sure your employees wouldn’t object, wellness is not about that. It’s about making changes to how managers work with their teams and changing processes so that they are more beneficial to employees and customers.

Let’s begin with the “mental health” side of things which essentially focuses on the culture and environment. And where better to start than the key drivers of the environment, management. In well workplaces, managers lead people instead of trying to manage them. They engage their workforce in conversations where they get their thoughts and ideas on solving the problems. They empower their teams and trust them to get the jobs done that they know how to do, and they continuously encourage team members by praising the things they do right and helping them remove obstacles that hamper progress. Put simply, managers who lead build a team where employees with the right talent and experience can come to the front and be leaders themselves when the opportunities arise. In contrast to the traditional leader-follower model, businesses working toward wellness build teams of leaders where managers facilitate and celebrate instead of trying in vain to manage people with old-school command and control tactics. This is the key to healthier cultures and work environments. This is where better business mental health begins.

On the “physical health” side, well businesses regularly conduct a complete review of processes, systems, procedures, and policies. They look for steps that make employees’ and customers’ lives difficult. They look for things that are unnecessary. They look for where they are making it hard for workers to work, and subsequently, hard for customers to work with them. This requires them to listen to their employees and customers, and to get ideas from all who use and experience their systems. It requires redesigning things to make them easier and more relevant for users, customers, and all who touch them. It means getting rid of siloed activities that benefit the few but impede the many. And although it may potentially involve short-term cost, businesses working to be well focus on long-term benefits including efficiency, employee satisfaction, and ease for customers which will yield higher revenues and lowered costs. While none of this happens quickly and it can be complicated, following this road map for improvement is a must if you hope to have better business physical health.

Put simply, business wellness is ongoing work, it’s a lifestyle so to speak where managers lead by engaging, empowering, and encouraging while teams work together to create better systems that benefit them and customers. And if enough of you heed this and begin the work, maybe those ugly statistics that were cited above might just shift in a more hopeful direction. Ultimately, since all of us work and all of us are customers, maybe, just maybe, we might also make life in general just a little better too. All in all, not too bad an outcome when you think about it.

So, why not get to work on this today? Why not get in the business gym and start the workout that advocates managers leading and systems being more employee- and customer-friendly? Why not start today to create better workplace life, better customer life, and better life? Be well.

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