Corporate Wellbeing Vs. Gordon Gecko

Up until recently corporate wellbeing was a word not many of us had heard before. It’s a term that’s gained popularity over recent years in an attempt to increase productivity, stem the increase in absenteeism and reduce stress in the workplace.  With research showing the tangible benefits over a wide variety of corporate wellbeing programs, it’s surprising that it we haven’t heard of it before.

The 80’s work environment can be stereotyped by the movie Wall Street, where all you needed to succeed was a ruthless attitude, a macho ability to eat stress for breakfast, work long hours and be the biggest, baddest animal in the corporate pond. Of course it also helped if you had massive hair, but the succeed at all costs mantra was alive and well.

The 90’s saw the digital boom and young techies with their Red-Bull and all night programming sessions ruled the roost. Long hours spent staring at screens became the norm and entrepreneurs worked all night to get their products to market.  Daylight became a thing of the past and every waking hour was spent firmly glued to a laptop, the only social interaction coming from a twitchy arm gesture that pointed to the brewing coffee pot.

Then we have the noughties. It started off well before we had to bail out the banks, ride the recession and worry about ever-falling house prices. The only way to survive was to work and work hard. Whip cracking reverberated around the world and again, we sacrificed our free time in the fear of losing our jobs.

While working hard is commendable, often required and certainly not a characteristic that should be discouraged, the real price we often pay for our hard work is stress. And it’s a huge problem.

The Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) annual report focusing on the mental health of the nation makes a number of recommendations relating to mental ill health and work. According to the report:

70 million working days were lost to mental illness last year costing £70-£100 billion to the economy.
The number of working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety has increased by 24% since 2009 and the number of working days lost to serious mental illness has doubled.
9% of those on Employment & Support Allowance had “mental and behavioural disorders” as their reason for being unable to work.

With around 500,000 people suffering from work related stress, it would seem that the Gordon Gecko School of employment has its flaws.

The sudden interest in corporate wellbeing is an attempt, and rightly so, to address this problem. It makes perfect sense that if an individual is happy, then they’ll be more focussed, more productive and have the ability to get on with colleagues without resorting to an HR intervention. Employee dissatisfaction or disillusionment can also play havoc with customer care, frequently rubbing off on the people who keep your business afloat; the customers.

Companies like Google, Mitsubishi, SalesForce and Coca-Cola all have some form corporate wellbeing program in place. Ranging from meditation rooms, internal classes, yoga, healthy eating and exercise. The goal of these programs isn’t to make people work less, free to spend their day in a meditative trance, but to enable them to work more efficiently and deal with the stress of work, which there will always be some, in a more rational frame of mind.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced it before. We’re up against a deadline, we’re rushing around trying to get things done, our thoughts and priorities all over the place. The end result is often something slap-dash and far from our peak performance. With a calm and balanced mind we’re much more equipped to make better executive decisions and the work typically is achieved faster and to a better standard.

Aetna Healthcare is one such example. After employing a corporate meditation program the results were independently assessed by Duke University. They showed a 7% drop in healthcare costs and an additional 69 minutes a day in productivity. Looking after your employees and having concern for their wellbeing actually improves the things most CEO’s and business owners are interested in, revenue and profits.

While eastern philosophy can seem at odds with the suited world of corporate business, evidence suggests that they be much more closely linked than we originally thought.

About the author: Nick Huxsted is a regular contributor to Hip & Healthy & Natural News. He currently works at Will Williams Meditation London.