By Karen Gasparick

Real talk, a Workplace Wellness program won’t help you or your organization.  That is, a Workplace Wellness program, all by itself, in the usual “Office Biggest Loser Weight Loss Challenge” format we all know, won't help you.  

I don’t know anyone who sits back from their Outlook to-do list and ponders, “Gosh, I really wish I had another checklist to fill out and then keep track of to then turn in points so that I can then get a 10% off discount to a salad.”  Or, “Gee.  I need MORE busy work to occupy my time…” Said no one with a full time job EVER.  We’re all swamped.  We’re all stressed.  We all have a zillion things.  If we don’t, our brain will still create a zillion things, because that’s how the human machine ticks. 

The truth is, your lizard brain controls the “Fight or Flight” response to the perception of danger.  Your lizard brain also doesn’t have a real handle on the difference between “GRIZZLY BEAR ATTACK!” and, “MAJOR PRESENTATION DUE TOMORROW!”  If you don’t have anything to worry about, your lizard brain will find something.  Your adrenaline and other hormones act the same whether it is being chased by a mountain lion or if you have back to back to back meetings.   An app going off every hour to remind you to stand up is still another timer going off during your day.  The alarm won’t fix your stress.  But YOU can fix your stress. 

How DO we change our perception and experience in the workplace?  Clearly, 12+ hour days, less and less vacation time, sluggish wages, ANOTHER spreadsheet to fill out, plus the demands of “real life” are all signals that our experience desperately needs a makeover.  Your perceptions don’t need fixing.  Your perceptions are working just fine by telling you that all that other stuff is making you stressed out.  Maybe it’s the workplace itself that needs the overhaul. 

Jena McGregor in The Washington Post features Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford University, in the article This professor says the workplace is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. .  Pfeffer states: 

...more than 120,000 deaths a year and roughly 5 to 8 percent of annual health care costs may be attributable to how U.S. companies manage their workforces.

Managers, I’m looking at you. 

You’re the grass roots activists in this revolution.  If you supervise 1 person or 1,000,000 people, listen up.  

Everyone can benefit from real people taking a step back from the hum of “the machine” and taking a second to JUST BE COOL.  

Regardless if you are a CEO, you mentor one intern, or you are a middle manager with as many layers in the org chart under you as above you, this message is simple and applicable.  I challenge you to take a deep breath, step back, and think of the PEOPLE behind the next choice you make. 

Think about your own stress for a second.  Laundry piled sky high, presentation due at noon, 10 unheard voicemails, car needs a new muffler, restart the internet AGAIN, the vet costs HOW Much, is it the first of the month ALREADY, have to go pick up a birthday card, carpool, dentist appointment...  Did that list at feel familiar to you at all?  If it did, congrats, you’re a human.  You probably have a few thousand other things to add to that list too.  

Step two.  Now, all of the other humans that are involved in that next business decision you’re making? They have all of that shit too.  (Plus the thousand additional items.)  Now, imagine in this next decision you are able to use that choice to not only move your own situation forward, but you can ALSO take one or more of those “oh shit” items off of someone else’s list of stuff that’s stressing them out.  

JUST BE COOL.  Do someone else a solid.

That is robot-level transformation of the workplace.  And, it probably didn’t cost you anything except an extra minute to take a step back and remind yourself that you are real.  And you’re cool!  All of the others involved are real too.  

We’re all in this together, and by taking a stress item off of someone’s plate, you accomplish a few things.  First, you feel better don’t you?  Just being a “good guy” feels awesome. Second, taking something shitty off of someone’s plate frees him or her up to do something amazing.   Being the “good guy” and taking something shitty off someone’s plate, increases the chance that the extra time you made will let someone else have time to help you with your thing.  

Most importantly, if you are able to take something shitty off of someone’s plate, you’ve become a catalyst for REAL workplace wellness.  You’re changing the workplace itself - that was the thing that was busted in the first place, remember?   You're eliminating stress in someone’s life so that they can be their best self.  No wellness program “jog a thon” busywork Band-Aid temporary quick fix needed.  If everyone starts out with just trying to make one less shitty thing happen in their next decision, collectively, that's actually a lot of workplace improvement, and some solid steps towards fixing the system itself.  

Positivity and productivity are contagious, managers.   Regardless of your job, I bet you manage someone or something.  I challenge you to try this approach in your next decision-making adventure.  I invite you to start the chain reaction at your work and share back with us what happens.

About the author.

Karen Gasparick worked for 20+ years in design offices.  While slaying PowerPoint presentations and bringing bad-assery to the holiday potluck lunch, Karen also found fitness and real, honest wellness.  Karen lost 130 pounds, and gained ROBOT Level Strength!  

Karen is now “H.R.I.C.” (Head Robot In Charge) at The PurpleROBOT Network.  Contact us to learn about workplace wellness workshops, seminars, and training today!  Karen is an RKC Certified Kettlebell Instructor, loves outdoor adventures, and lives in Milwaukee, WI.  She can be reached via email at: