A well-rounded approach to health and wellbeing is just as important for a business leader as it is their staff, and the business itself. Healthy minds and bodies are energetic and motivating. They can lift spirits, increase productivity and deliver results that affect the bottom line.
In fact, a 2019 German study showed that physical activity can benefit, and potentially protect, brain structure and cognition – meaning the fitter you are, the better your brain works. There’s a reason Richard Branson attributes daily exercise as his number one secret to a healthy mind, alongside a list of very practical, brain-flexing tasks.
Here are a few ways you can create a culture in your business that puts health and personal wellbeing high on the priority list.
Encourage daily exercise
The Australian Government recommends adults aged 18–64 get active every day of the week. To help improve blood pressure, cholesterol, heart health, and muscle and bone strength, it suggests two and a half hours per week of moderate intensity activities (such as a brisk walk, swimming and even household tasks like raking leaves), as well as 75 minutes of vigorous activity (such as aerobics, jogging and organised sports). This type of high cardiorespiratory exercise increases oxygen intake and distribution that enlarges the heart and increases circulation, which improves energy and brain functions.
Tip: Promote desk-friendly fitness activities that are easy for each team member to do at home, such as tricep dips, arm circles and wall push-ups. Offer online subscriptions to a yoga class your team can dial into together one day a week, or start a weekly challenge for everyone to go out for a jog on their lunch break.
We know that curious people ask questions and seek out answers, but studies have also shown that curiosity significantly boosts learning and memory over time. A key 2009 study found that subjects were more likely to recall the answers to high curiosity-inducing trivia questions two weeks after the fact than questions that didn’t induce the same levels of curiosity. And a previous study by the University of California showed that the period between establishing an interest and learning the answer sees an increase in dopamine (the pleasure chemical), proving that the wait for the answer is sometimes more rewarding than the answer itself.
Tip: Model curiosity by asking questions as often as you can, and showing staff that you don’t always know the answer. Rather than giving rules for a project’s final result, give a few constraints and the general idea before leaving it up to the team to uncover the strategy that works best. Provide opportunities for staff to explore and expand their interests to ensure they remain challenged mentally.
Give your team time to take a break from regular tasks and focus on creative opportunities, even if it’s for half an hour a day. These may be work-related but they may also be hobbies or side projects. Encourage and acknowledge creativity stimulators in whatever form they take – from a simple rearranging of a study to participation in an online workshop for an unfamiliar, intriguing topic.
Tip: Give your team time to take a break from regular tasks and focus on creative opportunities, even if it’s for half an hour a day. These may be work-related but they may also be hobbies or side projects. Encourage and acknowledge creativity stimulators in whatever form they take – from a simple rearranging of a study to participation in an online workshop for an unfamiliar, intriguing topic.
Know your energy
Healthy eating is more than simply googling ‘healthy recipes’ and hoping for the best. Understanding what and how much energy your body needs to function is important, but finding the right balance is key. Energy is also about choosing the healthy options over the unhealthy. Grazing in the kitchen or skipping meals altogether because you’re caught up in a project may be easier than it should be when your home is your office, but your eating habits can be the difference between lethargy and vitality.
Tip: Buy yourself healthy snacks rather than chips and lollies. Without an office full of people to provide for, personal energy balance is exactly that – personal. But leading by example and suggesting healthy optionsis a good way to go.
Keep it simple
Less is indeed more. Opting for a decluttered life and work environment is part of choosing simplicity. Focus on the ‘haves’, not the ‘have nots’, and embrace the freedom that comes with having gratitude for the now. Comfortable, minimalist home office environment are great motivators and promoters of physical and mental wellbeing.
Tip: Keep your home office clear and neat. Assess what you actually need and invest in the latest technology and tools to help you stay connected, de-cluttered, on track and digitally secure.
Encouraging smarter and healthier work, not harder work, will improve personal productivity and push your business to reach higher and go further – and your team will thank you for it.
*This article was originally published on October 1st 2015 and updated on August 6th 2020.