Seeking wellness in the workplace? Have an impromptu Taylor Swift jam session.

By     Sep 24, 2015
You know how it plays out. You’re watching Wolf of Wall Street and the office run by Jordan Belfore is filled to capacity with drugs, prostitutes and other fun illegal shenanigans. Imagine sharing an office building with a company where this all takes place… except without the prostitutes, drugs and fun illegal shenanigans, but the same smiles on everyone’s face and the laughter being tossed back and forth.

Within only a few weeks of working at NAS, I’d taken notice to some pretty strange things with our upstairs office neighbor, The Motley Fool. One day I’d see people carrying Nerf guns. The next, there would be rumors of a petting zoo. Yes, a petting zoo. However, the hedge fund and stock advisor is also well known for its generous benefits and vacation package, which is unlimited. As if the Nerf guns weren’t enough.

The basic premise behind The Motley Fool is this: a happy worker is a good worker. That is, establishing a safe and free work environment allows for employees to be more creative and more disciplined which, consequently, increases productivity. This management model of paying attention to employees’ wellness is slowly but surely beginning to gain popularity.

Soon after I started working at NAS, my colleague, NAS Director Sunny Widmann, and I attended the annual Leading to Well-being Conference, hosted by George Mason University. While there, we learned about some of the different components of well-being in the context of office culture and business management.

Whilst I had very briefly studied this type of management at university, I’d never really seen or experienced well-being in the office before working at NAS. What’s so intriguing and fun about the inner workings of NAS is the company’s emphasis on the individual staff member’s opinions and ideas. This made me more excited and curious about employee well-being management.

I arrived at the hotel ballroom about 20 minutes before everything was supposed to begin. I was greeted by a fellow attendee, who gave me a hug. Then, one of the GMU volunteers introduced himself to me, also with a hug. And after opening remarks began, a woman came in late, sat to the left of me, and before settling down… she gave me hug. Even though it was 8 o’clock in the morning, the energy in the ballroom was calm yet vivacious, sort of like a semi-mellowed down studio audience at a taping for an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show. Only, instead of the talk show guru, we got the work place guru, Daniel Pink. I actually didn’t know it at the time I was attending the conference, but in most respects Daniel Pink is considered to be the great Buddha when it comes to business and work place innovation. Naturally, he was more than able to fully contextualize and make the case for well-being in the workplace.

Pink brought up autonomy in management: the idea that giving your workers more sovereignty helps them become more engaged in what they’re doing. The more control someone has over her/his self-direction, the more likely he or she is to be deeply engaged in their work.

This is the part where things get a little, for all intents and purposes, funky. The last workshop I attended was called ‘Nurturing Your Nature for Success and Well-being’, facilitated by some of the staffers from the Chopra Center. I use the term ‘funky’ in a jesting manner. This workshop hinges slightly on the ultimate point of presence being contagious. Meaning: the well-being of the individual works for the well-being of the entire group.

To achieve well-being, the Chopra Center staff led us through lessons and exercises popular in Eastern cultures, specifically the three pillars of well-being: yoga, meditation and ayerveda. In speaking primarily about ayerveda, which is the state of vibrant balance with all layers of life integrated and aligning with the rhythms of nature, there are three main doshas, each with their distinctive qualities. (I know, let me walk through it.) The three doshas are vata, kapha and pitta. While humans are born with all three doshas perfectly blanced out, we become more of one than the other two as we trudge through life and its many complications. For example, my dosha is kapha. Kapha traits include: heavy, slow, cold, strong build, large soft eyes, smooth skin, easily gain weight, naturally calm, thoughtful, and loving but very stubborn. To balance the kapha dosha: seek out stimulation of new experiences, stay warm, regularly clear your space to avoid clutter, exercise daily and seek out bright colors.

Again, for those who haven’t studied or read about this particular component of Far East mindfulness and well-being it can seem somewhat abstract. Ultimately, the goal is to use self-awareness to become self-balanced and, to the greater extent, contribute to the sustainability of a balanced staff. We’ve written about the principles of Yoga before and how Sunny Widmann brings these into her work. The idea is similar.

One other component to well-being is having a sense of play. Often, when hearing or seeing the word we think of children or maybe theatre. However, you can extend that to the office as well. When you think about it, the fundamentals of play easily translate to the needs of the workplace. Having a sense of play allows for a free and creative environment. Scientifically speaking, playing around helps to release endorphins in the brain (the body’s natural happy drug) and helps to cultivate more energy. Consequently, this aids in creating a more free and safe space for workers. Recently, we had an impromptu dance session to Taylor Swifts “Shake It Off.” No, you will not find pictures of me. It was around 3 p.m. and some of the staff were feeling fatigued from the day. So, our very own Sunny turned on Swift’s song and we all began to dance. Er, well I guess I did something like dancing. By the end of the session, everyone was fully energized and ready to continue the day — albeit, with Taylor Swift stuck in their heads.

These are only a few components of focusing on well-being in the workplace to maybe consider including in your office. Maybe not so much to try to be like Jordan Belfore and his gang of hoodlum investors (we all know how that ends), but to really strive to make your place of work a free and safe environment for your employees and colleagues. Whether that’s figuring out your dosha or playing Zip-Zap-Zop (a great improv warm-up game we love), start somewhere. Take it from someone who’s enjoying the NAS well-being experience, you’ll be glad you did it.