Health Is The Key To Profitability
Money or health, which is more important? I often think about the life of Steve Jobs and it’s clear that by the end of his life more time would be worth more than any amount of money.
As the saying goes, time is money. I would add the extent to which we have our health we have time
In 2008, the financial markets crashed. After a long period of steady financial growth, companies were hitting their numbers, but not as concerned with sustainability. The short sighted greed for more money lead to a collective neglect of doing what was sustainable and the result was the worst recession since the Great Depression which peaked in 1932.
We’ve seen what hyperfocusing on profit can look like, but knowing how to be sustainable and profitable is a more complex problem. It will demand that the needs of all people impacted by a company be considered: owners, employees and customers.
Helping employees work in ways that are healthy is an important part of building a sustainable business that can also build long term profits. Because, when it comes to health, there is always a cost to neglecting it.
As it turns out, working a sedentary office job can be hazardous to one’s health. The cumulative damage of prolonged sitting to one’s metabolism, immune system, musculoskeletal health and heart health results in lowered quality of life and healthcare costs in the billions.
Prioritizing health isn’t just about lowering costs related to sickness and burnout. Before money, we need the resource of health that makes work and profit possible.
All this seems obvious, but common sense does not mean common practice. I’ve encountered too many companies caught up in old patterns of working at the expense of health instead of working with health.
Solutions begin by asking good questions and perhaps a good place to start is asking:
Are we working in ways that make us healthier or unhealthier?
Many companies have unconsciously adopted unhealthy ways of working inherited from previous generations.
A workaholic attitude combined with anti-health practices like working long hours, eating junk food, skipping sleep, skipping meals and taking cigarette breaks have been the model of successful careers.
There are few real world examples of leaders who work healthy, not just work hard.
Working in ways that are sustainable for health is a path to sustainable profit growth. Simon Sinek, in his book Leaders Eat Last, cites the example of Costco as a company that focuses on long term sustainable growth by taking care of its people. This approach has resulted in Costco’s stocks making steady and predictable progress over the long term.
The moment we pay attention to our health at work, we begin to think of work as serving life rather than being life. We can take a back step and ask “How are we working?” and “Are we working in ways that are sustainable to health?” And as mentioned, “Is our time at the office making us healthier or unhealthier?”
People are less willing to work towards a retirement. As Tim Ferriss calls it: the Deferred-Life Plan. Millennials and many others are in search of work that gives them a fulfilling experience of life today.
Health needs to be a part of that picture and is a critical dimension of meaningful and fulfilling work experiences.
Working in ways that are sustainable to health means finding creative and innovative ways of working that honour the moment to moment health needs of the body throughout the day.
A healthy workplace is one where people are able to manage their energy so they feel autonomous, relationships between people feel respectful and trusting, and people are able to take care of their bodies by having the freedom to move and make healthy choices for themselves.
Health matters can be pushed into the shadows for only so long. Eventually our bodies comes out of the darkness in the form of a nightmare, which could be long term illness or disability.
We can all begin the business of listening to the sounds of health now. It begins with recognizing the subtle aches and pains, the fatigue, the hunger of our bodies here and now. It also feels like knots in the stomach when profits and numbers are prioritized over people.
Health calls for you whether you’re a frontline staff or an executive. Face them to begin the process of sustainable and profitable growth. Begin the conversation with your team with the question: Are we working in ways that make us healthier or unhealthier?
The next step would be clearly defining ways that the entire company can practice healthier ways of working that are sustainable. I would recommend starting small and slowly with these changes. Changing the way people work requires surgical precision since people get caught in habits and have concerns about being judged or left out.
Health initiatives should always be voluntary; invitations rather than rigid expectations.
Here are three micro-health changes that can begin the journey of creating a healthy and sustainable workforce.
- MOVE breaks: Incorporate two movement based breaks a day. One mid-morning (10 am) and one mid afternoon (3pm). Invite colleagues to take 5 minutes to connect and do some light stretches. Get re-energized and back to work.
- 30 Second Health Check-in: Take 30 seconds everyday to ask: What’s one small thing I can do for my health? Think low time/energy output. Examples are: drink more water, take the stairs, 5 deep breaths
- Learn to say No and ask for help. Type A people will resist this, but one of the unhealthiest patterns at work is the compulsion to say yes to everything and not recognizing and respecting one’s limitations. Being able to say ‘No’ or ‘I need help’ is a part of being productive and healthy.
These suggestions are simple and take very little time, but they are not easy. They require commitment and action. Pick one item that seems most realistic for you and share with at least one other person your intention to practice this healthy behavior. You might invite them to try one themselves and support and encourage each other along the way.