Here is an article I just wrote for Open Exchange Magazine. It's called "Sustainable Happiness at Work." It just came out.
Here the reprinted article. For the full version, please see Open Exchange Magazine.
By Monika Silvia Broecker
People in Silicon Valley tend to work long hours, and the work environment is often fast-paced and stressful. It's not uncommon that people who are working under continuous stress experience alarming health issues such as insomnia, anxiety, depression and chronic pain, to only name a few.
This stress can also inhibit an individual's ability to be creative, and at organizations where the success of the business depends on creativity, that has an impact on the bottom-line. If you are under stress, your brain goes into this mode of just repeating the same thing over and over again. You are not as creative and innovative. Plus, the individual health conditions cost companies millions of dollars for medical claims including prescription drugs. Take a look into health statistics, and you will find that SSRI's (anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs) and pain killers are among the top.
Cutting-edge companies such as Google have recognized this and have programs in place that increase holistic health and well-being of their employees so that they can be even happier, healthier, more creative, effective and productive than they already are. And they are cutting down the costs for medical claims that way.
After leaving my position as Head of School of Personal Growth in Google University at the end of last year, I have been asked by other companies to bring in personal growth and stress management programs and do personal growth coaching. One thing I have heard over and over since starting the Center for Personal Growth is that employees really long to create meaning with their work and achieve a more sustainable work and lifestyle. The phrase work-life balance seems obsolete as it always already implies a separation. People are becoming more and more conscious and don't want to work from 9 to 5 anymore and then go home and start living. People want to experience fulfillment and meaning in their work, and if they enjoy their work and feel they can make a contribution to something larger, they don't mind working longer hours and giving their absolute best. People are really longing for this integration of their work with their life's purpose and to make a difference in the world; and for companies to attract and retain people, it's critical to offer this opportunity to them.
Learning and Development departments are being asked to offer programs that go beyond learning experiences that focus on essential business and professional skills and leadership capabilities.
Career Development can only go so far. It is crucial for companies to build holistic curricula that focus on the employee as a whole person; on their mental, emotional, physical development and on what I call "beyond the self."
Holistic health and well-being programs such as mindfulness and meditation courses have also found their entry into companies. Even more traditional companies want to learn from the incredible success of "Search Inside Yourself," a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence course that Google developed with Daniel Goleman.
There's also been an increasing demand for chronic pain management programs, and one very powerful solution is The Alexander Technique, a mind-body integration method and one of the most effective self-care methods for dealing with pain and stress. The Alexander Technique made a big difference at Google, and the other companies we introduced it to were amazed by the powerful and fast results as well.
At Google, we did a lot of research as to the effectiveness of our programs. One of the questions we researched was whether we could show that people who had gone through our programs were happier than people who had not gone through our programs. And we definitely had data that showed that this was the case. Participant's feedback such as "the way I respond to situations under pressure has changed," "I developed greater compassion and patience with people," and "I became more focused during work" are encouraging.