How I fell into focus: Workplace Wellness
- on August 15, 2013
Some time ago, I sent an email into an abyss. You know the kind. You get an idea, you abandon all the things you're currently working on, do an internet search, go down the rabbit hole, and come out emailing someone about something you'd never thought much or anything about before and then a few minutes later the whole episode is virtually wiped from your memory because you're on to chasing the next rabbit down the hole. Oh, that's only me? Nevermind.
Anyway, I sent an email and forgot about it and a few weeks later I heard back from Charlie Bryan at the Health Department, thanking me for my interest in Workwell Lawrence. "Huh? Ohhh, right." I recalled talking with some folks along the way about the Community Health Plan that's been in the works for some time when I was writing an article about it for the hospital. And then I recalled searching around because I thought that plan might be of use for clients of The Ballard Center or possibly we could be of use to it, so I started looking for contacts. And through that I ended up sending an email to the health department about Workwell Lawrence, which is not at all what I set out to do but you know, I get side tracked.
So when Charlie wrote back it took me a minute to remember what I'd done and why. But it came flooding back. I was interested in helping my employees and myself be healthier inside and outside of the four walls of Ballard. I had decided what Ballard could "do" - at least in this capacity - was be good role models, be well, be attentive. I had, some time before, created a Bounce Back into Health with Ballard group that is attended on Fridays by several employees from community social service agencies, and I wanted to take Ballard's efforts to the next level.
And then I met Carolyn Crawford. Carolyn came to Ballard to meet me, knocked me over with her tiny but strong and beautiful presence, and invited me to be on the team for Workwell. I jumped at the chance and was immediately the lucky recipient of an invitation to attend the Workwell Kansas Leadership conference in mid-June, where a dozen Lawrence businesses and organizations met to learn, process, and strategize about what workplace wellness could be, should be, and will be in their work spaces.
Inspired, I returned to Ballard and began work on writing wellness policy for our staff. This is daunting work, especially on limited budgets. All companies struggle to find dollars and time with which to do effective workplace wellness. Few would argue its importance, but still, we struggle with the actual implementation. Ballard Community Services is a small non-profit, operated solely on donations, United Way funds, and the minimal tuition we charge for child care for some of Lawrence's lowest-income families. Certainly, we can't afford to put in a gym. We can't afford to provide free fruit all day every day for our employees. We can't even afford to pay them to go for a walk. What the heck was I going to do to improve the wellness of my staff?
You better believe Elizabeth Ablah and Judy Johnston, the presenters at the Leadership Institute, had ideas for me. It's happening folks - with or without dollars, we are improving our overall wellness and our awareness of the importance of good health for employees. It's good for everyone. By improving the health of our staff, we lower healthcare costs. We improve the performance of our employees on a daily basis because they're more energetic and mentally sharp. We reduce the usage of unnecessary sick days. Also, we're investing in a staff that will know that their employer cares about it - not just about the work, but about each person. Everyone wins.
So I went down a rabbit hole and came out the communications coordinator for the Workwell portion of Livewell Lawrence. And I'm so very happy about it. I am improving Ballard Community Services. I hope you want to improve your workplace as well. You don't have to be the CEO do make this work. You just have to be interested, and willing to ask important questions and make important chance.
I learned how to do it from Elizabeth Ablah at Workwell Kansas. And you can too!
She'll be back in Lawrence for the [Third Annual Workwell Lawrence Symposium] on September 10. It's at the Holiday Inn Convention Center from 8:00 - 12:30. I promise it will be more than worth your while. Dr. Ablah is energetic, passionate, and informed. I really recommend that anyone who owns a business, runs a business, or works at a business attend. Remember! Workplace wellness is not just for CEO's!