How Serving in The Army Taught This Leader The Importance of Employee Wellbeing
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Once upon an time, protecting the wellbeing employees might have been considered a luxury for a few fortunate workers or a fluffy topic to soft leaders with nothing else to worry about. But things are changing. The U.S. military has recognized the importance of mental health since 2009 when it launched its “resilience training” program. While the corporate sector has been slower to catch on, more than 90% of leaders believe promoting wellness boosts performance. I have learned many valuable lessons about employee well-being from my experience as a former military leader. Today, I will share them with you.
The military and mindfulness
The big M has become more popularized over the last few years, yet not every organization thinks it’s useful or feels comfortable discussing it. Most people wouldn’t associate themselves with the military.
But mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment. This skill is even more important in a survival situation where your team’s inability to remain alert could be dangerous. The army teaches soldiers how stay present and make better decisions under pressure. They encourage mindfulness practices such as sitting with your thoughts for a few moments each day. As well as boosting on-the-job performance, the military has found this training helps soldiers to deal with the after-effects of being in a traumatic situation.
Standard employees may not be able to deal with life-and death situations, but they can follow similar principles. Mindfulness in the workplace is about being able to deal with the emotions and conflicts that arise every day. You need to teach employees how to become more aware of the present moment and accept their feelings, thoughts and decision-making processes instead of being slaves to them. It’s the difference between feeling stressed or feeling overwhelmed. I’ll allow myself to breathe and let it go for a while. “
Thanks in large part to the growing awareness of mindfulness, it’s now easier than ever for your team to learn how to deal with their heads. Calm’s Calm app has many guided meditations that are related to work and take less than ten minutes, making them easy to fit into busy schedules. Why not offer a free subscription for everyone who works for your company?
It’s all about the culture
You’d struggle to find an organization with a more tight-knit culture than the army — those who have been in the military often describe it as a “brotherhood.” Everyone is united by their shared purpose to serve the country, authority is respected for the most part and everyone knows they have to work together to achieve their goals.
68% of veterans say they’re proud of their service. How many people would be proud of their former employer?
You can try to emulate this idea of a “brotherhood” by giving your employees a sense of purpose and connecting them to the company’s greater mission. Your values should be a part of your daily work and you should share them with your employees. The way you lead can make a huge difference. Do not create a dog-eats-dog or hustle-hard work environment. Instead, show empathy, transparency, and trustworthiness. Are you being truthful with your team and trying to do your best for them? To show that you care about everyone’s well-being, create an agile work environment and allow everyone to try new things. Also, give them the freedom to let go when they need it. You may be able to use technology to help your team connect and get more out of their job — for instance, tools that facilitate remote working or offer education.
Don’t forget the financial side
It’s a well-known fact that the U.S. military looks after its soldiers. Most soldiers get a decent salary, but they also enjoy a variety of perks. These include:
- Free college at public colleges.
- A savings deposit program with 10% interest (for those in a combat zone).
- Affordable housing.
- Affordable life insurance.
- Allowances for food and housing (in some cases).
Many private-sector companies could learn from this. Employers are often more interested in improving the corporate culture and offering perks, while employees want to make more. The truth is something in between — there’s more to a positive working experience than good pay, but without financial security, you’re probably not going to get people to stick around or produce their best work.
Who is going to listen to the guided meditations on Calm when they can’t fill up their car with gas?
In the current economic climate of rising inflation, high interest rates, and increasing living costs, this is something you shouldn’t ignore. Do some market research to find out how much other companies offer employees in similar roles. Also, look at your budget to determine if you can offer more.
Wellbeing is just the beginning
With the global corporate wellness market set to reach $90 billion by 2026, overlooking this could mean you get left behind. You won’t only make your employees happier, but you will also increase their productivity and commitment to the organization.
Employee well-being is not as easy as implementing one action. And a strategy that works in one company may not work in another. You’ll be amazed at the results if you test different approaches and are willing to adjust them until you find the right one.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.