by Andrew Fisher, Symmetry Fitness
Late last year I was sitting in the waiting room of my chiropractor, a colleague who has become a friend given the regularity of my visits. I flicked through a copy of National Geographic to read an article exploring who is the world’s happiest man. Surely I am the world’s happiest man? I have a loving wife, four wonderful children and a rewarding life as a self-employed health professional.
National Geographic thinks it might be a man called Alejandro Zuniga. Alejandro, a produce vendor is middle aged (like me), sleeps seven hours a day (mmmm), walks to work (I walk a lot atwork), eats six servings of fruit and vegetables a day (tick) , socialises six hours a day (no chance), loves his job (tick) and on the weekend indulges his passion for soccer (I get to indulge my children’s passion for sport, which I enjoy, so tick).
Alejandro’s choices are ones that favour happiness. The fact that he lives in the Central Valley of Costa Rica might set him apart from you and me and our busy lives, but I still believe that we attempt to make daily choices that make us happy.
They are choices replayed around the world in different yet similar ways. For example in Denmark, people generally live in tight-knit communities, safe in the knowledge their family’s healthcare, retirement incomes and education are taken care of. Singaporeans on the other hand work long hours, sometimes 60 hours per week to finding happiness and success through respect from their peers. Singaporeans also may believe that it is the countries economic environment that can afford them the opportunity to achieve happiness.
As you can see, happiness is a relative term. On the one hand we have an agrarian worker, a highly dollar-driven person and a socialist. Where does that leave us in Australia?
In Australia there is often a complete blurring of the line between work and play, making a work-life balance hard to achieve. So what can your employer do to engage employees in a workplace wellbeing program? And what does a wellbeing program look like anyway?
My area of expertise is health and fitness. Over the years I have provided bootcamp, yoga, gym sessions, weight loss, running training, boxing and massage services to organisations. While these are all invaluable, how did they serve the needs of employees? When these services have been offered as part of a workplace wellbeing program they’ve often been more tailored to the needs of the younger employees. And what happens when those that don’t fit into this category such as a more mature worker?
Danish happiness is closely linked to the notion of ” tryghed ” the peaceful warmth and safety one feels with their mother. A feeling that extends to their day-to-day life. A feeling that keeps people from unhappiness. Also in Denmark, people engage in pursuits such as cold-water swimming. Whilst I don’t suggest a wellness program should provide something quite like this, it is worth considering the varied needs of a workplace whose employees and ideas of a wellness program may vary greatly.
Like the Danish it is valuable for an employer to take a ‘whole life’ approach when creating a wellbeing program.
When thinking about health and fitness programs employers should remember that physical activity, nutrition and mental activity are the key issues to consider for everyone, and that not everyone’s needs are the same. For older adults it may be educational programs on exercises that cater specifically to functional movement, so crucial to enable people to healthily go about their activities of daily living. Injury management may be more important than active participation in a hardcore boot camp, keeping more mature employees active and injury free, but still actively engaged.
Creating opportunities to participate in a volunteer program and perhaps linking it to health and fitness goals such as helping disadvantaged people complete a local fun run can be mentally and physically rewarding.
As is true of all ages, there are multiple benefits to the older individuals such as improved mood, overall fitness, more energy, weight loss and better sleep. All in all, a fitter and happier workforce. A workforce that can be more productive but also one where all members feel like they can keep up with the ever increasing pressure to perform.
Happy employees are going to be more productive and feels they can continue to be a valuable asset to the company.
A clear definition of happiness is difficult to have, particularly in the workplace. Whilst most people are working longer hours it can be possible to achieve a work-life balance. A clear and ongoing dialogue is important between employers and employees to achieve this, one that is relevant and fulfils the needs of both parties.
After all, not everyone is going to be as happy as me, or Alejandro.
Andrew Fisher is the founder of Symmetry Fitness and is WiserLife’s key partner in physical fitness and functional movement services. If you’d like to know more about how WiserLife can support your employees to develop their physical health contact WiserLife on firstname.lastname@example.org.