Author Archives: Liz King

Why Alaska Is A Model For Workplace Wellness

Alaska - a model for workplace wellness

Alaskans ranked first in the country for overall happiness and well-being, making the state a model for workplace wellness. (Photo via NOAA Photo Library, Flickr)

Inspiration for excellent workplace wellness typically comes from successful companies or HR experts. But what if we could learn best practices for workplace wellness from a whole state?

The Last Frontier state is our source of that inspiration this year.

Alaska ranked at the top for overall well-being and happiness in the comprehensive 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The annual survey polls more than 176,000 people across the country.

The Well-Being Index measures five aspects of our lives:

  1. Purpose: liking what you do each day, being motivated to achieve goals
  2. Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life
  3. Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  4. Community: liking where you live, feeling safe, having pride in your community
  5. Physical: having good health and enough energy for daily life

Alaska leads the country almost every category, reaching the top spot overall for the first time since Gallup-Healthways began tracking well-being in 2008. Hawaii and South Dakota round out the top three for 2014.

Where does your state rank? Read the full analysis of survey results.

City and state rankings are common fodder for Internet listicles — and often based on shaky data — but the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is one worth noting. Not only the research comprehensive and deep, the results appear to correlate with other markers of success.

“Well-being surveys aren’t just for bragging rights,” writes Washington Post staffer Reid Wilson, in his GovBeat post, “Best State in America: Alaska, Where Well-Being Is Highest.”

“Previous surveys have found that better scores are related to positive outcomes such as lower workplace absenteeism rates, better performance at work, lower obesity rates, and lower rates of teen pregnancy and crime,” Reid writes.

Read on to find out why Alaskans are so happy — and why their state is a model for workplace wellness.

The 6 Markers of Alaskan Well-Being (And Workplace Wellness)

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Secrets To Building A Happier Workplace

the secrets to workplace happiness

“Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct.” —Eleanor Roosevelt (Image via Marcie Casas, Flickr)

Workplace happiness is in the spotlight now as Japanese tech company Hitachi recently announced its latest product, a wearable “mood monitor” for employees.

The device looks like an ID badge but contains “an acceleration monitor to measure the wearer’s motions throughout the day in real-time, based on the concept that an employee’s physical movements indicate or influence mood,” according to Carolyn Cox of The Mary Sue.

“When the devices are worn by an entire office,” Cox writes, “workplace happiness is measured on a scale of 1-100.”

Each monitor collects individual data 50 times per second, then sends it to Hitachi’s cloud-based servers where it is taken together to “interpret the group’s overall mood,” according to The Wall Street Journal’s Japan Real Time blog.

Using this data, employers can pinpoint problem areas. One test company used the Hitachi data to restructure break time and reported significantly increased employee satisfaction as a result, according to Japanese news site RocketNews24.

The reaction to Hitachi’s product announcement has been mixed. Even though Big Data is already prevalent in and out of the workplace, a “mood monitor” may go a step further and could raise privacy concerns.

It’s also a pricey way to gauge workplace happiness, at least for now. Each individual monitor has an annual subscription fee of $843.

But the Hitachi device brings up an important discussion about workplace happiness and how to achieve it.

Read on to find out why building workplace happiness is easier than you think, with or without Big Data’s help.

Why Workplace Happiness Isn’t Your Real Goal

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7 Ideas For Surviving The Winter Workplace Blahs

surviving winter workplace blahs

Don’t let the winter workplace blahs turn your organization upside down! (Image via purits, Flickr)

It’s cold, it’s cloudy and the sparkle of the holidays is long gone. How can you help your employees beat the winter workplace blahs?

Up to 20 percent of Americans suffer from mild symptoms associated with the winter blues, according to Duke Today writer April Dudash. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a more intense version of depression that occurs during the winter months. About 11 million Americans suffer from SAD.

Even a mild case of the “blahs” can wreck havoc in a workplace. Employees drag in late feeling glum, disengaged and low on energy.

Emotions are contagious (and can even be passed on via smell!), so one person’s winter blahs can quickly become everyone’s blahs. When that happens, productivity, customer relations and employee health suffer.

Self-care is especially important for company leaders during this time, since their behavior, mood and energy levels set the tone for the organization as a whole.

Escape is our natural impulse when the blahs hit — maybe to a daydream about a tropical beach! — but in fact, engaging with our emotions, our work and each other is the better way to keep the blahs at bay. Engaging keeps a workplace resilient!

Help your organization be resilient to the winter workplace blahs by incorporating the following ideas into your employee wellness program.

7 Ideas For Surviving The Winter Workplace Blahs

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The 3 Myths of Workplace Kindness Debunked

workplace kindness can be a simple as a smile

A culture of workplace kindness makes for kinder employees and happier customers. (Photo via Hans Peter Meyer, Flickr)

Are myths about workplace kindness holding back your organization?

Workplace kindness has a history of being shortchanged. We’re taught the benefits of being kind to family, to friends and in the community, but not on the job.

Traditionally the workplace has been idealized as a place of ruthless competition, independence and closely guarded emotions.

This is changing, as research reveals the profound benefits of kindness in all aspects of our lives, including business.

JoAnn C. Jones, a longtime nurse, tells the magazine Guideposts of a lesson she learned about kindness in her second year of nursing school. Her professor had given the class a quiz, and the last question on the quiz was, “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Jones thought it was a joke question.

I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. “Absolutely,” the professor said. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Kindness can be as simple as noticing other people. Still, fear of the supposed pitfalls of kindness keeps many people from fully engaging with it.

This week here at gThankYou’s Celebrating Work blog, we’re taking a closer look at workplace kindness in honor of Random Acts of Kindness Week 2015, which runs through this Sunday, Feb. 15. So far we’ve covered the good business sense of workplace kindness and how to cultivate a pay-it-forward workplace culture.

Now let’s debunk the myths that hold back too many of us from being kinder to our coworkers and employees.
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#RAKWeek2015: Spark a Pay-It-Forward Workplace Culture!

Pay-it-Forward with Random Acts of Kindness Week - #RAKW2015

Pay-it-forward during Random Acts of Kindness Week. (Photo via D. Sharon Pruitt, Flickr)

Random Acts of Kindness Week is here! Last week we looked at how random acts of kindness make good business sense. This week, we’ll be digging into the practical application of kindness in the workplace.

All week, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is urging everyone to flood social media with kindness using the hashtag #RAKWeek2015.

You could share an uplifting news story, an inspiring quote, a photo that captures the spirit of kindness or an anecdote of a kindness you received. The foundation will be tracking social media streams for the #RAKWeek2015 hashtag and has a goal of 100,000 #RAKWeek2015 incidents of kindness by Feb. 15.

What motivates us to be kind? Love, sympathy, empathy, friendship and teamwork are all great reasons to be kind, but what about kindness sparked by a random or anonymous kind deed, with no expectation of payback?

We call this type of kindness “paying it forward”: when someone pays a kindness forward after being the recipient of one. It’s fascinating from a social psychology standpoint because paying it forward seems to operate outside our understanding of rational human behavior.

Read on to find out how pay-it-forward culture works, how it starts and why it belongs in your workplace.

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Random Acts of Kindness Make Good Business Sense

Lending a helping hand, it's Random Acts of Kindness Week

Next week is Random Acts of Kindness Week! Celebrate by helping out a neighbor, at work or at home.

Random Acts of Kindness Week 2015 is sneaking up on us in a few days: Feb. 9 to 15. RAK Week celebrates the joy of giving and receiving kindness at random with friends, coworkers, neighbors and strangers alike.

It’s an opportunity “to step out of your normal routine or comfort zone and attempt a new random act of kindness each day of the celebratory week,” according the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, which promotes the annual event.

Random Acts of Kindness Week is a great opportunity to encourage employees to be mindful of the everyday importance of workplace kindness.

Research shows that kindness can be learned, and the best way to learn it is hands-on. RAK Week is participatory, easy and fun!

Plus, because we’re focused next week on random acts of kindness, how you and your coworkers celebrate is wide open for creativity. The best part of RAK Week is that everyone can participate how they want, whether it’s volunteering together for a good cause or brightening a coworker’s day.

Read on for real-life examples of how powerful random acts of kindness are and why incorporating Random Acts of Kindness Week into your employee engagement plan makes good business sense.

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Workplace Wellness Insights: The 5 Elements of Well-Being

workplace wellness programs - dance class

A lunch-hour exercise program, like this line-dancing class, boosts workplace wellness and engages employees. (Photo by Rob McIlvaine, FMWRC Public Affairs, U.S. Army, via Flickr)

Workplace wellness and employee engagement go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.

Healthy employees are better engaged in their work — and engaged employees are healthier!

Employees who believe their employer cares about their health and well-being are 38 percent more engaged, according to the recent Quantum Workplace whitepaper, “Workplace Wellbeing: Provide Meaningful Benefits to Energize Employee Health, Engagement and Performance.”

Employees who perceive strong workplace wellness are also ten times less hostile than their less-supported peers, and:

  • 17 percent more likely to be working at their organization in a year
  • 28 percent more likely to recommend their organization
  • 18 percent more likely to go the extra mile for their organization

You can increase the positive influence of your workplace wellness program on employee engagement by learning more about the interconnected dynamics of both.

Read on to find out why even companies that already offer workplace wellness programs are not fully engaging employees with them  — and how you can prevent this at your company.

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2015 Workplace Trends Focus: Honesty in Leadership

2015 workplace trends - honesty in leadership

Do your leaders exhibit real honesty in leadership by listening, sharing authentic gratitude and communicating with transparency? (Photo via Vivian Chen, Flickr)

Forbes calls honesty in leadership one of the 10 major workplace trends for 2015.

“Leaders won’t just have to be good at inspiring and educating, they will have to be able to instill trust through honesty,” predicts Forbes contributor and WorkplaceTrends.com founder Dan Schawbel.

Of all the 2015 workplace trends Schawbel names, honesty in leadership is perhaps the most unassuming. The flashier, more headline-grabbing workplace trends for the year are the rise of Millennials, new technology and rapidly changing economic forces.

But honesty in leadership is a theme throughout all the major workplace trends for 2015.

The increased use of social media in job searches and hiring requires more organizational transparency, for instance. A healthy, engaged workplace culture — which requires honest leaders — is more important than ever as we enter the era of what Schawbel calls the “continuous job search.” And more than half of Gen Y and Z respondents in a recent survey say honesty is the most important trait for being a good leader.

Honesty also fuels the “sense of purpose” that many younger employees seek in their work — which, according to HR Trend Institute, is one of the top workplace trends that will be affecting HR decision-making in the coming year.

Honesty in leadership is more than an absence of lying. It’s a way of communicating that takes practice and commitment. Read on to find out how  leaders can transform your organization and develop happier, more dedicated employees.

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Why Fun at Work Creates Better Employees

Fun At Work Day - Pinata's make it festive

Grab a piñata and gather your coworkers: it’s National Fun At Work Day! (Photo via Flickr, Purple Sherbet Photography)

Ready to blow off some steam? Go to work.

Today, Wednesday, Jan. 28, is National Fun At Work Day!

The origins of this unofficial holiday are unclear, but everyone can appreciate letting loose — particularly in an environment traditionally not associated with “fun”: the workplace.

Fun times in the workplace may seem frivolous or a waste of time on the surface, but social science researchers are discovering some serious benefits to occasional silliness.

Why Fun At Work Creates Better Employees

Play is the medium that connects the brain to the hand, says Stuart Brown,  psychiatrist and play researcher. His TED Talk, “Play Is More Than Just Fun,” explores the growing evidence that play is vital to brain development, intelligence and mental health.

The implication of this research for children is clear: free time for unstructured play and fun is a bedrock of healthy child development.

Adults also benefit from playtime. Fun boosts creativity and productivity in the workplace, according to Fox News “Health @ Work” writer Laurie Tarken, in her article “Work Hard, Play Harder.”

Having fun opens up new neural connections in the brain, a major boost to your creativity. Play provides an additional creative benefit, Tarken writes: an uninhibited thought process.

“When you’re fully engaged in play, you lose some of your psychological barriers and stop censoring or editing your thoughts. This allows creative ideas to flow more freely,” Tarken writes. So, the next time your team is tasked with a brainstorming session or with solving a tough problem, try playing a game first.

“Play can also lower your stress levels, boost your optimism, and increase your motivation to move up in a company and improve concentration and perseverance,” Tarken write.

For the up and coming generation, a playful workplace is not only appreciated but expected, according to “The Fundamental Role of Workplace Fun in Applicant Attraction,” a study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies in 2012. SHRM profiled the study soon after.

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5 Ways to Give Better Workplace Compliments

workplace compliments take practice and forethought

National Compliment Day is all about sharing our appreciations, big and small. (via crimsong19, Flickr)

When was the last time you complimented someone at work or received a workplace compliment? (A real compliment: a piece of thoughtful, specific praise, not a simple “thanks” or “good job.”)

If it’s been a while, you’re not alone. Giving memorable compliments is a skill.

It also requires slowing down long enough to reflect on why you value someone else. With time at a premium and “busy-ness” the norm these days, compliments often get forgotten or neglected.

Now’s your chance to change that, and even if you’re already an awesome compliment-giver, to spread the joy of compliments even more!

Today, Saturday, Jan. 24, is National Compliment Day. What better time to improve your praise-giving skills? Read on to find out why compliments matter so much and how you can make them better.

The Power of Workplace Compliments

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