Try to institute a wellbeing program without making wellbeing part of a company’s culture and watch what happens: “It slides off like Teflon,” says Tammy Green, Director of Well-being at Providence Health & Services, a large health system on the west coast. Tammy has been designing and implementing a broad wellbeing framework for Providence’s 75,000 employees that focuses on the positive—healthy weight, mindful movement, and emotional resilience with a foundation of spiritual groundedness. To transform this framework into an organization-wide norm, here are four powerful changes she’s making.
1. She’s shifting the language about wellbeing at work.
One of the most important steps was to intentionally change the language and nomenclature around wellbeing so that people felt inspired by it. Moving toward “a healthy weight” is a lot more inviting than “reducing obesity,” she says, and the positive framing is helping to move the wellbeing agenda from being perceived as simply a cost-reducer to more of a workplace priority and common practice. “From the feedback we’re getting, it’s starting to resonate with people,” she says.
2. She’s changing her after-hours work practices.
With her own staff, Tammy feels a real obligation to not only invite them to take care of their own wellbeing but to signal the importance of wellbeing in her leadership behavior. That’s why she’s now thinking twice about her standard routine of sending after-hours and weekend work emails. “Even if my expectation is not that they’ll answer an email I send, I realized that they were seeing it and thinking, ‘Tammy is working on the weekend so she must need an answer to that right now.’ So I’m consciously not sending after-hours emails or I’m making sure to write ‘Not Urgent’ in the subject line,” she says. “And when I cross over those boundaries between work-life and personal life, I’ve asked my staff to call me on it.”
3. She’s being more authentic and vulnerable in front of her team.
Tammy believes trust is essential to a healthy work environment, perhaps even more than health risks assessments and like tools so popular in companies today. So she’s experimenting with new trust-building approaches for being vulnerable. She says, “When it comes to your team, you have to walk a fine line between over-sharing and looking weak—and being human. It’s scary.” Yet, her team seems to appreciate it when she tackles challenges—such as trying to pinpoint the top priorities when everything seems urgent—with honesty about the workload and the admission that she doesn’t have all the answers. Showing some vulnerability has helped the team bond and work together on solutions. “You can’t be a credible wellbeing leader just by talking about biometrics,” she says. “You have to create an environment where employees feel emotionally safe. I hope that showing my vulnerability has helped develop that.”
4. She’s paying more attention to her own wellbeing.
As Tammy has applied Providence’s four-pronged wellbeing framework to her own life, she’s realized she could better role-model wellbeing personally. “It’s a big challenge because people look to see what you’re doing not just what you’re saying, and I am aware that work-life balance is sometimes not my strong point!” she says. Even when you’re a wellbeing expert, it can be a challenge to stay sane and calm. “I realized I needed to more intentionally attend to my own self-care,” she says. “Yoga is really important to me, and I like to run and to be outdoors. But when I travel it’s easy to fall off the wagon.” She began to make more commitments to herself to do the things she enjoyed—even if it was just squeezing in 5-10 minutes a day of deep breathing. “It’s not deep meditation but it helps,” she says.
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