Why We’re Missing the Mark in Corporate Wellness

by | Jun 11, 2018

Back when my friends and I set out to build a home for all things “connection” based in Northern California, we couldn’t really see, or predict, how much of our work would find its way through the hallways of corporations. The possibility of some of our favorite companies like SOULCYCLE, Asana, Giphy, or invaluable institutions like the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital of Oakland, coming to the Land for a retreat was far from our minds.

You see, we had a vision. We wanted to infuse the Land with the spirit of the early 1960’s when the human potential movement was vibrant and creative. Where you had people like Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts sitting with James Baldwin. You see, we’re life-hackers, we go where the electricity is. We’re evangelists that believe deeply in our work and want to touch people’s lives, and Nike wasn’t the first thing that came to mind.

Back then, if you had asked me to plan out a corporate training session or retreat, I probably would have yawned. The thought of scheduling more yoga classes for employees, more meditation in the workplace, made me want to throw on old Krishna Dass records and grab a handful of prayer beads. Not that there’s anything wrong with these things. They’re all amazing. Meditation is awesome. I do it every day. Yoga is good, and exercise is necessary to mitigate stress, depression, etc…

However, with more than “57.16% of tech employees reporting that they’re burned out by their jobs, in a recent Blind survey, and Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitch, Oracle, Lyft, Facebook, Twitter and Salesforce all in the top 30 companies named,” it’s inescapable to look at the landscape of corporate wellness and not see that something is missing.

While traditional wellness practices are incredibly useful, they don’t teach people how to connect and talk to one another, and for sure they don’t provide the tools, or the forum, necessary for people to express the vast world of emotion that courses through their nervous systems daily.  Most of us didn’t learn this as children, and most of us don’t learn this as adults. There’s a whole population of people in the workplace that don’t have the critical relating skills necessary for a workplace community to function, let alone feel generative.

Scientists “have made startling discoveries of how the human brain responds to the social world. Findings repeatedly reinforce the conclusion that our brains are wired to connect with other people.” Matthew Lieberman Ph.D. goes on to say in his 2013 book Social, “ignoring social well-being is likely to harm team performance (and individual health) for reasons we have not guessed.”

The truth is, we do everything in connection here on earth. Our bodies are living breathing, biological systems, interacting with biological systems everywhere at all times. You affect my emotional state just as much as I affect yours, yet our work lives rarely reflect this.

So what do you do?  It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. You start by creating a forum in the workplace where employees are encouraged to share a lot more, where vulnerability is the currency of connection. In my experience, it’s like plugging into a power source not only for your people, but for your business too. The trainings and methods are easy to set up in 90-120 minute increments. In the last training we hosted at the Battery in San Francisco, one participant best summed up the collective reaction of the group saying, “I’m just frustrated. Frustrated that people don’t talk like this all the time. I mean come on. We should always be connected like this.”

My sense is we’re just at the beginning of a social movement in the workplace where social connection is going to play a huge role in how our future unfolds.

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