Also in this compendium: Counterintuitive principles for success
The words, happy and healthy, slip out easily at this time of the year, as we wish family, friends, and work colleagues the best. But what if your workplace was to consider making next year a healthy one?
Leigh Stringer, author of The Healthy Workplace, sets out 10 "easy ways" to create that milieu:
– Build flexibility into how, when and where you work: Studies show people who feel more in control of their work and work environment are less likely to suffer from stress or illness and see increases in productivity.
So talk to your boss or team about gaining such flexibility – and not just in your work schedule. You could also ask for a stand-sit desk or make slight adjustments in the current arrangement to improve posture and productivity. Try to move more, as well.
– Nurture "biophilia:" We ache to be in nature, presumably because much of human history was spent outdoors. Add natural elements such as small plants or a water feature on your desk or nearby. Move your desk next to a window if possible.
"Use features in the workplace that mimic nature, such as pictures of trees and water, building elements that mimic shells or leaves, furniture with organic rather than geometric shapes, and wood with a visible wood grain. These features, referred to as 'natural analogues' can have the same biophilic impact as the real thing," she writes.
– Improve eating habits through what's known as "choice architecture;" Consider carefully how food is arranged and available in the workplace, and rejig that architecture. Reduce the number of unhealthy foods that are available. Hide unhealthy foods in the kitchenette or break room by putting them in opaque or translucent containers.
– Make getting healthy a team sport: Launch competitions between teams or different office locations to encourage activities such as walking or biking – or even team sports. Consider establishing a community garden this spring if there's available space.
– Create healthy nudges to take the stairs: Choosing stairs over the elevator is wise for our health, but we are often deterred because the stairways in many buildings the stairways can be dark and eerie.
Paint the stairwell a lighter color so it appears less foreboding and add artwork and pleasant music (non-elevator music?). "Want a really simple trick to nudge stair use? Studies show that by just by putting up signs that explain the health benefits of taking the stairs (such as a sign in the elevator lobby that shows how many calories you can burn), stair usage increases by 54 per cent!" Ms. Stringer advises.
– Remove distracting behaviors in the workplace: Noise may not drive us crazy, but it does irritate and take a cumulative (often unnoticed) toll.
Separate energetic spaces from quiet areas, putting in buffers. Develop policies for things like speaker phones – everybody should not have to listen in unwillingly – and how to signal "do not disturb." Use noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds, perhaps with a white noise app on your mobile.
– Stay home when you are sick: You may not feel you can take a day off, given your workload or the cost by the sick day policy. But bringing your virus to the office can just inflict it on others.
– Install "circadian" lighting: Being indoors plays havoc with our internal circadian rhythm, or biological clock. Install a circadian lighting system, which can promote wakefulness. If the budget doesn't allow that, use a "daylight" LED bulb in your office light. "You will be shocked by how much better you feel after just a few minutes of use, and you will likely sleep better at night!" she says.
– Bring your pet to work: Research shows benefits in stress reduction, increased morale and collaboration. If it can't happen every day, perhaps one special time or at an office picnic – or get an office mascot that all can share.
– Lead by example: Whether you're a leader or follower in the office structure – or both – you can also model healthy behaviour in your personal life. Remember that includes not sending late-night e-mails or texts. Perhaps you can arrange for some speakers on healthy living.
There's lots to choose from. Approach the ideas in a healthy way, not grasping at too many at once. Slow and steady is a healthy approach.
2. Counterintuitive principles for success
If it ain't broke … break it purposefully. Yes, that's right: Break it, according to management consultant Hank Boyer.
Sure, the conventional wisdom says that if something works well you shouldn't try to fix it. But he notes that only works until it completes its life cycle, which most things inevitably do.
So pay attention to the warning signs of diminishing returns as Honda has, redesigning its popular Civic over the years when it may not have been broke but needed fixing. "The key is not to break things for the sake of breaking them, but to do so purposefully at the right time and in an orderly way," Mr. Boyer writes on Multi-Brief.
Here's another counterintuitive principle he shares: Let go of control to gain control.
He argues you can gain more control over a project and better outcome if you describe the expected results in detail and then let your staff develop the approaches to achieve it. If you don't do that, trying to remain the single point of control, you become the small end of a funnel through which everything must flow. It slows things down, reducing staff buy-in and productivity.
A final one to consider: Fear of offending offends more than offending itself. Address issues with colleagues honestly, rather than letting bad habits linger and continue to offend. The individual's career suffers because you are afraid to honestly and respectfully raise the issue. It's never easy, but by not offending you can be hurting the other person and yourself.
3. Quick hits
– Consultant Kevin Eikenberry calls the week between Christmas and New Year's "The Golden Week" and advises you to use it well.
If you're off work, take time for reflection, planning and working on your goals. If you're in the office, you can get a lot done because there are fewer people around, giving you a sense of accomplishment as the year changes.
– Repetition is considered important in marketing. But research shows that after 14 exposures to a TV ad consumers are likely to change the channel and their purchase behaviours becomes negatively affected.
– Some more counterintuitive ideas, this time from marketing consultant Roy Williams: Business isn't about knowing, it's about doing. Selling isn't about talking, it's about listening. Advertising isn't about the product, it's about your customer.
– Add this counterintuitive advice from productivity guru David Allen: Sometimes, as when packing for a trip, it may be best to do it at the last minute, so you do not waste time dithering. In business and politics, sometimes strategically you should wait until the last moment to launch a product or campaign. However, know how many minutes the last minute takes, and be happy within yourself for taking this route.
– Turning your mobile phone to black and white makes it less interesting to look at and cuts down on the time you spend with it, says reporter Katherine Ellen Foley. Entrepreneur Khe Hy reduced wasted time by disabling Touch ID on the iPhone and creating a long password so it takes forever to type in, which means he is no longer making quick checks for Twitter feeds and the like.
Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter