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Wellness in the Workplace ( 2021)

This past year has allowed us time (or if not more time, maybe just the ability to recognize an opportunity) to step back and reflect on so much, especially our relationship to our professional selves and work environment. For many, our experiences with work have been flipped upside down. At this point, some folks are starting to head back to the office, and as that happens, I can’t help but wonder if the traumatic events of the past year will result in organizational wellness becoming a priority in more workplaces. Are organizations asking difficult questions about how they care for their employees? And are the answers different now than they were 15 months ago? If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that both physical and emotional wellness are key to healthy, satisfying lives. And nonprofit organizations have a role to play in providing that for their employees.

So, what is organization wellness really? And why does it matter?

Organizational wellness can be defined in many different ways, but at its core it is the commitment to treating the whole employee, to providing an environment that is supportive and designed to foster growth and resilience, with leadership and organizational values rooted in integrity. This is critical because a healthy workplace leads to engaged, motivated and productive employees. And now, more than ever, it’s important as employees may be anxious, unsure, exhausted or otherwise stressed about returning to the office and back to “normal”.

To take this idea even further, some experts are recommending leaders work to create a trauma informed workplace – one that is intentionally a safe space for its employees and, instead of being a place of stress, being a place where healing can occur. Businesses can take cues from nonprofits here, many of which have prioritized trauma informed approaches to their work for more than a decade. Research shows that trauma affects everyone differently and experiences with the pandemic have varied widely across geographic regions, racial groups and socioeconomic classes. Additionally, some workplaces have been seriously challenged while others have thrived. Creating and sustaining an environment grounded in wellness and awareness of trauma is not a one-off event and will likely require ongoing commitment, flexibility, and investment in a well thought out feedback loop. In many cases, utilizing external resources and consultants may be necessary, since issues like culture and organizational wellness can be difficult to fully understand from within.

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