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Wellness & Office Morale: The Value of Happiness

March 5, 2012

Colleen Reilly, Nelnet Director of Wellness & President of Total Well-Being

I was in the airport last week and picked up the Harvard Business Review, and the cover had a big smiley face with a title, “The Value of Happiness; How Employee Well-being Drives Profits.”  I was so excited to read the article because my passion is helping people live healthier, more productive, and happier lives through wellness programs. Your office may already have a strong focus on wellness, but I felt driven to share a few ideas with you, as even making small changes can increase engagement, productivity, and happiness in your office.

In my opinion, if all research about what causes human happiness could be condensed to one word, it would be “social.”   If I wanted to predict your happiness, and I could know only one thing about you, I wouldn’t want to know your gender, religion, health, profession, or income.  I would want to know about your social network—your family and friends and the strength of the bonds that you have with them.  The happiest people are engaged and interacting within these strong relationships often, especially regarding things that are important to them, such as hobbies and health goals.

It’s no surprise that the social interaction is critical to developing healthy habits and reaching health-related goals. For example, how many times have you been in your office when a big basket of sweet, sugary goodies comes in the door…and how easy is it for you to resist when all of your coworkers are snacking on those cookies and candies? Using your social network to make smart choices will lead to the happiness that comes from being in a supportive environment and increase your ability to meet your goals.

Often you can be working on your personal health (for example, eating better or working out more), but if you don’t have a strong support system, the sustainability of your behavior change diminishes.  This is why we encourage you to engage your family and friends in your wellness activities. Share your wellness goals with someone who will hold you accountable. Maybe begin running or taking a fitness class with a group of friends early in the morning—it’s amazing how much more  motivated you’ll  be to get up early with a friend than if you are just by yourself.

Now let’s think about how you can apply this concept day to day to drive happiness and engagement in your office. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Turn sweet treat days into happy and healthy days.  Take turns bringing creative and wholesome (yet yummy!) food into the office for celebrations and/or weekly food days. Think about it—if free food is available, whether it’s junk or a healthy snack, most people will still enjoy every bite and build relationships with each other while standing around the snack table.
  2. Walk together. Choose a day of the week when a group from your office consistently takes a walk around campus. At Nelnet, we call these Walking Wednesdays and find that getting outside with a large group of people brings energy and the social support they need to get up and moving.
  3. Challenge each other. Invite others to participate in a local race, join you in giving up a bad habit for a few weeks, or even simply take 10 minutes away from their desk a few times a week to relieve stress with you. Simply offering the idea and letting others know you are taking the action can drive them to make healthy choices as well—and this will make it easier for you to stick to what you set out to do.

This foundation for happiness also translates to your students. Students who are challenged and engaged socially in classes, on campus, and even online through social media tend to perform better in school and are less likely to drop out. When interacting with your students, remember that your friendly, supportive exchanges and the programs and leadership you show on campus can engage students to be happier and healthier during the years they are with you.

So, what can you do today to choose happiness? Set some goals, grab a friend and get active, and support those around you. Together, you can build each other up for a healthy and happy 2012! Be well, Colleen Reilly

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2012 3:37 pm

    True it is. The employees are the life force of a company so if the business is to flourish, it has to be ensured that the employees’ whole well-being is looked after. Healthy workers are happy workers which means good business.

  2. May 26, 2012 12:28 pm

    This is a very intelligent blog. In my own weekly blog I focus on eastern philosophies as a spiritual answer.
    I believe the greatest and most truthful answers is in understanding our own minds, not in some book or bible

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