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In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, that squishy, Hallmark holiday that those in the US dare not forget, this blog offers five tips to improve team wellness. Research and debates exist on various topics: Do happier teams perform better? How do we create happier teams? Is happiness genetic, as some research says, and if so, how can we hire happier employees?

As a start-up, I’ve spent a little time lately looking at lease space and thinking about an office outside of my home. I’m a little surprised to find that co-working spaces are increasingly focused on amenities which seek to provide a forum for fun – ping pong tables, beer delivery trucks, designer coffees, kitchens, and casual comfortable conversation areas.

I read enough from the experts who are arguing over how technology is changing us and whether employers and managers should be finding ways to make teams happier. How much of an organization’s budget should be spent on fun outings, organized by the firm? Or, should we allow employees to enjoy their time off away from their work teams, and accept that some relationships will flourish organically, and some will not?

I’m not a social scientist. But one thing that is clear from what I’ve read is that relationships matter. And efforts to improve team wellness begin with relationships. For all of the technological advancements that we have made, experts disagree on whether it is enhancing our relationships. Clearly, many people want to work less and have more time for their relationships. So, what can companies do to improve team wellness?

Relationships matter. Improving team wellness begins with relationships. Click To Tweet

Encourage talking over technology.

Relationships matter; talking together with your team improves relationships. Struggle has gotten a bad name. Struggle, done well, helps teams grow. So what are the “rules” for team struggles?

  • Stick to the subject. No gunny-sacking.
  • Encourage teams to find a better way.
  • Disagree with the point, not the person.

Struggle, done well, helps teams grow. Click To Tweet

The talking suggestion applies to other relationships too. If your client submits a complicated work request by email, pick up the phone and talk through the request. Yes, you will want to document the decisions made in that call, but talking can be a much faster way to cut through the conversational clutter. And it helps build relationships.

Provide uninterrupted time for focused and productive work.

If you expect your teams to be constantly responding to emails or phone calls, don’t be surprised when results decline. Research is clear that the human brain does not really multi-task. Yes, I may be able to fold laundry and think about a blog idea at the same time. But, to be effective, I can’t write that blog and analyze my social media metrics at the same time. And, if you are a software engineer, you cannot write good code and be responding to texts on your phone at the same time. So, for the benefit of those who are relying on your code and those in your life that mean the most to you, allow your people to stay in the moment and focus completely on what they are doing. That’s good for relationships and work quality.

Understand what motivates the people on your teams.

When you understand what motivates the individuals that you are working with, it can go a long way towards helping to build a vision that inspires everyone and to distribute meaningful work to the people on your teams.

Support wellness initiatives for employees and contractors.

I don’t plan to debate the merits of universal healthcare, mandatory insurance requirements, or individual healthcare choices.

What I do know is that, as a society, we place too much emphasis on treating sickness and not enough focus on improving wellness. Rarely do people feel that they can go to a mental health provider for a wellness visit, lest folks think that they have a mental illness.

Most health insurance plans don’t cover massage, acupuncture, yoga classes, or holistic medicine. Yet, when folks binge on too much sugar for 30 years, these same plans pay for diabetics to receive insulin for the rest of their lives.

Encourage your teams to take care of their bodies, souls, and minds. That includes eating a healthy diet, exercise, and some mindfulness training. Trendy or not, research continues to mount on the increased effectiveness of a well population.

Not to mention that most of us prefer building strong relationships with others who model healthy behaviors.

Allow people time to pursue their dreams.

People work more effectively when they are allowed time off to recharge and pursue their own dreams. Whether that is building a new garage, playing in a rock band, taking their kids to swim meets or dance lessons, time for people to pursue their own dreams is invaluable. Don’t be surprised when they reciprocate by telling you about the great idea to save the company money that came to them in the shower.

When Aetna increased its minimum wage rates and offered more than 13,000 employees free yoga or meditation classes, it saw health insurance premiums decline and productivity rise. What are you doing in your organization to improve team wellness?

Photo credit: Flick-Arrrr! by Chris Martin; CC by 2.0 License;