6 Principles for Nurturing a Healthier, Happier Workforce

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One of my favorite documentary series is Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones with Dan Buettner. I enjoyed it so much, I recommended it to all my friends and colleagues. I love how it helped uncover proven formulas that have been used for centuries for cultivating longer, healthier lives, including nutrition, daily movement, a sense of purpose and strong social networks within intergenerational communities.

As a CEO of a global wellness company, it got me thinking: Is it possible to apply some of the learnings from these unique health regions in a business setting?

While I’ve not had the chance to visit a Blue Zone myself (in fact, I was disheartened to learn that many of the Blue Zones are endangered), I have been giving a lot of thought to the role of the workplace in our health. I believe we have an opportunity, as business leaders and entrepreneurs, to nurture and grow environments where team members, customers and stakeholders can benefit from focusing on healthspan: not just living longer, but living better, healthier lives. But how do we get there?

Related: 8 Ways to Foster an Environment of Employee Wellbeing

Designing a business Blue Zone

Blue Zones don’t just have to be defined as regions — companies, online communities and local workplaces can also be places that spark healthy aging. After all, many workplaces are communities with their own cultures and rituals that can either negatively impact our health or truly boost our well-being and longevity.

The benefits of a healthy workforce are well documented: better morale, higher productivity, greater employee satisfaction, increased levels of retention and loyalty, and even better performance on the stock market.

Here are six principles, borrowed from Blue Zones, that can inspire health and well-being in the workplace:

1. Providing nutritious food options

While many companies provide snacks or lunches as a perk for their employees, more often than not, the foods on offer consist of highly processed junk and empty calories. Studies have shown that eating at work leads to increased weight and health risks, not to mention decreased productivity.

Workplaces can encourage healthy eating habits by providing healthier (and tasty) food options and by getting creative with nutrition education and food that brings people together in workplace cafés and business meetings. At our business in China, for example, thousands of colleagues start the day by sharing healthy “morning nutrition” juices and smoothies.

2. Instilling a sense of purpose in the work

Research has shown a connection between physical health and the ability to live out one’s life purpose. And work can be a huge part of our purpose if we’re able to find meaning in what we do. For business leaders, integrating purpose throughout the company’s strategy and culture can provide opportunities for employees to connect with what matters to them, whether that’s contributing to meaningful causes, working to improve their community or designing products and services that improve people’s lives. For us, that means not only helping entrepreneurs succeed — but a shared goal of helping a billion people live healthier for longer.

3. Fostering intergenerational connections

One thing many Blue Zones have in common is the “village” approach to life and work. Multiple generations care for one another and work together to achieve common goals — typically in multigenerational homes. But this concept can easily be replicated at work, particularly as the labor force ages. With five generations currently in the workforce, there’s value in finding ways for all ages to connect and learn from one another, marrying deep industry knowledge and experience with innovation and new ways of thinking.

Related: 9 Ways Employees Can Stay Healthy at Work

4. Encouraging community building and collaboration

In an era of remote and hybrid workplaces, forging genuine connections with colleagues and customers can be a challenge. But it is possible — and highly worthwhile. At our HQ, for example, we have a new “Treehouse” workspace that was designed to spark greater in-person connections and inspire collaboration among employees. But I’ve seen incredible results happen virtually as well — health and wellness entrepreneurs have created thriving online communities that are improving healthspan, thanks to a collective approach to healthy habits.

5. Providing stress management resources

Stress at work is inevitable, but American workers are the most stressed in the world, according to a recent Gallup report. And high levels of ongoing stress are literally making people sick. Finding healthy ways to manage stress is crucial for improving our healthspan, and employers can do their part by providing resources and opportunities to practice stress reduction techniques. Personally, I’m a big believer in the power of exercise and mindfulness, but there’s also a lot to be said for workplace wellness programs, health benefits and encouraging work-life balance.

6. Modeling health yourself

As a business leader navigating a demanding role running a global company, I’ve committed to a personal health journey inspired by many of the health and wellness entrepreneurs I follow online. And in the spirit of leading by example, I’ve chosen to share my journey every step of the way. My goal is to inspire others to explore healthier ways of living and working too, and I hope that more business leaders will join me in doing the same. The more we showcase healthy habits, the greater the impact we can have on improving people’s lives — and our businesses.

Related: Don’t Underestimate The Importance of Employee Wellbeing. Your Business Will Suffer The Most.

Taken together, all of these factors make for a truly holistic approach to health at work. But keep in mind that even if you can only tackle one or two of these principles, you can still have a positive impact on people’s healthspan.

Designing businesses inspired by Blue Zones ultimately results in stronger companies run by healthier teams. And even if we don’t live to 100, at the very least we’re helping people live longer, healthier and happier lives. What could be better than that?

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