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Why Health Should Be a Strategic Priority for Organisations

Apr 22nd 2024

Wavelength in conversation with Wavelength Speaker Geoff McDonald about Why Health Should Be a Strategic Priority for Organisations

As we approach Mental Health Week, we spoke to Wavelength SpeakersHub Speaker Geoff McDonald about why he believes health and wellbeing should be a strategic priority for organisations.

Geoff raises a critical question: “If the most significant driver of performance is the energy of individuals, teams, and organisations, why aren’t businesses actively prioritising and investing in the health of their workforce?”

In a landscape of escalating demands and complexity, Geoff advocates for organisations to be more deliberate and strategic in how they support their employees’ self-care and well-being. By fostering environments where individuals can effectively manage their health, organisations can cultivate a workforce primed for sustained performance. Geoff emphasises that this approach not only yields competitive advantages but also fulfils a moral imperative.

However, many companies have yet to embrace this perspective, often viewing employee health as an afterthought rather than a strategic priority. Geoff stresses the need for a shift in mindset among CEOs and senior leaders, moving beyond superficial wellness initiatives, and towards fostering cultures of continual renewal and holistic well-being.

This transformation must start with leadership buy-in and active role modelling. Geoff draws from his personal journey, highlighting the pivotal moment when he confronted his own mental health challenges. Through openness, support, and a commitment to self-care, he navigated towards recovery and discovered the profound importance of prioritising well-being.

Geoff underscores the business case for investing in employee health, citing research that links employee well-being to enhanced productivity, engagement, decision-making, creativity, and loyalty. He advocates for a re-evaluation of performance metrics, suggesting that energy should be recognised as a core component alongside skills, knowledge, and behaviour.

Moreover, Geoff emphasises the need for both organisational and individual accountability in promoting health and well-being. He calls for development plans that integrate well-being considerations and encourage open dialogues between managers and employees about health-related concerns.

Despite progress in addressing mental health stigma, Geoff acknowledges that significant challenges persist, particularly in smaller organisations and certain regions. He urges continued efforts to destigmatize mental health issues and create supportive environments where individuals feel empowered to seek help when needed.

Geoff concludes with practical advice on self-care, emphasising the importance of prioritising one’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. He encourages small, sustainable changes across pillars of relaxation, nutrition, exercise, and sleep, underscoring the transformative impact of these habits on overall well-being.

RELAX

  • Me-time every day
  • Weekly screen-free sabbath
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • A daily practice of stillness
  • Eat one meal per day around a table – without an e-device

EAT

  • De-normalise sugar (and retrain your taste buds)
  • Eat five different coloured vegetables every day
  • Eat all of your food within a 12-hour window
  • Drink eight glasses of water per day
  • Un-process your diet by avoiding any food product that contains more than five ingredients

MOVE

  • Walk at least 10,000 steps per day
  • Do a form of strength training twice a week
  • Do a form of high-intensity interval training twice a week
  • Make a habit of exercise snacking
  • Do daily glute exercises to help warm them up

SLEEP

  • Create an environment of absolute darkness
  • Spend at least 20 minutes outside every morning
  • Create a bedtime routine
  • Manage your commotion
  • Enjoy your caffeine before noon

Source: The 4 Pillar Plan, Dr Rangan Chatterjee

On the stigma surrounding mental health, particularly among men, Geoff comments: “I grew up in South Africa at a time when men didn’t openly discuss their issues. It took me a long time to acknowledge that my breakdown was mental rather than physical. It conflicted with my perception of masculinity and leadership, which often promotes a stoic, unyielding image. This stigma has long prevented men from acknowledging their mental health struggles. Men often wear a façade of strength, fearing judgment if they show vulnerability. Many are disconnected from their emotions until a crisis forces them to confront their mental health, sometimes only when they’re rushed to the hospital.”

On the importance of self-care and time off: “I’m supportive of the idea of a four-day workweek in principle, but we need to address the logistical challenges. Employees deserve time to recuperate and focus on their well-being. Athletes are granted recovery time; why shouldn’t employees have the same?”

On promoting positive mental health: “We need to start by fostering emotional literacy and destigmatizing discussions about mental health and emotions. Well-being education, encompassing both mental and physical health, should be integrated into every school curriculum. Paula Talman, founder of www.ispacewellbeing.com, has developed a curriculum where students dedicate thirty minutes daily to learning about their health. Additionally, as parents, we must empower our children to prioritise their well-being and cultivate resilience against the negative influences of social media and societal pressures tied to achievement.”