This blog was first published on Smart WP
Historically, independent coworking spaces have focused on such things as inclusion and providing a support system for their coworkers, and many were ahead of the curve in offering wellness programs as well.
But the notion of wellness is really quite broad and so developing a wellness program, however good the intention, can sometimes be hard to get a grip on. What is a wellness program? And do they really work?
Ashley Proctor, founder and coworking consultant at Creative Blueprint believes in the importance of a wellness programme. During her many years in the coworking industry, she has found that looking after her coworker’s well-being has led to more creativity, a better work environment, and in people having more confidence overall in what they do.
Jeannine van der Linden, founder and manager at DeKamer, shares the same sentiment. According to her, the built environment also plays an important role in the well-being of coworkers. And, as soon as your coworkers are comfortable, their well-being improves immensely.
The benefits of a wellness programme
There are many benefits to implementing a wellness programme in your space, not only for your coworkers but also for yourself.
Some of the benefits that a wellness programme can bring include building up the confidence and productivity of your coworkers. When they are in a space where they feel comfortable and healthy and productive, they will be more willing to make use of your space.
Another benefit of a wellness programme, and arguably the most important, is the happiness level of your coworkers. Once your coworkers are healthy and in a good mental state, chances are that they will be happier. This improves the overall environment of your workspace and leads to a happier community.
How to promote wellness in your space
Ashley recommends that in creating a wellness program, you first identify the gaps and needs in your coworking community and the larger community from which it draws because each community is unique and different in its own way. There are many ways in which you can identify these gaps.
Look at observing your community and seeing if you can identify these gaps yourself. It might also be a good idea to casually bring up the topic in a conversation with your community. Or, if your community would prefer it, take a look at having a formal gathering to discuss the gaps.
Some other ways to gather the information you might need:
- Anonymous online surveys
- Suggestion boxes
- Wellness check-ins
It is also important to be trauma conscious as a space owner. In the past two years, many people have lost loved ones and experienced many types of traumas. “Moving forward, the number one skill that we should all be cultivating as leaders is how to be a trauma informed leader,” says Ashley.
When the coworking space owner is educated about trauma, it can be beneficial to the wellness programme, and the overall community of the coworking space. Small adjustments to the way we give instructions can already greatly improve the experience of coworkers with trauma.
As a concrete example, in a meditation session, simply changing the phrase “close your eyes and take a deep breath” to “if you feel comfortable close your eyes or simply lower your gaze, and take a deep breath” can improve the experience of the people in the session. Trauma can stem from many places, and some don’t feel comfortable with closing their eyes and not being able to see what is happening around them.
Ashley points out that one excellent thing you can do to promote wellness in your coworking space is to lead by example. This means that you need to look after your own wellness. Once you do that, your coworkers will notice that you take a break when you are tired or sick, or simply that you have a balanced lifestyle. This gives them a great example and in some ways permission to o look after their own wellness.
“Creating a balanced lifestyle in a way that shows that we’re prioritising our own health and our own mental health. And that’s really modelling it to your team and your members as well,” says Ashley.
Important elements to include in your wellness programme
Jeannine advises coworking space owners to first look at their physical space. Is it well designed? Does it offer people what they want and need? Ensuring that your building has the appropriate fit-out can lead to better wellness in the coworking space.
Being trauma-informed is also an important part of your wellness programme. But, being socially and culturally conscious is another level of insight that your wellness programme needs to incorporate.
Being culturally sensitive means for example that your yoga sessions make use of a culturally informed instructor – though this is important for any wellness programme you implement, not just yoga. It is dishonouring the cultures who developed a practice to make use of their techniques without the proper context.
It is also important that your wellness programme be optional and consistent. If your coworkers are forced to take part, it might have a negative effect. Similarly, if the wellness programme is hosted inconsistently, it makes it harder for your coworkers to plan around said events. Set dates make it easier for your coworkers to know when and where they can expect the wellness class to take place.
Your programme should look at consulting or making use of professional facilitators. They are trained in the field of wellness and can give your coworkers what they need to improve their wellness. Doing something without professional experience or assistance can land you in dangerous territory and might even be more damaging and harmful than helpful.
This is how you know that your programme is working
It can be difficult to tell when your wellness programme is effective or not. Some tell-tale signs are that your coworkers are more enthusiastic about coming to your space. There is an obvious lift to their spirits and they seem happier.
Ashley says that when you see your coworkers start bringing their friends to these events, you can be assured that your programme is working. They love your space so much that they want to share it with their friends. This is of great benefit for two reasons. One, you make more profit. Two, which is the most important, your coworkers are happy and your wellness programme is working.
Implementing a wellness programme takes time and research. If you are thinking about implementing a wellness programme, start by identifying what your coworkers need. Once you spotted the gaps, make sure you offer them a beneficial, culturally and trauma aware programme.