Workplace Wellness… Are you having trouble retaining and recruiting staff?

by | Sep 3, 2021

Confluence of Workplace Wellness

Are you meeting your recruiting and retention goals?

For me, “Workplace Wellness” is at the center of productivity in any organization, public, private or philanthropic. If employees and volunteers aren’t feeling good about themselves and others, the bottom line suffers. Your business enterprise will fail without a happy workplace, and lots of smiles all around…

And, let’s not forget the volunteers who put their passion and skills to work on behalf of communities and causes they care about. Volunteers can suffer the most, and be chased away from helping community based organizations. Volunteers must be a critical priority in workplace wellness too…

For my entire professional life, including executive leadership, workplace wellness has always been a personal challenge of self care. It was always painful for me to lead a work force traumatized by bad leaders of the past and stressful circumstances that continue without mitigation. That was my job back then, and still is as a executive management consultant…

Why is the workplace so estranged from recognizing the value of kindness and well-being? Yeah, there are many small, medium and large organizations that do a wonderful job loving and caring for their staff and workers overall. But, there are far more who think the workplace is not personal, and well being happens before and after work.

Do you have a healthy and creative workplace? Is there room for improvement? Do you have a plan or policy?

We know now more than ever before, if your workplace is ill, your business is sick too. If your customers are unhappy and stressed out, then your business goals will suffer. Your enterprise will fail eventually. Families are hurt, customers are left holding the bag. Your community will suffer too…

What can we do to improve workforce wellness? Let’s walk together and talk about steps that are proactive and cost effective. You won’t be disappointed with the outcomes in a relatively short period of time, especially the bottom line…

Informed Approach

  • Safety

Take a look at what makes your workplace and workers feel safe. Ask your employees what’s on their minds. Encourage them to be open and transparent without worrying about losing their job.

Create small work groups for weekly or brief daily gatherings in a safe place of peers. Build relationships and bond with co-workers. Believe in yourself and others on your team. You will not be disappointed.

Keep track of follow-up topics that need action for change. Make recommendations. Manage up. Your bosses will love you for making their job easier…

Stay tuned! More on these topics in weekly posts…

  • Trustworthiness & Transparency.

Trust! I can’t think of anything in my career or personal life that means so much to a healthy and productive mind. But, trust is earned the old fashion way in building trust with others. If you know this is critical in your personal life, then we must agree trust is essential in the workplace.

The workplace is a family too. Think about it. I know from my 5th decade of professional life that working was my identity, my passion. If my colleagues were not my close friends who cared about me, had my back, picked me up, mentored and guided me, I moved on.

I knew that success was not possible unless team members cared about each other deeply. There is trust and honesty with love. The lack of trust comes with fear of others on your team. Fear of being put down. Fear of being fired. Fear of offering creative ideas. Fear of reprisals and bullying.

Yes, there is fear in some workplace cultures. Sometimes it’s generational in well established organizations with autocratic leadership or rulers at the helm.

Sadly, too many enterprises fail because of a unhealthy workplace and leadership style. The question is always, “is it too late?” And, “why didn’t we see this coming?”

  • Peer Support.

Enterprises with continuity of best practices for workplace wellness are exceedingly successful in everything at the core of their mission. The worst cases, simply fail in time, while too many good people suffer with PTSD. Families suffer too with secondary PTSD.

At the center of success in ensuring your business meets the certification criteria for Trauma Informed Care is Peer Support. It’s ‘boots on the ground’ in the workplace that makes it happen each and everyday.

leaders at all levels must be committed and trained up in ‘trauma informed care’ workplace best practices. Human Resources policies have to be funded and focused as an essential part of the business culture.

I’ve experienced the best and the worst business cultures in my long career. It’s always the same everywhere. The best of the best, succeed at the very foundations of the heart and soul of the company.

The mission is rarely compromised. The bottom line and balance sheet is something to be proud of. Employees and volunteers thrive. Workers love their jobs and each other.

Stuff happens. Creativity is at the highest level. Families greet their loved ones at the kitchen table with stories of pride, satisfaction, and joy in the workplace. It’s infectious, indeed.

If you’re business seems to be chaotic and dysfunctional, act now. If your business is struggling to recruit and retain the best people, act now before its too late.

  • Collaboration & Mutuality.

Trust in close relationships, family, friendships or in the workplace is, without question, essential. I believe strongly from my life experiences, that without mutual trust, we should pick up our tents, put out the fire, and find others to collaborate inkind. For, It is only kindred spirits who can make dreams come true.

As the team leader, it’s critical to create a list of what you believe the mission and goals look like to you. But, when an organization is in emotional turmoil, and times are tough, people thinking of leaving, leaving, and unhappy clients, leave everything from the past ways of doing business open for change.

There are no “can’t do this or that.” There are no “this is the way we’ve always done that.” Give your team the opportunity to work through the processes of their own workplace to sort this out.

Whenever I meet a new team it’s time to get to know each other and bond. This takes time. First, after the initial meet and greet gathering of personal and fun interactions, agree on next steps. Your team does this sort of thing well. Bonding and building trust starts with one on one interactions and relationship building.

As the team leader or work group facilitator, you will have a proactive role in cheering others on. One very important first step for me is to meet one on one privately with each work group member.

This is the very beginning of making big change in the workplace. As the team leader, you must now orchestrate building workplace wellness. Your team must own it. You must manage-up to your own CEO and Board to ensure there is a commitment before anything gets off the ground. Without a workplace wellness commitment from the top, nothing will happen, period.

Always keep in mind, this is hard work. There are resources to help with workplace wellness. Reach out to others and search the web for resources. Bring in resources to assist along the way. Do your homework.

‘Mindfulness Meditation’ practices really help in the workplace as well.

  • Empowerment & Choice.

I believe it is in empowering and enabling others that organizations, just like families, thrive in so many healthy ways. It is in a true sense of heart and soul that we see and feel each other as humans.

Once each of us feel a purpose in our lives, at work or at play, it is in this spirit we no longer fear. In the workplace as a team, making choices and feeling enabled to do so without reprisal and belittling, is a powerful force of nature.

We are at our best in a culture of trust and confidence in each other. We complement each other in our work. We create a better workplace together with common goals.

I have seen the best of myself and others in my career experience. And, on too many occasions, I have seen the worst behaviors in the workplace.

In failure, we ask ourselves why. In success, it’s easy to be complacent and forget to ask ourselves why. Why wait for the worst case of workplace trauma to act in the spirit of the greater good?

It is human nature that we need commaraderie and love. The workplace is no exception. It takes a daily effort by all people in maintaining the spirit of love and kindness as we do our best work together.

Leaders have a great responsibility in workplace wellness, even more than I ever imagined in my experience. I became acutely aware each and everyday in my work when things didn’t feel right.

My heart and soul speaks to me. I feel stress in others. I feel love in others. I can feel anger too. If you listen as a leader, feelings are revealed.

It is in these moments when taking a pause to hear each other more closely is critical. Sometimes it is to celebrate and remind each other how much we care. It is also a time to be mindful of each others human needs.

Well, none of this conversation is easy, I know. But, it can be made a little easier when we have mutual respect and kindness at the center of workplace wellness.

  • Cultural, Historical & Gender Issues

I know this to be true as blue in my 6th decade of professional experience, leading and in building successful organizations. It is in diversity in the workplace where I experienced the most success and satisfaction.

I also learned very early in my career that bosses who bully employees needed to be fired. Employees who abused others either changed, or in most cases were fired too.

This is when we could start to heal from too much trauma in the workplace. This is when we discovered that workplace wellness and social responsibility would be a corporate mission and #1 priority. Our customers joined us in this mission as well.

It is when we are all the same we see kindness and caring without a thought of color or gender issues. Politics seemed to be something we put aside, and never added to the creative process. Innovation is magic!

We knew how to make the magic sauce. As a team we knew staying focused on the mission and goals were critical to being competitive, and in winning for all of us, not just some of us.

Next, a more indepth view on how to execute changes in Workplace Wellness in your organization…

Governance and Leadership

Workforce Wellness starts at the top! It must begin with forceful positive energy, and sense of urgency from the highest on top of the corporate ladder. It is a mission to change your business culture to the highest levels of empathy and compassion in the workplace.

Building a healthy workplace saves lives in many ways. Your employees will engage on the ground as peer support teams. Workforce Wellness is made possible when friends and colleagues collaborate to make it happen.

Volunteerism, a ‘civic duty’ for many…

Volunteer civic and non-profit social services are a community’s greatest assets and valuable resource. These inkind contributions and donations go to the bottom line on the balance sheet.

Funders love you for participating this way. When grant applications or other funding proposals are submitted, inkind dollar values can be used as an alternative to cash.

We need to do much better as a community to build Workplace Wellness for our volunteer heros on the front lines. This is where healthcare and wellness services meet the workplace and the community face to face.

As we transform business processes and policy to a Workplace Wellness model, I believe workers will start to feel positive changes in the air. You will begin to feel the souls of coworkers and team members. There is a sense of calm in the workplace that wasn’t felt but on rare occasions.

Yes, work is still hard, very hard sometimes. But work comes with a joy. Working closely as friends and colleagues becomes a journey of making dreams come true.


Does your business or organization have a workplace wellness policy and programs? Even if you do or think you do, how is that working out? Are your workers stressed out and getting sick? Do you observe anger in your workplace. Is there joy? Is there kindness? Are your customers and clients happy or mad?

Are any of these questions concerning to you? Then, as leaders and owners of any enterprise, sit down immediately and have a conversation with your team. Start a personal conversation in a safe place. Make a space safe if you don’t have one. Maybe it’s at home or a coffee/chat off site.

It was the early 1980s when the IT industry recognized wellness in the workplace. It was very difficult to recruit and retain the best people. We were building the Internet and a broadband network back then. It was a 24/7 exceedingly challenging, workplace dilemma.

It was clear. To compete for the high tech workforce we had to love each other and our customers, especially. We knew our community expected us to be socially responsible too.

We enacted policy and invested in workplace and employee wellness in major ways. It worked! And it still works more than ever before. But we stopped with IT and other large corporations during the coming decades. We haven’t gone far enough, not by a long shot.

Public private philanthropic enterprises and small businesses suffer all over America right now. I believe we are sick of being sick and tired of most everything these days.

Look and listen! I feel it and see it everyday. It is crucial and essential for all of us to stop and take a deep breath. Breathe, hug, smile and laugh with each other and nature.

Start today examining workplace wellness in your enterprise. Ask for help. Change up your culture and policies to ensure your workplace is a model for wellness.

Physical Environment

Weyerhaeuser Company
Corporate Headquarters, Open Office Design
Seattle, Washington

I was blown away when first entering Weyerhaeuser Company headquarters in 1974. I wanted to work there right away. I felt free. I looked around at people interacting, smiling, laughing and enjoying their long days in the workplace.

I didn’t see any corner offices! “What a relief,” I thought with excitement. Being able to work in this beautiful campus was a special gift at that time.

It changed my career experience dramatically to see and feel freedom at work with others. I would not miss the stuffy, smoky, closed door offices of my past after that.

No longer did I see value in sitting in a office as a manager or supervisor. We all worked together as one team, each and everyday. It was fun, really!

There were conference rooms, large and small, and guest offices too. We could always go to one of the small offices for a private conversation. Sometimes these meetings were heated with the talk of tough issues of the day. We could escape outdoors too, or the cafeteria to engage privately.

Weyerhaeuser offered a gym, shower, and lockers for both women and men. We were encouraged to run and walk the many trails around the corporate campus. On nice days, mostly summer, many employees sat outside to eat lunch or take a break. No smoking was allowed in the building.

It was in this moment back in 1974, I made a commitment to myself as a leader about the value of open office design and workplace wellness. It was then, I became an evangelist for a healthy and welcoming office design in all offices and workplaces.

I learned quickly that Weyerhaeuser’s recruiting and retention stats were some of the highest among Fortune 50 companies. It was and still is the no brainer for a healthy and productive workplace. I believe it with my soul after all this time.

Engagement and Involvement

Peer support is no doubt the most important resource to sustain workplace wellness policy. We already have many years of experience and success with many well established public health and safety policies as best practices.

It not hard to add a higher level of trauma informed policies which would create more value to programs in place and funded as corporate commitments. In the past, health and wellness has always been a priority. What’s missing in most cases is mental health as an overlay.

Trauma informed peer support specialists are critical to building a sustainable program in the workplace. Individuals in your organizations are selected to lead this effort. They are trained and certified to train and facilitate a trauma informed culture. It works!

When someone is suffering from a traumatic event, addiction, illnesses, family struggles, divorce, death, military and 1st responder traumas or PTSD, we are all too often at a loss on what and how to support people who suffer in the workplace. I know from my career experience that we can do so much better.

Most of all, your employees will feel safer at work. Most will feel more open to seek appropriate help and guidance to find resources. If you feel safe at work and have a place to take a break from a bad day at the office, it’s much easier for employers to retain employees.

If you tell employees that mental health is not a subject to discuss in the workplace, they will eventually find a safer and healthier job elsewhere. By telling your workers that, “my office is always open,” you can be sure they will feel better about themselves and be more trusting of leaders and coworkers.

Sound simple? It’s the right thing to do.

And, almost forgot, hugs are okay too!

Cross Sector Collaboration

Most larger corporations, public, and philanthropic nonprofit enterprises, with stakeholders, partners, collaborative work groups and inter-departmental relationships have a business essential need to work together effectively. In a workplace wellness culture each of the groups of people and employees are required to work together as a team.

It is essential to orchestrate from the top a sense of urgency and a mission to advance a healthy workplace. It is even more important to have boots on the ground as peer support to sustain this effort.

Peer support teams are built to coordinate cross sector collaboration efforts. Each organization in a inter-departmental collaboration team meet at least monthly to exchange ideas, experiences, and lessons learned.

Team building and bonding with others is truly what makes workplace wellness a sustainable and successful mission. It is even more important to bring resources and skills together to achieve greater things for broader business goals.

Screening, Assessment, Treatment Services

A view from from my career in sales is a good starting point for this discussion. I begin my my sales career in 1967 at the Western Union Telegraph Company in Los Angeles, California.

I had no previous sales experience and very little academic education, except radio communications, electronics and teletype technology in the US Navy. It was very scary, to say the least.

It was clear from the outset that sales would be a tough test. I observed immediately the stress of sales people, all men, who were on the team.

I observed a tough boss, who was kind mostly. Western Union was just learning how to compete. We had little or no context how to coach and help sales people who struggled emotionally at work and at home. I could see the stress and feel it.

I could smell morning after booze and cigarettes. The whole office felt like the local pub on the corner of S. Flower Street near WU’s regional offices. “Why would I want to be in sales?” That was my thought everyday as I learned the ropes.

It was this way then. And, sales is still a tough business. It was almost impossible to change the traumatic environment back then. Customers were even volatile and stressed out. People came to work sick and tired. They were angry.

We bullied each other. Pushed each other to the brink. Why would anyone do this work? I’m still unsure about that after all these decades.

In the mid 70s we started to change, but it was without assessment and treatment policies from the top. No peer support, no HR resources that connected trauma informed practices.

We didn’t know what PTSD was back then. Most of us lived with cumulative trauma from military service and unsafe conditions growing up. We knew in our hearts and souls, though, that there were unhealthy workplace conditions that needed to change.

Now, in 2021, we have no excuses for unsafe conditions and trauma in the workplace. Intervention and healing strategies are robust and well founded with best practices, peer support, training for employees and leaders.

I can’t think of one reason for a chief executive of any public or private enterprise who would not support a healthy and happy workplace. Successful businesses know the bottom line depends on workplace wellness in spades, and in full view of your workplace culture. Customers are happier too!

And, these are the ingredients of making the ‘magic sauce’ we dream of. Let’s get to work!

Let’s work together to make your workplace wellness strategies a huge success. We do this together as a community of like minded people with empathy and compassion. We do this work with love, kindness and respect for each other.

Training and Workforce Development

Longterm success and sustainability in workplace wellness is dependent on changing corporate culture. This will not happen on the fly. It must be grounded in the moral and social responsibility of the business mission statement.

The implementation of workplace wellness requires a top level, middle level and bottom up commitment. It requires line item funding in the budget for human resources. If not, starting the process of changing or fine tuning processes will certainly fail.

There are more than enough resources to draw from to get started. Reach out for help. Use the web. Contact us at SparksAssociates.

Training, more training, and peer support are key to your continued success. Make sure you have a succession plan. Groom others to be passionate and successful in this critical work. Reward them and celebrate success!

In the end, it is leadership that will take your business to a better place in workplace wellness. Be kind to yourself and others on your team. Be mindful of their emotional wellbeing. Your enterprise will reep great rewards.

Your customers and clients will love to do business with your company. Your employees will stick around and recruit other great people to join your team. Your bottom line will bring smiles to your executive team, board members, shareholders and donors.

Be kind to each other and win big!

Progress Monitoring and Quality Assurance

If we are unable to measure progress and outcomes, it is unrealistic to expect any program or policy to succeed. Measurable objectives and regularly scheduled reviews by peer support teams and management requires a disciplined approach.

SAMHSA’s Guidelines for TIC implementation

Progress• Is there a system in place that monitors the agency’s progress in being trauma-informed?

Monitoring• Does the business solicit feedback from both staff and individuals receiving services and peer support?

•What strategies and processes does the business use to evaluate whether staff members feel safe and valued at the business organization?

•How does the business incorporate attention to culture and trauma in operations and quality improvement processes?

•What mechanisms are in place for information collected to be incorporated into the business quality assurance processes and how well do those mechanisms address creating accessible, culturally relevant, trauma-informed services and supports?

Remember to reach out to resources readily available to help guide development of your business needs.

SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach Prepared by SAMHSA’s Trauma and Justice Strategic Initiative July 2014


•How does the the budget include funding support for ongoing training on trauma and trauma-informed approaches for leadership and staff development?

•What funding exists for cross-sector training on trauma and trauma-informed approaches?

•What funding exists for peer specialists?

•How does the budget support provision of a safe physical environment?


•How does your business conduct a trauma-informed organizational assessment or have measures or indicators that show the level of trauma-informed approach?

•How does the perspective of people who have experienced trauma measure performance beyond consumer satisfaction survey?

•What processes are in place to solicit feedback from people who use services and ensure anonymity and confidentiality?

•What measures or indicators are used to assess the organizational progress in becoming trauma-informed?

Reach out

SparksAssociates can help guide you in your executive leadership strategies and policies for Workplace Wellness. You can reach out to me here…

Steve Sparks
Organizational & Transformation Leadership Consulting

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
View all posts by stevesparks →

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