Workplace Wellbeing

A Holistic Toolkit for Leaders—4 Strategies for Healthier, More Productive Employees

A holistic approach to employee well-being is not just a feel-good initiative—it’s a strategic investment with tangible benefits for your organization and your people.

Written by
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Britjé Montgomery, MS, LPC
Clinical Trainer
Clinically reviewed by
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    Workplace productivity is all about who grinds the hardest—right? 

    Not exactly. There is a better approach to protect employees from burnout while also getting the work done.

    I’m a licensed professional counselor in Texas, specializing in holistic wellness, and I’m also a clinical trainer for Spring Health. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the connection between workplace productivity and a holistic approach to wellness. 

    Let’s imagine that I have a project deadline, and I’m not sleeping well. I’m also feeling anxious, sitting at my desk all day, eating poorly, and consistently feeling burned out from my workload. I won’t be as productive in meeting my upcoming deadline or working as effectively as I could be. 

    My productivity suffers when my overall wellness is neglected, regardless of how hard I continue to grind.

    In this blog, we’re exploring an alternative framework for understanding productivity and well-being, discussing how leaders can be wellness advocates, and outlining a holistic toolkit for practical steps workplaces can take to promote wellness.

    Redefining productivity: a holistic approach 

    A holistic approach to wellness means ensuring that we not only take care of our physical or mental health as separate aspects of well-being, but that we consider all facets of health interconnected. 

    This approach considers health multi-dimensional, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual health.

    Holistic well-being in the workplace involves supporting our team members in every area of health. An excellent place to start for HR or workplace leaders is to think about what they need in times of struggle and amid the ebbs and flows of daily life. 

    What support or benefits would have helped after losing a loved one? What would have been helpful when dealing with a physical or mental health challenge? We’ll get into more specific strategies later, but this is an excellent framework to build from.

    Grinding is not the best productivity metric

    Productivity is often associated with constant activity and grinding, but consider the definition of grinding: it’s a connotation of something being broken down. 

    A recent survey of employees found that 65% of full-time workers are burned out, and 72% report that burnout is affecting their productivity. So, how can we think about productivity in ways more aligned with a holistic approach?

    First, instead of focusing on traditional productivity metrics like the amount of output, we can think more about the quality of the work being done, the healthiness of the workplace culture and environment, and the strength of relationships.  

    The sign of a healthy workplace environment is a productive, creative, and resilient workforce—because employees feel psychologically safe, are not burnt out, get along, and are happy to be at work.

    A holistic approach to well-being will reduce turnover, absenteeism, and presenteeism, as employees get the support they need to be healthy. The cost of poor workplace well-being is high. 

    Leadership as wellness advocates

    My most recent supervisor was adamant about prioritizing self care. She modeled this in her own life and emphasized it for her team members, which showed us that we had permission to do the same. 

    Leaders can play a vital role in setting the tone for workplace wellness. They are in a position to change the culture and impact lives by:

    • Fostering collaboration over competition
    • Encouraging a growth mindset
    • Advocating for work-life balance and leading by example
    • Providing resources for mental health, self care, and physical health
    • Partnering closely with HR so they understand what benefits are available and are ready to connect employees when necessary

    Training and development for leaders

    For leaders to set the tone, it can be helpful to partner with an outside organization to show them how to implement these strategies in a helpful way for their organization. This might include:

    • Onsite training
    • Webinars
    • Mentorship relationships

    Open communication combats stigma

    In the workspace, people are rarely comfortable being vulnerable. There’s still so much stigma around discussing mental and emotional health at work, but a culture of silence, especially between leaders and employees, doesn’t allow for growth or change. 

    When an employee works for a leader who shows empathy and grace during personal or work struggles, offers resources, and speaks openly about their own well-being, it makes employees feel psychologically safe and valued by their organization. 

    This is great for wellness and also a massive driver of productivity. An employee who feels connected with their organization is better able to fully show up at work.

    A holistic toolkit for the workplace

    Now that we’ve covered why it’s important to reframe productivity and how leaders can drive this reframing, let’s outline a holistic toolkit for addressing employee wellness. 

    Cultivating a supportive environment for self care

    When people are stressed, they’re both unhappy and work less productively. Here are five proven self-care practices that might help reduce stress:

    • Practicing deep breathing and mindfulness
    • Facilitating opportunities for movement during the workday
    • Mindful eating
    • Self check-ins: what do I need, how do I feel, and how do I want to feel?
    • Listening to music 

    Empowering employees through mindfulness

    Mindfulness is simple. It’s bringing our attention to the present moment. That’s it. 

    When we are stressed, overwhelmed, feeling down, or worried about the future, our attention is everywhere but the present moment, leading to feelings of disconnection. 

    Mindfulness practices can help employees alleviate stress and regulate their emotions during busy work days—allowing them to better understand how they’re feeling and what they might need, and focus on the task in front of them.

    Workplaces might consider offering:

    • Opportunities to practice mindfulness before meetings or throughout the workday
    • Designated times during the workday when everyone can have a mindfulness moment
    • Speakers or trainers who teach employees about mindfulness practice

    Encouraging healthy eating habits

    I get excited and passionate about the link between people’s mental and emotional well-being, physical health, and eating habits. 

    The largest nerve in the body is called the vagus nerve, which directly connects our brains to our digestive system. It plays an important role in our moods, immune response, digestion, and heart rate. If the food we put into our body isn’t good for us, our stomach communicates to our brain that we don’t feel good.

    Even though it’s easy to reach for unhealthy comfort food when we feel down or stressed, these foods don’t help us feel better. I’m not saying we should never eat comfort food, but it can be helpful to practice eating mindfully when there’s a direct connection between our moods and what we eat.

    Workplaces can encourage healthy eating habits by providing fruits and vegetables in the office or offering healthy alternatives to highly processed sweets and chips in vending machines. They can also provide nutritional education to employees.

    Physical activity is integral to wellness

    Getting moving, especially for those of us who spend a significant portion of our day at a desk, can significantly benefit our mental and physical health. Some of these benefits include: 

    • Improving sleep
    • Relieving stress 
    • Increasing energy and stamina
    • Improving our moods

    Workplaces can promote increased physical activity by partnering with organizations that provide: 

    • Related benefits 
    • Offering yoga or other classes 
    • The flexibility employees need to incorporate movement into their workday 

    Again, by focusing on holistic wellness, we’re shifting the mindset from constant grind mode to foregrounding employee well-being in all areas of health—creating a culture of true productivity instead of burnout. 

    An approach with tangible upsides

    Holistic wellness in the workplace is about the entirety of an employee's well-being. I encourage you to become more intentional about advocating for all aspects of health: mental, physical, spiritual, communal, and emotional. 

    All of these contribute to wellness and are deeply intertwined. A person is less likely to thrive if even one of these facets of human experience is ignored. 

    There is such a huge upside here for both employees and workplaces. A holistic approach to employee well-being is not just a feel-good initiative. It’s a strategic investment with tangible benefits for all parties.

    Energize your organization for peak productivity with Energy Intelligence—and discover the impact on recruiting, talent development, team building, and mental health.

    About the Author
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    Britjé Montgomery, MS, LPC
    Clinical Trainer

    Britjé Montgomery is a licensed therapist, mental health expert, holistic healer, wellness advocate, and educator based in Texas. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with honors from Alcorn State University and holds her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a certification in Holistic Therapies. Britjé specializes in Holistic Mental Health and Mindfulness-based practices, which she defines as a journey to recentering by integrating the mind, body, and spirit practices. Britjé enjoys supporting her community struggling with anxiety/panic disorder, stress management, and work-life balance and helping individuals find more wellness with ease. In her spare time, she loves all things music, art, nature, and spending quality time with my family, friends, and fur babies.

    About the clinical reviewer
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