Surprised woman covering her mouthA recent Dale Carnegie study revealed that 71 percent of employees are not fully engaged. We all know that a change has to take place, and we all know that it has to start with leadership. Employee engagement experts, including myself, talk about the fundamentals of employee engagement like: rewards and recognition, updating performance reviews and transparency; but what about the unsung benefits of encouraging the members of your workforce to take care of their health, their sanity and their happiness?


A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that a large portion of American workers aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep, and the affects can be serious.

Medical studies have related a lack of sleep to health problems and cognitive impairment. Therefore, experts typically recommend seven to nine hours sleep for adults. Currently, 59% of U.S. adults meet that standard…

We also learn from this study that 26 percent of workers are getting six hours or less, and 15 percent are getting five hours or less. The burnout and stress that lack of sleep can cause will affect the individual as well as the organization. Arianna Huffington recently wrote a great piece called, “Sleeping Your Way to the Top”. Huffington said:

There’s practically no element of our lives that’s not improved by getting adequate sleep. And there is no element of life that’s not diminished by a lack of sleep–including our leaders’ decisions.


Study after study has proven that frequent meditation can cause a number of strong health benefits. Several studies outlined in this iO9 post establish that mediation has been proven to:

  • Strengthen the brain by reinforcing the connections between brain cells, making the brain better at processing information, making decisions, forming memories, and improving attention.
  • Increase grey matter density in the brain, leading to a number of health benefits such as improved cognitive, emotional, and immune responses.
  • Have positive effects on breathing and heart rate (cardiorespiratory control).
  • Create more positive emotions, the retention of emotional stability, and more mindful behavior (heightened focus during day-to-day living).

Who wouldn’t want their workforce to look like that? Who wouldn’t want to be able to give that to their workers? It’s such a simple solution to so many problems, yet we don’t encourage those in our workforce to take even just a moment of silence, or short breaks to turn off the noise. In fact, most organizations would frown upon such moments of respite.

Stress levels are climbing, engagement numbers are dismal and turnover rates are increasing despite leadership “efforts”. Encouraging your workforce to meditate, get more rest and take care of themselves in general is all fine and dandy, but actually facilitating and leading those changes is what will truly help your workforce find balance.

Leaders have to stop the competitive talk about how little sleep they got and how many cups of coffee they’ve had. We have to harness that competitive spirit and use it for the betterment of our workforces and ourselves. Leadership specialist and frequent Forbes contributor, Elaine Pofeldt said:

Many companies pay scant attention to employees’ well being, focusing more on financial goals like profits. However, at a time when several surveys show that engagement is at record lows, ignoring how workers feel about coming to work is a big mistake.

Organizations have to make room for change and lead the way. Be flexible with hours for those employees who would like to hit the gym. If their schedule has to bend a little, bend it! Stop rewarding employees with sheet cakes. Give them what they need to succeed; that could be flextime, more work from home days or vacation time. Many organizations shy away from these offerings because they think productivity will suffer, but quite the opposite is true.

Please don’t get me wrong, employees still need recognition, fair compensation and great communication, but don’t forget about the consideration of their physical and mental well being as one of the strongest engagement tools you can offer.

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