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Women CEOs Should Take Lead in Workplace Wellness

Workplace Well-being

A recent article by Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Dying for a Paycheck (HarperCollins, 2018),
discusses how workplace stress can make us emotionally and physically ill and costs US employers almost $200 billion annually. Clearly, someone needs to do something about workplace wellness, right?

In today’s mostly male-dominated management space, it may be up to us women business owners and leaders to set the pace. As I read this article, I wondered how I could achieve a more wellness-driven workplace and how I could inspire other yes women, but also male business leaders to do the same. Luckily, Pfeffer gives us some direction. Here’s the takeaway:

Job Control and Social Support
Already, many women CEOs are implementing workplace initiatives to help their workers get and stay happy and healthy, but we can always do more. In his article, Pfeffer talks about how job control and social support to improve employee engagement and overall health.

Job Control
To break it down, job control is simply the amount of control that employees have over what they do and how they do it. Sadly, low job control is all too common in today’s workplace. According to Pfeffer, when employees learn that they can’t control their efforts or that they have little control over the results, they give up trying. Pfeffer says that we need to reestablish job control to create a healthier, happier workplace. As women business leaders, we can improve the job control of our employees by giving our workers more autonomy, guarding against micromanagement, and allowing our employees more fluidity in their job roles.

In one study Pfeffer mentioned, the higher someone’s rank within an organization, the lower their incidence of and mortality from cardiovascular disease. It turned out that differences in job control, which are related to job rank, were mostly responsible for this difference.

Social Support
The other aspect that Pfeffer discusses is social support, which is an area where we women typically excel. Research has shown that women tend to have more friends than men and that women tend to be more socially oriented than men. So when we take this natural inclination and apply it to how we run our businesses, good things can happen.

For instance, Pfeffer says that having friends can protect your health as much as quitting smoking and even more than exercise. At the same time, he mentioned other research that indicates that more Americans than ever claim to have no close friends.

To counter this trend, Pfeffer advises that managers care for their employees and encourage their employees to do the same, all while using language in the workplace that is inclusive rather than exclusive (e.g., by referring to employees as teammates rather than as workers). Most of all, he calls for managers to support shared connections between their employees by regularly encouraging them to come together during holidays, to participate in community service together, and to work together in teams (rather than pitting their employees against each other).

By offering our employees a greater measure of job control and by encouraging social support, we can improve our workplace wellness, which can, in turn, help our employees live longer, happier lives.

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