Wellness initiatives are on the rise in the American workplace: according to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), 72 percent of U.S. employers from 2010 to 2015 purchased services to address employees’ health risks and promote healthy lifestyle choices. It’s more and more common for companies to offer gym membership reimbursements or standing work desks – anything to keep employees healthy, well and ready to work.
And yet the many programs that encourage employees to quit smoking, to lose weight, or to get their flu shot all share a pretty glaring blind spot.
Every day at work, at home, at leisure, hardly an hour goes by without a comment or two about time: “I don’t have time to get everything done” or “I’d love to do that but I am busy then” – or less frequently, “I was so absorbed that time just flew by.” Time has become the ultimate scarce resource; and we use financial words to describe it. We budget time, invest time, allocate time and waste time. And like money, we always seem to wish we had more of it.
So what happens when we take time out of the work day to slow down, read and share ideas with colleagues?
Reflecting on the purpose of her writing, the Poet Laureate for Young People, Jacqueline Woodson, asserts an evocative mission: “to write stories that have been historically absent in this country’s body of literature, to create mirrors for the people who so rarely see themselves inside contemporary fiction, and windows for those who think we are no more than the stereotypes they’re so afraid of.”
In January, Woodson came to Cleveland, sponsored by Facing History and Ourselves, with the support of Hawken School, Laurel School and the Beachwood City Schools. In an auditorium of teachers, staff, parents, and students, I first heard her metaphor and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Forbes outline nine leadership lessons about workplace diversity and inclusion that we can learn from this year’s top-grossing Oscar nominee “Hidden Figures.” One tip from the movie that leaders can put into action? Removing obstacles for your workers:
“After realizing that Katherine Goble (played by Taraji P. Henson) had to spend half an hour walking across Langley each time she needed to use the bathroom, Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner) uses a crowbar to smash down the sign that identifies the only bathroom at Langley reserved for women of color. In so doing, he effectively removes a significant obstacle to make Goble’s work easier. And, as is often the case, by identifying and fixing the problem for one person, he removed an obstacle that was impacting a large number of talented people.”
What other obstacles can we remove to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace?
The Intergenerational School in Cleveland, Ohio has a unique mission: to “connect, create and guide a multigenerational community of lifelong learners and spirited citizens.” The student body is drawn from neighborhoods all across Cleveland, and students learn in multi-age classrooms. The school recruits adults from the community to serve as mentors, making for a diverse and truly “intergenerational” experience.
Books@Work shares this endeavor toward community and lifelong learning, and it has been a joy to partner with Saint Luke’s Foundation to organize two years worth of programming with The Intergenerational School.
At first glance, Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette might not seem like it would merit four weeks of discussion. The novel has a bright cover, featuring a sunglasses-bedecked woman and blurbs from the New York Times and young adult author John Green. “Divinely funny” and “A moving, smart page turner . . . the funniest novel I’ve read in years,” these two sources respectively proclaim. A “funny” story told from the perspective of a fifteen-year old girl, Where’d You Go, Bernadette seems like it is more appropriate for a day at the beach than a law firm’s meeting space or a college course.
And yet, the novel is much more than a coming-of-age comedy. What can popular literature teach us about self-reflection and connection with others?
Writing for the Harvard Business Review Amber Lee Williams addresses why it’s important to speak up when we witness instances of bias in the workplace: “Failure to acknowledge and address bias or offensive behavior validates the conduct and may create an impression that the behavior is acceptable, and even to be expected, in the workplace. Moreover, normalizing offensive conduct in this subtle manner tends to have a chilling effect on other potential dissenters, and communicates to those who are offended, regardless of whether they are targets of the behavior, that their perspectives and voices are not valued.”
Williams offers advice for how to speak up most effectively, and emphasizes that we should “create the opportunity for dialogue.” How do you foster dialogue at work?
At Books@Work, one of our greatest pleasures is our discovery of books and stories that inspire vibrant conversation, different perspectives and metaphors to life and work. Here are a few we and our participants have been enjoying recently. Why not try one and start a conversation yourself?
In the maelstrom of New Year’s media activity, the pervasive hand wringing about the past year and angst about the future seem unavoidable. At a recent holiday gathering, a family member suggested that as an antidote, we might each try to think of a word or two – a mantra of sorts – that might guide each of us in the coming year. After playing with that idea for the past week, I keep coming back to the art of critical thinking as my mantra for 2017.
“Critical thinking” is one of those phrases that gets used often, but that seems to defy definition. Why do we struggle to both define and implement critical thinking in our daily lives?