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  • Writer's pictureSertrice Shipley

Guiding Lights: How Leaders Impact Employee Wellness and DEI

Originally posted on Mattingly Solutions Blog.

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Patricia Grabarek, co-founder of Workr Beeing and workplace expert, for an episode of our livestream video series, Better Humans at Work (BH@W).

Dr. Grabarek has over a decade of experience in both internal and external consulting roles and has developed expertise in areas such as workplace wellness, diversity and inclusion, selection and assessment, people analytics, survey development, data analysis, competency modeling, leadership development, and performance management. Her insights have been featured in major media outlets such as the L.A. Times. She is a sought-after speaker, having presented at a variety of conferences and events including TEDx. 

Patricia has dedicated her career to helping organizations create healthy and productive workplaces that allow people to thrive. Sertrice and Patricia discuss her research and the science-based strategies she uses for improving employee well-being and engagement.

How can leaders prioritize wellness? 

Patricia’s work with Workr Beeing focuses on working with organizations on what they can actually do to improve their work environments. The focus of her work is primarily on wellness and going beyond just benefits to improve the workplace experience of everyone. 

One way in which workplace experiences can be improved is through developing actionable steps of leaders. Patricia’s work focuses on what leaders might not expect they should be doing. For example, acts of vulnerability can be impactful. Often, employees are asked to be vulnerable about their needs with their leaders without reciprocation on the part of their leaders. This disconnect can lead to negative impacts on individuals. Leaders can role model the behavior of disclosure in order to remove the stigma. 

By tailoring wellness at the individual level, and the relationship level, leaders can go beyond benefits and make real impacts on their employees’ well-being. This is similar to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in that the focus should always be on how individuals have unique needs and we should be finding ways to support them.  

In summary, as a leader, if you are only talking to your employees about work, you’re missing a big piece of how to support them, whether that be career development, allyship, or flexibility needs. There is immense power and impact in having individual conversations with people about what they need, though those conversations are just the first step. 

How do you overcome barriers to wellness? 

Often when leaders are seeking to establish wellness initiatives in their organization, they face pushback. This pushback can come in the form of leaders who are simply hesitant or some who may think that these initiatives have no place in the workplace.

This can be especially challenging when, as a leader, you are trying to manage workloads and reduce stress among your employees but your organization has a “hustle” culture or mindset. In these situations, it’s easy for leaders to end up taking on more work in an effort to protect your team, and burn out. 

The best way to overcome these barriers is to get other people in the organization on your side to make a larger, organizational difference. 

What are individual tactics for wellness? 

At the individual level, Patricia recommended a few different recovery tactics to avoid burnout and improve wellness. 

  • Disconnect: Avoid thinking or talking about work once you get home. 

  • Relax: Disengage and spend time letting your mind relax by doing things such as watching TV or just sitting on the couch. 

  • Socialize: Spend time with friends or coworkers. 

  • Mastery: Learn a new hobby that focuses your mind to fully disengage and focus on something else, while providing a feeling of accomplishment. 

What can organizations do to improve wellness? 

Patricia’s most important takeaway for organizations looking to improve the wellness of their employees is to improve the effectiveness of their leaders. Leaders must be given the resources and tools to be able to create a better environment for individuals rather than an environment that only focuses on workload.  

Leaders must be given enough capacity to do what they need to do and allow their employees to thrive. When this happens, organizations benefit through more healthy, happy, and productive employees. 

Looking to learn more about Patricia’s work? Connect with her on LinkedIn. You can also visit Workr Beeing’s website to sign up for their newsletter, listen to their podcast “Thriving at Work”, and visit their blog

Looking to advance DEI through data-driven insights in your organization? Contact us at Plan to Action today to drive meaningful change, together.

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