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Opinion: Proactive management can positively shift workers’ health

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The definition of health is changing.

Health used to be viewed primarily as being active, eating an apple a day and being rid of disease. However, this term has broadened to a more holistic viewpoint. This definition continues to embody physical health, but now considers mental, spiritual, financial, environmental and social health.

People, especially the upcoming generations, are excited about this new definition and the direction it is forcing society to go. Employers are beginning to use wellness programs to incentivize, engage and retain their employees. Communities are seeking more environmentally friendly opportunities to promote connection and belonging. Take Springfield for example. The biggest news in town is about the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Transportation Discretionary Grants program, aka BUILD, grant and the idea of daylighting Jordan Valley Creek. Both of these are opportunities for walking and biking but also for attracting new residents and making a positive economic impact. We are thinking about the holistic picture.

The health care industry is undergoing its own transformation to adapt to this new definition and perspective of health. Years ago, health care professionals focused solely on chronic care. The professionals in the field had to focus their attention on medical issues that already existed and needed immediate attention. They were limited in education and lacked a lot of helpful tools, personnel and resources that exist today. This hindered the ability to go upstream and solve the real problems.

Today, partially due to the shift in terminology and expectations, employees in the medical field are caring for the overall well-being of individuals. There are more opportunities to take preventive measures that can keep all of us from either being susceptible to disease or making an illness more severe. Individuals working in the health care industry can interact with us virtually, allowing them to ask more questions and coach people to change behaviors and habits. Society also is more confident in the ability to take ownership of personal health and quickly assess how behaviors are impacting all of our lives.

Today’s workforce and leadership are both going through a similar transition, and I already have seen it working for the better. 

The majority of us are seeking to work for or run an organization that is healthy financially and socially, and that enhances our own well-being. We are pursuing opportunities to customize our path and proactively take charge of our own lives and roles within our companies. After all, the alternative is to wait until it’s too late and frantically solve problems for ourselves and our people. I equate this concept to falling into quicksand and never getting out, and unfortunately, I can tell you that a lot of managers are caught in the quicksand.

This reasoning is proven through recent statistics and the way we show up at work. Engagement levels are around 33%-35%. Gallup studies show that 7 in 10 millennials have experienced burnout, and as a Gen Xer, I know I’ve experienced it, too. We all are working harder and not always smarter. These are the consequences of building unhealthy cultures and chronic care. 

Chronic managers
So how do we create change and shift into a culture of health? It starts with management.

Old-school managers are chronic managers who work to solve problems as they arise. They let people come to them with issues and solve it for them. In these environments, there is a mentality that for all decisions, managers will take care of it or that employees are not trusted to complete tasks. Modern or even progressive managers spend their time developing the people around them and creating a healthy organization that can solve most of its own problems and live empowered. These managers cultivate a culture of problem solvers, maximizing productivity and improving the bottom line.

This new definition of health does not eliminate the possibility of disease or sickness, but it does make a person more resilient, engaged, focused and overall happier.

It is time for management to paddle upstream and stop acting as chronic managers. After all, healthy managers create healthy teams that work to solve their own problems, leading to much better success within any organization.

Don Harkey is the owner and CEO at People Centric Consulting Group. He can be reached at


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