Is It The Employer's Responsibility To Encourage Wellness In The Workplace?

 

In 2014, Lauren Ash launched Black Girl In Om (BGIO), a wellness community for women of color supported via pop-up events, a podcast, an online publication, weekly newsletters and a dedicated social media following. Originally started as a localized set of meditation and yoga classes in Chicago led by Ash, BGIO has grown exponentially in just a short period of time.

 

Today, the wellness sessions sell out. There have been almost a million downloads of the podcast and there is an active conversation happening on the BGIO social media platforms that has formed real relationships between followers. Behind the growing brand that has become synonymous with self-care for women of color, is a team that also strives to take care of themselves.

 

When Ash brought on additional team members to make BGIO possible, she did so in a pretty intentional way. She wanted to practice what she preached both on and off the clock by creating a work environment that encourages self-care for her and her team. Today, three years since the launch of BGIO, she attributes this culture as being vital to the brand's success. She also believes that workplace wellness is something that every employer should strive for and there are lots of little ways to start moving the needle in the right direction.    

 

According to Ash, self-care shouldn't be inaccessible and there are resources out there you can (and should) tap into.

 

The wellness world is often criticized as being inaccessible to those who are not already well-off. The BGIO platform itself seems to buck this notion. The prices of the in-person sessions and retreats she leads are intentionally priced below the market norm and the podcast, the online publication, newsletters and social media content is, of course, absolutely free to access.

 

"It's always been really important to me to provide accessibility to the values and philosophy we are all about at BGIO because our community is disproportionately unwell," says Ash.

 

Now, in a culture that is especially tuned into wellness, more accessible resources like BGIO are coming into focus. A quick Google search can return hundreds of articles from wellness experts, iTunes has an entire genre dedicated to self-help podcasts and self-care is rapidly becoming a part of our daily vernacular. For the sake of working women everywhere, it's up to employers to tune in.  

 

Ash believes frequent check-ins with employees is a great first step.

 

She takes her responsibility as an employer seriously and believes it's important to check in with her team on a regular basis to ensure they are feeling like their best selves when at work. As an entrepreneur, she also sees the value in this practice.

 

​"From personal experience, I know that cultivating employee wellness leads to amazing vibes, a healthier, happier collective, and greater retention​," says Ash.

 

She often reflects back to her days in grad school and to her first job to recall what she wished could have been different about those environments which were oftentimes stressful and sometimes left her feeling unfulfilled. From there, she aims to create a workplace culture that fills those gaps. According to Ash, Black Girl In Om is all about "unapologetically claiming wellness for yourself," and she fully encourages her employees to do the same.

 

Perhaps a page taken from her yoga practice, Ash is incredibly humble about her place as an entrepreneur and recognizes that she still has more to learn from others around her. For her, it's just as important for her to be checking in with someone regularly just as she checks in with her employees. She maintains relationships with several key mentors in her "tribe" and makes it a priority to communicate with them often. Recently upon the recommendation of one of her mentors, Ash actually sat down to draft a letter to her younger self where she details the significance of finding personal self-care outlets, making connections with others and the importance of self-reflection.

 

Ash says it's also important to recognize that each employee has unique needs.

 

The BGIO team, which currently consists of nine women, is a tight-knit crew but one that she sees as being made up of distinct individuals with unique needs. Recently, the entire staff went on a self-care centered retreat that included yoga, meditation, facials, reiki healing and intention setting sessions. During the retreat, she made mental notes of what stood out to each BGIO team member. According to Ash,

 

Each thing spoke so strongly to a different woman and it was so great to be able to explore different forms of self-care and wellness with each other. I think it's important to do check ins with what everyone on your team wants or needs because there is not a one-size-fits-all workplace culture that works for everyone. 

 

While it may not be realistic to facilitate a team-wide self-care retreat, one of the things every employer can do is to begin to take note of how different members of the team respond to their work environment. Consider their unique work styles, stressors and make it a point to start a dialogue with team members about what might make their workday better.  

 

Finally, Ash maintains that it is important to understand wellness on a holistic level.

 

Certainly, this kind of individual focus that Ash employs with her team becomes a bit more difficult for larger companies to manage. In the case of a larger company, Ash recommends aiming to offer holistic wellness options. For employers looking to learn about holistic wellness she recommends:  

 

Attending and investing in wellness ​experiences themselves, going on retreat, if that's accessible, and bringing back whatever is useful for the team's benefit. Read relevant holistic wellness and mindful lifestyle-focused books and consider how to implement wisdom within it into the team values and culture.

 

She also urges employers to remember that self-care means something different for everyone and that one person's self-care routine could include a trip to the spa whereas another person's definition of self-care could be taking a few minutes out of every day to enjoy the outdoors. When I spoke with Ash on the phone, she was outside in a park enjoying an unseasonably warm Chicago afternoon. While classroom-based wellness programs are a regular part of her wellness routine, some of her favorite self-care moments are found by simply stepping into the sunshine.

 

 

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Source: forbes.com