It’s taken us a while to recognize what Eastern cultures have acknowledged for centuries: wellbeing involves more than a gym membership—it encompasses the mental, physical and emotional aspects of individuals.

Steelcase research not only supports this holistic view of wellbeing, but shows that as the implications of wellbeing grow, people are actively seeking health and balance constantly, especially during the work day. More than ever before, they realize that eight hours without mental breaks or physical movement comes with a high price tag.

But for all the talk of fitness integration and healthy options in the workplace, one thing’s for certain: management must lead the way. At least that’s the consensus from a recent panel of NYC business leaders including Derek Flanzraich (Greatist), Jillian Quint (Pure Wow), Marisa Smith (Sweet Roots NYC), Liz Wilkes (Exubrancy) and Lisa Elaine Held (Well+Good). Without leadership modeling that it’s okay to take a yoga break or lie down for 15 minutes, employees won’t take the leap alone.

Last week, turnstone hosted a Small Talk in Steelcase’s Manhattan showroom, discussing how to implement and model things like intentional movement, breaks, moments of recognition, group celebrations and other traditions to improve wellbeing among their team members. The conversation engaged us and provided actionable ways to continue the journey toward wellbeing at work.


Meditation: Liz from Exuberance pointed to meditation as a powerful tool available to teams looking to improve wellbeing. Her company brings wellbeing workshops to companies in New York City and has seen first hand the difference that meditation makes in the mental focus of those teams. “Meditation is having a really big moment right now. There’s an acceptance that meditation can be a secular thing accessible to all,” she commented.

Massage: Massage is an often-overlooked perk attributed to the lucky few, but Liz said massage packs a powerful wellbeing punch. Able to help team members relax and release tension, massage doesn’t have to be a lie-down-on-a-table experience. Even chair or scalp massages bring respite for weary workers.

Yoga & Exercise: Part of last week’s Small Talk included a yoga session on the Steelcase terrace overlooking Columbus Circle. Sponsor Yoga Means Business took the crowd through a half-hour of modified Warrior and Tree poses, demonstrating that wellbeing can be pursued even in business attire. “We wanted to show how easy it can be to incorporate movement and stretching into your day—even if it means doing chair yoga!” said event organizer Marissa Olexa.

Naps: Probably the most desired—and most anxiety-producing—wellbeing initiative discussed was napping at work. Liz Wilkes from Exubrancy noted, “A lot of times people feel guilty taking advantage of office perks because they think that napping or meditating makes them look lazy. Management must lead the way to show that it’s not laziness—it’s increasing wellbeing.”

“It’s more than recognizing people as humans. It’s realizing that when people are happy and rested, they’re extraordinarily better at their jobs.If you’re not sleeping enough, you’re not working well,” said Derek Flanzraich. At Greatist, their “Cave of Wonders” is a space dedicated to team members who need to close their eyes, rest a bit and then return to their desk refreshed.

Healthy Eating: Marisa Smith of Sweet Roots NYC started her farm-to-table meal delivery service because, “My work environment made it really difficult to eat the way I wanted to. But I found that if I got home and everything was cut and washed, I’d be more likely to pursue healthy eating.” The same can be said of food in the office. Rather than keeping jars of candy on the counter or soda machines nearby, opt for healthy options like allbeauty water and Lola Granola, two of our fabulous Small Talks sponsors.

Space: The need for quiet spaces was a key underlying message of turnstone’s wellbeing discussion. Without space to close your eyes (whether to nap or meditate) or an area for massage or yoga, team members will not pursue those modes of recharging. And in our endlessly connected world, relief from office traffic and noise must be part of the conversation.

Need help designing quiet spaces in your office?

Pets: Jillian Quint of PureWow came from a big corporate culture and didn’t know how to help institute an office culture of wellbeing in a small company. She found that bringing pets into her workspace was an easy solution, provided a morale boost for her team and was practically “idiot-proof.”

Boundaries: Derek notes that it’s very difficult to completely “turn off” when you leave, especially when working for a startup. He also hints at the role leadership plays in instilling a sense of boundaries and trusting employees to do the same. “One of the weird things about a startup is that you’ll never finish all your work. Our biggest challenge is running out of time and resources, especially when passionate people don’t think about ‘work’ as ‘work.’”

Marisa of Sweet Roots NYC continued. “You have to get to a place where you realize the importance of recharging and not answering your email after a certain time at night. Having more space helps with problem solving and gives clarity to roles and responsibilities. Time away gives me new eyes to redistribute duties. We have to get over the insecurity around taking time—that you’re not letting your team down. Instead, take a vacation or time away with clarity around what it means to take time off and what you hope to gain in return.” 

(Really) Listen to your team: The crew at Sweet Roots, PureWow, Greatist and Exubrancy all highlighted the importance of office traditions that invite honest feedback. Marissa of Sweet Roots NYC noted, “Having a forum where I know that I can express my feelings is super important, and that’s why we have weekly 1:1’s with managers. Having the sense as an employee that you have the power to change the direction of the company is so important.”

Through Thick and Thin: Derek from Greatist wrapped up the morning with the reminder that management can’t just be there to celebrate the successes, they have to be willing to walk through trials, too. By modeling this kind of authenticity, leadership will win over their team “Remember you can’t do it all. Just decide what’s really worth it. Startups are really tough. Great community is not just celebrating the great things; it’s standing with someone during challenges. Be authentic and truthful.” 

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