Modelling healthy habits at work

Smiling young businesswoman in business meeting

Positive change in the workplace starts with management. Don’t just tell your staff what behaviours and habits you’d like to see – show them.

Whether you want to encourage habits that improve physical health and wellbeing, prevent burn out, or foster effective communication, the best way to influence your staff’s behaviour is to change your own. By modelling healthy and constructive habits in the workplace, your staff are more likely to adopt these behaviours for themselves.

Here are 7 healthy habits to keep in mind every day:

Switch off.

Communicate clear boundaries around when you are, and are not, contactable and encourage staff to do the same. It’s easy to fall into the habit of constantly checking emails or returning work-related calls outside of work hours. If you show your staff that it’s not only okay, but necessary, to switch off sometimes, they are more likely to do the same.

Show that mental health matters.

Create an environment where employees feel safe to discuss mental health by showing that you consider mental health to be an important issue. Acknowledging occasions like R U OK? Day and Mental Health Awareness Month help to demonstrate this. Making it clear that you prioritise mental health and wellbeing in your own life can also set a good example. You can do this without revealing too much by using language related to mental clarity or wellbeing. You could mention that you love going running because it clears your mind. Or that your morning coffee gives you a moment to pause and check in with yourself before a busy day.

Give and take feedback constructively.

Give actionable and timely feedback if an employee is not meeting expectations, so they feel empowered to improve their performance rather than being surprised by a negative performance review at the end of the year. Reward good behaviours and achievements to encourage more of these behaviours. And don’t forget to respond to criticism as graciously as you would like your staff to respond to it. If you act in an open and respectful manner when your performance is criticised, your staff will be more likely to do the same.

Communicate clearly.

It’s inevitable that difficult conversations and points of tension will arise in the workplace. Encourage effective communication and conflict resolution skills by using these tools yourself. Listen with empathy and an open mind. Be aware of your body language and make eye contact to ensure others feel heard. Express yourself clearly when having difficult discussions with staff and be open to their feedback and perspectives.

Take a proper lunch break.

Having a proper ‘brain break’ away from the computer and away from work-related activities improves productivity and focus. However, many employees still feel guilty for taking their full lunch break, afraid they will be seen as lazy or less dedicated than others. As a manager, you can help your employees establish a healthy routine by taking a proper lunch break and modelling a healthy behaviour.

Get active.

Staff who are more physically active have more energy and more positive attitudes, they are less stressed and are less likely to take days off work. Taking a walk or doing a gym class during your own lunch break will help inspire your staff to do the same. You could even organise group-based exercise activities for your team to boost fitness and morale.

Be kind.

It’s simple but powerful. When you are kind and considerate to colleagues and staff, they will be more likely to act in the same way. This fosters a culture of mutual respect, cooperation and collaboration. Be sure not to contribute to gossip and remain neutral if a co-worker talks behind someone’s back, to avoid reinforcing that kind of behaviour.

Psychologists first identified the power of modelling in the 1960s. It can be an extremely effective tool to positively (or negatively) influence others. That’s why it’s so important that your behaviour in the workplace reflects the behaviour you hope to see in your staff.

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