What if the key to employee wellness lies in a simple smile?

Have you ever found yourself the recipient of a great big smile? Of course you have!  What did you do?  Naturally, you smiled back.

The Science of Smiling

It turns out that a simple smile can be surprisingly effective at promoting health in the workforce.

Smiling has many positive health effects on the body. It lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, reduces stress, and improves your mental health.

Plus, while you might think that happiness produces smiling, the reverse is also true. Smiling can produce happiness. The physical act of smiling triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These chemicals help put people in better spirits and make them feel happy.

In essence, it’s possible to change your outlook and make yourself feel better simply by faking a smile.

From a social standpoint, smiling is contagious. Have you ever tried not smiling back when someone smiles at you? It’s kind of hard to do. Smiles are contagious because the brain tends to copy what it sees. If someone is smiling at you, you’ll naturally want to smile back.

Smiling in the Workplace

Employees will thrive and be happier in an environment where they are encouraged to smile.  And since the effect is contagious, it just keeps growing.

You don’t even have to overtly encourage smiling. Just start by being the role model yourself and smiling at your colleagues. Each new smile encourages another smile and so on.

Of course, every day is different. You can’t insist that people who are facing struggles just put on a happy face and go about their day. But you can encourage people to look for the silver lining in all situations. Rather than stressing about making a deadline or watching a project get derailed, focus on happy ideas as big as your last workplace success and as small as seeing a child wonder in amazement over a butterfly.

With all this positivity you get more than just healthier employees, you get more productive employees. As happiness researcher Emma Seppälä explains, “positive teams are more productive.”

Sounds great, but how are we supposed to make smiling our wellness strategy? First, you need to understand company culture and how a positive culture supportive of wellbeing is the key to fostering healthy employees.

What Is Company Culture?

A company’s culture is the shared behaviors, attitudes, and values of the people that work there. The culture influences how employees interact with one another, treat one another and influence each other’s behavior.

Company culture can be positive or negative, professional or casual, team-oriented or encourage individuals to work independently, and the list goes on.

There are many factors that influence company culture, like whether employees feel like they are being heard, if work hour boundaries are respected, pitching in when a teammate has a tight deadline, and…. how much we smile in the workplace.

Creating a Culture of Health Is Key

Building a culture of health isn’t easy, but it can be done. The traditional view of simply supplying health and wellness programs at work is only part of the recipe.

The best way to support people to be well and live healthier lifestyles is through using a variety of building blocks.  Your workplace is best served to build a culture of well-being if you deploy strategies that include leadership support, the shared value of wellbeing, a positive social climate, healthy norms, peer support and aligning the ways the employer communicates with the workplace community to all point toward wellbeing. It’s a collective effort and takes time.  Consider it an investment in the future of your organization and know that changes won’t happen overnight.

Can You Afford Not to Smile?

How much do you spend on employee wellness? Each year 80% of large companies spend between $150 and $1200 per employee on wellness programs.

Why do they do it? That’s a lot of money to invest in your employees. Well, health insurance costs a lot more. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, average annual premiums in 2020 cost $7,470 for singles and $21,342 for families. The unhealthier the employee, typically the higher the insurance cost.

Smiling is free.

Living a Healthier, Happier Life

Smiling is just one way to enhance your positive state of mind. Curious to learn more about the intersection of health and positive psychology? Visit the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center. https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/

For a quick experiment, smile at the next person you see. What happens? More likely than not, that person will smile back, strengthening your smile even more, and the good vibes carry on. Learn more today about creating a positive social climate and for that matter a culture of health, where you don’t have to sign up to be well (and most of the time it’s free).

Learn more about how to create a culture of wellbeing in your workplace at RichardSafeer.com and my colleague Judd Allen’s site, HealthyCultureNow.com