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Healthy individuals equal healthy organizations

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By Johanne Bouchard EBS Business Columnist

I am increasingly passionate about striking a healthy balance in all aspects of life. To me, this means combining physical, emotional and mental health with the many demands and pleasures in this world.

In part, it’s a desire to see individuals living fully, but also stems from my firsthand experience seeing how individuals’ overall health – or lack thereof – affects the prosperity of organizations.

In a previous column about the importance of succession planning, I addressed how losing a key manager to health issues can affect a business. In my work as a board and executive consultant, I’ve seen the long-term negative effects of high stress; low physical activity from years of desk work; poor diet from eating “convenience” food or skipping meals; sleep deprivation; and ergonomically incorrect work stations, to name a few examples.

It’s only a matter of time before factors like these affect the intellectual acuity, energy level and morale of the people responsible for the wellbeing and productivity of the organization. A trickle-down effect also exists in business – imbalanced leaders who don’t prioritize their own wellness affect everybody.

I believe empowerment of the individual is the solution. How can you, as a business owner, executive, board member or employee, take the best care of yourself for your own sake and the sake of your colleagues? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but here are a few basics that can make a world of difference:

Adequate sleep. A good night’s sleep is the foundation for good health. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change.” How well and how much are you sleeping? If it’s possible, incrementally increase your night’s sleep by going to bed even 15 minutes earlier than usual. The long-term benefits to your productivity will be dramatic.

Adequate water. If you’re constantly drinking coffee, tea or soda during the day, and rarely drink a glass of water, you’re probably dehydrated. This can manifest in headaches and general fogginess, among other symptoms. Investing in a re-usable water bottle to carry with you and use during the day is a manageable solution.

Adequate activity. As our dependence on computers has risen and our leisure time has become increasingly dominated by screens, so has our collective time sitting. If there’s no way around the sedentary nature of your work, try setting an alarm to go off once an hour and trigger a “standing/walking break.” And if you have the option, choose a more active position for working, like a stand-up desk or walking during one-on-one brainstorming sessions.

Of course there’s always more we can all do to achieve balanced lifestyles. But the fact remains that we live in an era when personal health is often subverted by the demands of career, family and material success. Consider how the trickle-down effect might impact organizations if business leaders made their own comprehensive health a priority.

Johanne Bouchard, a former high-tech marketing executive, is a leadership advisor to CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs, as well as an expert in corporate board composition and dynamics. Visit to learn more or download her recently published eBooks “Board Composition” and “Board Basics.”

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