What F1 Racing Can Teach Us About Workplace Wellness

Sometimes when I talk with corporations about workplace wellness programs, I can sense a hesitation. They're wondering:

How important is it to have an employee wellness program...really?

I like to answer this question with a story:

A year ago, I visited my sister who lives in Germany and we went to the Nurburgring racetrack to see F1 racing. There were rows and rows of luxury sports cars - Porsche, Maserati, Ferrari -from every decade, design, and color. Exciting!

Out of all of the events, the most exciting to me was seeing drivers race cars from the 1970s. The rule is that you can modify and spruce up your car as long as all of the car parts are from that decade.

Two lines of classic cars sat on the starting line, revving their engines. As soon as the starting shot fired, they all clumsily sped off - all except for one car which couldn't even start! Two men ran onto the racetrack to give the car an encouraging push from behind until the driver was finally able to get the engine going.

"Go go goooo!" We all cheered. He sped down the track to catch up with the others.

The driver that had been winning the race for the first several laps started to pass us by then...BANG! Something backfired on his car and smoke started fuming out, blocking the visions of the drivers behind him. He wound up having to park on the side of the track as a emergency safety crew rushed to make sure he was okay. And the cars behind him became bottlenecked and anxiously tried to get around him to make up for lost time.

The entire race I was on the edge of my seat - no one knew what was going to happen, who was going to win, or if any of them would even make it past the finish line.

Alrighty, so what can F1 racing teach us about Workplace Wellness?

Well, your employees are like drivers - they're all talented, qualified, skilled people who have their eye on the finish line.

But once they're out there working, striving and pressuring themselves to perform well, you never know what can happen to their vehicle (mental state, emotional state, or physical state). One person might burn out, another unexpectedly falls behind, and a third loses his grip. And their issues can threaten the people around them.

Think about it: haven't you seen one popular employee leave and a couple employees in her team follow suit? Or maybe that one micromanager makes you feel like you're holding your breath, hindering you from feeling good about your work? You are easily affected by the energy and actions of the people in your environment.

Workplace wellness programs are like a pit crew

Would you bet on an F1 racer who doesn't have a pit crew when all other drivers in the race do?

Workplace wellness programs provide the tools and techniques that employees need to maintain their vehicles (mental state, emotional state, physical state) to increase the chances that:

  1. they will stay in the race (stay longer in the company),

  2. they will stay in their own lanes to keep both themselves and other employees focused on their own race (contribute to a positive work environment), and

  3. they'll finish the race in record time (increase productivity).

So if you're wondering if you should add corporate wellness programs to your workplace, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How much longer can we keep our employees in the game if we care for their mental, emotional, and physical conditions?

  2. How much more efficiently can we hit our targets if we focused on improving the quality of the vehicles that get us there?

Or, you can phrase it these ways:

  1. How could workplace wellness have prevented turnover in our office?

  2. How much further along would our business be if we had implemented workplace wellness sooner and our employees were happy, self-motivated, and productive?