The Healthy Executive – With Healthy Spaces Guru Rex Miller

Yes, we need to give our brains a rest – a time to recover after using them for an extended time.

That’s what I’ve learned in speaking with futurist Rex Miller about his new book, The Healthy Workplace Nudge. We often expect ourselves as well as our employees to work longer than we should, with diminishing returns and increasing mental errors. Why? Because our brains aren’t like our muscles; we don’t feel pain when we over exert. Rex compares working our brain to an athlete in competition. When we engage in cognitive loads, time and time again without allowing our minds time to recover from it, we liken our mental strain to that of overtraining syndromes found in athletes when they do not take the appropriate time to recover from strenuous activity.

Wellness Programs

Few people will be surprised to learn that per Rex, “Our corporate wellness programs just don’t work.” According to his research, organizations and employees now spend an average of $18,000 per year per employee for health costs, a 61% increase in 10 years. These costs are expected to double before 2030, which is unsustainable. According to the book, this upward trend is the tip to an even bigger iceberg, including the hidden costs of time out of the office, distraction, disengagement, and turnover. With 80% of the total cost being dedicated to caring for the sickest 10% of patients, we have to find the reason for the rise in chronic disease rates. The authors show this reason is stress.

Stress Management

Insight from The Healthy Workplace Nudge addresses stress as being the reason for the dramatic rise in these rates of chronic disease; we have to tackle it and become a bigger part of the solution. The book poses these questions: If we’re together working most of the time, couldn’t we make that time healthy? Could the workplace actually become restorative? And if it did, what would that mean for the future of productivity?

Where does stress occur? The leading cause of stress is consistently reported to come from work. Rex and his team found that we spend 90% of our lives indoors, and 15 feet of space around us impact several key systems in our bodies, everything from eyes to our bones. This is why we’ve integrated wellness programs into our work life. Most American companies with more than 200 employees have wellness programs and were promised a return of $3 for every dollar spent on an employee. “Unfortunately, there’s no real data to back up these extravagant claims,” Rex said. His book delves into the data and explains how the steps to disease management have low participation and do not save companies any money. Incentives to joining the preventative plans work for 5-10% of the already healthy workforce, but they don’t work long term. The lifestyle management programs, another component to wellness platforms, never worked “in the history of mankind.”

What works?

The authors explain nudging behavior in depth and offer great examples throughout the book. “Commitments, engagement and the bigger picture of a company’s values all come from a leadership of care,” said Rex. “People are valuable just because they’re people, and what hurts them trickles to their families and then into the communities.” Without caring for our employees’ mental health, the physical will deteriorate.

Next week we’ll list out some specific strategies on shifting your workplace into a healthy one that ties health and wellness strategies to employee experiences and culture for effectiveness. Executives and employees will hear how nudging and changing space will help reach a happy, healthier workplace that leads to high performance and cost savings. Join us next week for specifics.

Find out more information on The Healthy Workplace Nudge by going to