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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Or, so said Confucius (supposedly). While it may sound a bit trite, there is much truth in this old adage. Our work occupies the majority of our waking hours. If it is something we dread or something that creates high stress, it can diminish our health, both physically and psychologically. Can our work do the inverse as well – contribute to improving our overall health and well-being?

Conscious Capitalism Chicago is exploring this possibility – not as wishful thinking, but as a practical reality. At our July 20 event, four leaders from the healthcare sector engaged in this inquiry with us. And, on September 28, Raj Sisodia, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, will continue the conversation with us, exploring examples of how business can help restore the health of our bodies, minds and souls.

In July, Andrew Sykes, CEO of Habits at Work, a collective of researchers, actuaries and consultants who empower positive habit creation for companies and their employees, said we need to acknowledge “our complicity in work being fundamentally unhealthy.” Andrew asked us if we had ever taken the attitude that ‘I will sacrifice myself at the altar of my company’? I have to admit, I’ve been there. Whether it’s the number of hours or plane flights or cups of coffee, we sometimes consider such measures to be a badge of honor, somehow reinforcing the collective myth that success is giving up our lives? Andrew challenged the business leaders present to shift their mindsets and declare that it doesn’t have to be that way. We can design our work in a way that makes a difference to the performance of human beings. The ultimate promise should be: “come and work here, and we’ll send you home in the best shape of your life.”

It sounds ambitious – and perhaps unrealistic. But, our other panelists echoed Andrew’s perspective. Lyle Berkowitz from Abundant Venture Partners, a purpose-based incubator focused on improving the human condition, said that “the whole healthcare system is aligned to get the results we’re getting – it only kicks in when we get really sick. In many ways, being healthy is counter-productive for our healthcare systems.” We’ve got to focus on designing our work and our lives to nurture our health – and increased energy and performance will follow. Ari Levy, founder of SHIFT, an integrated wellness center (where we met) noted that the keyword is “conscious”. He said that we tend to be largely unconscious much of the time, and healthy work would mean being thoughtful and intentional about our behavior and practices. Patty Riskind, CEO of SIMnext, a developer of simulation software for training healthcare professionals shared that ironically the “most unhealthy employees work in the healthcare industry”, and that as leaders we need to set the tone to change behavior and improve outcomes.

So, can work be a source of health and well-being? We think so. Join us on September 28 to delve more deeply with Raj Sisodia. Raj maintains that most businesses take healthy and whole people and – over time – stress them out and burn them out, adversely impacting their health and happiness as well as their families. Yet, he says it doesn’t have to be that way. Business can be a source of healing, making broken people whole again – and being extraordinarily successful at the same time.

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