IN TRUTH, most of us do not fully
understand the intricate design of our
brain and bodies and, as a result, we are
operating at a fraction of our full capacity.
Further, what you may not realise is how
this may be holding you back in terms of
your career and life success. Multiply this
across an entire organisation and the gap
between current performance and potential
performance widens exponentially.
Neurological, biological and
psychological data shows us that we have


Our bodies are finely tuned machines, yet we tend
to drive them to the ground, ignore warning signs
and generally treat them poorly. What if HR could
tap into a whole workforce of finely tuned, healthy
and active employees? Christopher Paterson
prioritised our workloads and our success
far above our mental and physical wellness.
As a result, we have become disconnected
with the fundamentals of how the human
body functions. This is having an impact on
our ability to solve complex problems, come
up with new ideas and push the boundaries
for our capability. It is not surprising that
it is also inflating our levels of stress and
While we all have access to a very
impressive machine in the form of the


 - Identify ‘wellness champions’ in senior roles
 - Promote positive wellness behaviours with targeted, evidence based workshops
 - Track wellness factors throughout the year to assess risks and celebrate success
 - Train team leaders to promote and facilitate wellness across their teams
 - Have an integrated corporate wellness plan and measure its effectiveness
 - Have fun with it!

‘pressure’ instead. This research proves
that a certain amount of pressure enhances
performance to the point which is our sweet
spot of optimal performance. However,
when additional pressure is applied,
this creates stress and our performance
decreases. Unfortunately, this is the reality
of the modern workplace with 73% of
working Australians operating within this
zone. Therefore, our first task is to identify
the triggers that are creating this additional
pressure and our next task is to have
specific strategies on hand to manage them
effectively. It’s not always possible to remove
them, but with a better understanding of
our neurological and biological tool kit, we
can get back to our sweet spot of optimal

Wellness toolkit
The good news is the research also
highlights the mistakes that we’re making
and identifies the specific things that we
can do to be at our best. This data points to
three key elements of wellness that all play a
role in our work and life success:
Neurological, biological and psychological
data shows us that we have prioritised our
workloads and our success far above our
mental and physical wellness
human brain and body, it’s extremely finetuned.
What happens to a finely tuned
machine when we put it under sustained
pressure? Performance suffers and it breaks
down. You’ll see these breakdown signs
amongst your friends and family, your
colleagues and staff and you’ll also see the
signs within yourself. While we see the
signs, we don’t know a different way so we
keep doing the same things. We do our best
and hope things will improve.
However, taking time to understand the
fundamentals about how we are designed
has now become a critical sustainability
issue. Changing the way we do things and
working with, rather than against, our body
will ultimately allow you to be at your best
both in and out of the office.
Career outcomes
Our review of the published research
shows that individuals who work with this
knowledge experience lower stress levels,
greater mental alertness, more energy,
higher self-esteem, better memory, greater
work fulfilment, less workload pressure and
greater concentration. Not surprisingly, this
facilitates improved job output, increased
creativity and greater overall career success.
On an organisational level, imagine a whole
workforce of these individuals! This is
organisational performance and capability
redefined and adds a unique dimension to a
company’s market differentiation.
Performance and arousal
While the Yerkes–Dodson law shows the
correlation between ‘performance’ and
‘arousal’, we try not to use the word arousal
too much in the workplace so let’s call this
1 Cognitive wellness – our brain@
Understanding our brain functionality,
particularly the pre-frontal cortex (PFC),
allows us to unlock the full potential of
our cognition. Unfortunately, we currently
tire our brain out with low level tasks and
are left wanting when we need to switch
into higher order analysis or creativity. In
addition, the multi-tasking way in which
we attempt to work creates unnecessary
pressure for the poor old PFC and we fail to
produce our best thinking.
2 Emotional wellness – our limbic
While still in the brain, our limbic system
is the centre for all of our emotional
responses, even mild ones. So every time
we’re a little bit worried, stressed or feeling
under pressure, this powerful system gets
quickly activated and absorbs all of the
cognitive energy, decreasing the quality of
our thinking and pushing us beyond our
sweet spot.
3 Six cylinders of wellness
In a 2009 review of our career transition
clients, we observed that there were two types
of people being coached through career change.
While both had equivalent levels of intelligence,
experience and capability, Group A would
navigate change with confidence, resilience and
focus while Group B struggled to adapt, took
a lot longer to bounce back from setbacks and
experienced higher levels of stress and anxiety.
A closer investigation of the factors at play,
cross checked with the research, revealed that
Group A were simply making better decisions
in six key areas of their life.
We call them the six cylinders of wellness
and they are: Nutrition, Social Connections,
Activity, Time Out, Sleep and Outlets.
Last year, we tested a workshop program
that educated staff on three of these wellness
elements, including the six cylinders. This
enabled them to identify the areas that require
attention and the specific, practical actions that
they can take to facilitate a stronger wellness
profile. We found that by making small
adjustments, staff were able to reduce their
stress levels by 8% and their workload pressure
by 16% while also increasing their focus and
concentration by 5%.
Christopher Paterson is the managing
director of ALCHEMY Career Management,
a firm which supports individuals to
transition their career, assists companies
adapting to organisational change and
delivers Wellness@Work programs for
any organisation wanting to help staff to
be at their best. For more information, visit
Business case
In HR, we support staff because it’s the right
thing to do and in an environment where
workplace stress and anxiety are on the
rise, a focus on wellness is a core element.
Alongside the humanistic argument, the
data shows that a well organisation will
be more productive and creative with staff
who are less stressed, more mentally alert,
energetic, fulfilled, focused and successful.
A 2014 study showed that while the cost
to Australian businesses of mental health
conditions alone is $11bn the ROI for
promoting a mentally healthy workplace is
$2.30 for every $1 invested. (PWC, Beyond
Blue, National Mental Health Commission).
73% Australians reporting that stress is having
some impact
47% Working Australians reporting the workplace
as a source of stress
$11bn Impact of mental health conditions to
Australian workplaces
$2.30 ROI for every $1 spent effectively promoting
a mentally healthy workplace
65% drop in fatigue by those who do 20mins of
low intensity activity a day
0.1% - the blood alcohol level equivalent
resulting from fatigue in Australian workplaces
causing accidents
50% drop in heart attack risk for those who
regularly take holidays.
30 - the number of chews required to get the
maximum nutrients out of each bite
15% - the increase in your happiness probability
as a result of having happy friends
95% of people use brain activating ‘blue screen’
emitting technology within one hour of bed
7 years - the reduction in life expectancy from
sitting for more than six hours per day
99 Get a complete body diagnostic from an
integrative doctor to understand your nutritional
99 Get moving every 45 minutes
99 Connect with positive people face to face
99 Book a mini break away
99 Remove smart technology from the bedroom and
replace it with a good alarm clock (no snooze)
99 Wake up at the same time each morning and get
your body to some natural light
99 Find that hobby that allows you to unplug and
99 Share your plan with someone
99 The more stressed you are, the MORE you do
these things, not less
99 Set a reminder to review your plan once a week
for six weeks
Take action
On a personal level you will be more
successful if you manage your own wellness.
On an organisational level, your business
will more successful if you can facilitate
enhanced wellness profiles for your staff.
The pressures that are currently holding you
and your staff back are not likely to go away
so inaction is not an option.