I was at a business event recently and the CEO of a successful local company asked me if I had any advice on how to attract employees who want to “live the soft life.”
My inside voice was screaming, “Why would a successful business owner want people who live a soft life working in his highly productive workplace?”
The term “soft,” in my mind, means to lose strength or determination.
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The CEO told me that he heard some of his business colleagues talk about it recently and they suggested it might be a great way to set their company culture apart from their competition.
Admittedly, I’d never heard the term “soft life” and workplace used together in the same sentence. I did a quick search.
Dictionary.com defines soft life as a lifestyle of comfort and relaxation with minimal challenges or stress.
Minimal challenges and relaxation? That can’t possibly align with a highly productive workplace. Or can it?
I was riveted and started going down a social media and online search rabbit hole. The more I read about the soft life, the more I understood how it might have some benefits for a workplace.
The soft life is all about finding ways to unplug, focus on things that bring you more joy, and keep your stress levels low.
That sounds good to me! Who wouldn’t want low levels of stress for their employees?
What’s interesting is that finding ways to keep stress levels low and build personal resilience is the best outcome of a well-designed workplace wellness program. After all, a healthy employee is a productive employee.
The CEO asked if a workplace wellness program would be the answer to attracting employees looking for less stress in their workplace. My response was, “It depends.”
I’ve seen all too often that employers create the most well-intentioned wellness programs, but if the workplace culture works against the wellness program, it will fall short.
Financial rewards and performance incentives where the bar is set too high and/or unhealthy behaviours entrenched in the workplace culture that pressure people to transact their health will eat a “well”-intended “well”-ness program for breakfast.
In my opinion, the greatest wellness turning point for workplaces was the introduction of remote work and other flexible work options. It’s allowed people to set boundaries and be intentional about prioritizing self-care.
So, does this mean that our workers have become soft because we’re encouraging them to set boundaries and focus more on self-care? I would argue that our workers are anything but soft. They’re more career-driven than ever.
Let’s look at some of the benefits that many of us have experienced in our careers with the introduction of remote work and other work options like shorter work weeks, flexible work hours and the ability to disconnect outside of work hours.
Having a choice about where, when and how we work has allowed us to rediscover the joy of work. It’s enabled a shift in mindset and employees have been able to focus on what really matters in their work and personal lives. That has a direct and positive impact on personal and professional growth and, most importantly, employee engagement and retention.
With greater employee engagement comes the likelihood of the creation of innovative ways to achieve business objectives. That sounds like good business to me.
So what about the people who are driven and have a busy career? Does that mean they aren’t living the soft life? Well, that’s not necessarily the case.
I think people of all ages with busy careers can – and do – find ways to work smarter and create a lifestyle that is focused on stress reduction. It starts and ends with the right mindset. If we focus on healthy choices, we’ll make healthy choices.
So, are we “soft” if we believe that work shouldn’t be our whole world?
Have you watched the way our younger generations are navigating the stressful challenges they face? Despite having to pay off student loans and find ways to afford their first home and/or the financial resources to do the things they love when money is tight in this economy, they are persevering.
Remote work and other flexible work options have created just enough free time to allow for the start of side businesses, including drop shipping, which is an innovative way to make passive income.
All these creative solutions allow employees to focus more on the things that will bring them joy. That could be anything from squirreling away enough cash to take a break from work to travel, spending time with loved ones, or even saving up to buy a house.
So, if “living the soft life” means employees are making healthy choices that benefit the workplace, I’m all for it.
Make no mistake, though, there’s nothing soft about the soft life. I would argue that employees who have found ways to shift their mindset and make healthy choices are working smarter, not softer.
We need to find creative ways to enable workplaces to encourage this interesting trend.
Karen Brownrigg is the CEO of Ottawa-based iHR Advisory Services.