Book Review—Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines

This book review on Savvy-Writer about Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, by Jen Fisher, Chief Well-Being Officer, Deloitte, and Anh Phillips, Researcher, Deloitte, was made possible by McGraw Hill and Barbara Teszler of Let’s take a closer look at wellness at work and how it can impact everything from productivity to the bottom line.

What Does it Mean to Work Better Together?

In Work Better Together, Jen Fisher and Anh Phillips provide you with “tools and insights you need to prioritize your employees’ psychological well-being to positively impact everything from workers’ individual emotional needs to overall productivity and profitability.”

Because we’ve “increased telecommuting and digital communication, workplace relationships matter more than ever. They’re a critical element of organizational success.”

If you’re not happy with your job, you may want to take a few minutes each day or on the weekend to figure out why. Maybe it’s because you don’t have great work relationships. Or perhaps you know that it’s time to move on from your employer and career and find something else to do. Whatever the case may be, you may want to get to the “root” of the problem. Because as the saying goes, you take yourself with you wherever you go. And you don’t want to walk into the same situation with a different employer and co-workers, do you? Probably not.

Work Better Together emphasizes wellness at work, but it also allows you the opportunity to be honest with yourself about your life thus far. Who knows? You may discover that you’re meant “to be the boss” and start a business.

And now, without further ado, the review of Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines.

Breaking Down the Book

Work Better Together is broken down into three parts:

  • Part One – Our Critical Connections
  • Part Two – Decoding Your Work Relationships
  • Part Three – People First, Systems Second

I like when authors offer sections in their books because it makes it easy to skip to the part that may resonate with you the most. Or you feel it’s what you need to work on now.

Parts one and two have three chapters each, while part three has four chapters. Each section and chapter has much information. If you’re like me, you may want to highlight and make notes in the margin.

Let’s explore each part of the book.

Part One – Our Critical Connections

In Part One, Jen Fisher and Ahn Phillips talk about the following:

  • Chapter 1 – The Great Disconnect
  • Chapter 2 – Why We Need Connections
  • Chapter 3 – Well-Being is the Way

The key points of The Great Disconnect include:

  • The drive for efficiency has characterized business for generations, but it no longer guarantees success in an age when innovation is key to navigating disruption.
  • People use technology at work to become more productive, often to the point of becoming less productive.
  • The physical and mental toll of technology strains today’s most crucial work skills, like empathy, communication, and focus.

I agree with the point about people using technology at work (and in life) to become more productive, often becoming less productive. For instance, many have experienced Zoom or Teams fatigue because of the endless meetings or “check-ins” in an attempt to keep the team together. I raise an eyebrow at “check-ins” because some bosses may use it as a way to see if their team is really doing their work. Being treated like a child doesn’t contribute to wellness at work. It makes employees defensive, which is why most quit.

Quite frankly, video meetings can make us feel more disconnected than ever and worn out. Hence, the physical and mental toll technology may have on some. It’s no surprise that empathy, communication, and focus may suffer.

The key points of Why We Need Connections include:

  • The biggest challenges we face relate to people and people’s relationships within the team, which are key to a sense of meaning.
  • Burnout, loneliness, and disconnection are on the rise.
  • At the same time, trust and engagement are suffering.

Thanks to Covid-19, we’ve suffered from Zoom or Teams fatigue. How many meetings do we need? And quite frankly, video meetings can make us feel more disconnected than ever and worn out.

After reading Part One, I reflected on the “day job” I started remotely (works for me) in May 2020.

If I had interviewed at least 2-3 people from the team, I might not have accepted the offer. Once I met everyone, I had a sinking feeling that it was going to be an uphill battle with some people. My gut told me the team was established and one person in particular, who was not the boss, had a vibe of “this is my territory, stay out.” I stayed for over a year until a group of us were brought back into the office in July 2021. Plus, we had a department leadership change at the end of 2020, and I knew my time was limited. But that’s another story.

Keep in mind that if you’re an introvert or an empath, you may burn out faster because you’re dealing with people virtually three or more times per day, per week. I know and understand how it can take a toll on your mind, body (immune and nervous system may get out of whack), and soul.

A problem our society has is that the individual has been lost in the shuffle. We think everyone is the same and that no one actually thrived during Covid-19. I’m one of many who loves working remotely and enjoy being in my own, clean space.

The key points of Well-Being is the Way include:

  • Turning the workplace toward sustainable positive cultures, which means fundamental change. The events of 2020 showed our capacity for change is bigger than we thought. Plus, people are capable of change.
  • We have to reframe what we mean by connected—using technology as a means, not an end—with an understanding of our workplace relationships.
  • The goal is to incorporate well-being into work for individuals, teams, and organizations.

Yes, people are capable of change if that’s what they want. Also, working remote is nothing new. People have been doing that since the ’70s. Thanks to better technology (notice I didn’t say advanced), more employees can work remotely.

I agree that we must reframe what it means to be connected and incorporate well-being into work. After all, employees have taken advantage of Covid-19 to do their own reset. Many have quit their jobs, no longer willing to put up tyrannical bosses, outdated work policies, long hours, etc. It’s no wonder why recruiters are having a difficult time filling roles. Most people have seen the light and are no longer willing to sacrifice their health and wellness.

Part Two – Decoding Your Work Relationships

In Part Two, Jen Fisher and Ahn Phillips talk about the following:

  • Chapter 4 – What’s Your Workplace Style
  • Chapter 5 – Team Values and Behavior
  • Chapter 6 – Building a Trusted Team

The key points of What’s Your Workplace Style include:

  • A work style is the sum of temperament, beliefs, skills, habits, and all the choices you make through a day that guide your behavior.
  • Individual and group behaviors fall somewhere on a spectrum between extremes.
  • Strong relationships enable people to work well together, not despite their differences, but because they leverage their different strengths.
  • Well-being goes beyond wellness, and honoring differences in one way to design well-being directly into work.

Learning your work style can help you in your career because you may discover that you thrive better in certain cultures and environments.

For instance, because I’ve had my own consulting business since 2008, I’m used to hustling and getting things done quickly. However, I’ve learned that most employees aren’t going to hustle. And why should they when they get paid weekly or bi-weekly? If their boss or employer doesn’t review productivity, there’s no reason for employees to go the extra mile when they get paid either way.

You can indeed work together despite your differences if you’re mature enough to do so. Families and friends have been torn apart because of health and political differences. Instead of sitting down and listening to each other without judgment, people would rather cut ties with those who disagree with them. Can you imagine disagreeing with your boss or teammates? If they don’t have emotional intelligence and jump down your throat because you disagree with them, you can kiss your wellness at work goodbye.

The key points of Team Values and Behavior include:

  • How much your team values strong relationships, and individual well-being, has a big impact on your ability to work effectively.
  • Teams, like people, tend to express their style along a series of spectrums, rather than at the extremes.
  • There is a strong business case recommending Trust Teams.
  • There is an equally strong human case recommending Trusted Teams.

Having the right mix of people on a team can contribute to your wellness at work. After all, everyone has something unique to contribute.  Everyone should get a chance to express their ideas. While they may not work or be appropriate for a certain project, you never know when it may be the missing piece to solving a huge problem.

I don’t understand the “diversity” push at companies because most don’t include diversity of thought. The basics, including skin color, gender, religion, and so on, are the main focus. If companies have Trusted Teams, they’ll have to dig deeper when it comes to diversity.

The key points of Building a Trusted Team include:

  • Building a Trusted Team begins with recognizing and dealing with structural and cultural barriers in change.
  • Safety, empathy, and trust are elementary, and must be deliberately grown and nurtured as part of teamwork.
  • Write your team’s Ways of Working and Everyday Equations as a way to design and build a Trust Team.
  • Model and promote well-being with practical steps as well as kindness and compassion for each other.

I agree with all of the critical points in Building a Trusted Team. However, it would help if you had exemplary leadership in place to pull off Trusted Teams. And unfortunately, most companies don’t have the right people in management or executive roles. Or if they do, and the leadership changes, wellbeing at work may suffer. Employees may not only suffer emotionally and mentally. Physical health in the workplace may decline too. After all, stress can wreak havoc on your body in ways you didn’t think were possible.

Part Three – People First, Systems Second

In Part Three, Jen Fisher and Ahn Phillips talk about the following:

  • Chapter 7 – Putting Well-Being into Action
  • Chapter 8 – Minds and Hearts Working Together
  • Chapter 9 – Overcoming Technology Overload
  • Chapter 10 – Leading the Change

The key points of Putting Well-Being into Action include:

  • Well-being is bigger than physical wellness, and it comes from a diverse set of programs and behaviors that have a positive impact on employees’ physical, mental, financial, health, and sense of purpose.
  • Workism and a scarcity mindset, grounded in traditional bureaucratic cultures, are the most common threats to well-being in an organization.
  • Individual well-being begins with a personal plan; small steps lead to big changes.
  • Psychological well-being at work goes beyond safety to include autonomy a sense of purpose, compassion, and kindness.

“The barriers to well-being are sometimes obvious, for example, an unfriendly culture, abusive bosses, unfair compensation or promotion actions, or a physically dangerous work environment.”

When I read the above on page 131, I said, “Yes, that sums it up.”

Unfortunately, “workism” runs rampant in our society. It’s no wonder that people live worried and stressed out because they can’t leave work at work. This is why emotional well-being in the workplace is essential for employees. Of course, it helps to take control of one’s life.

For instance, you can commit to improving your health and wellness. If that means leaving a job after five or more years, then that’s the course of action to take. However, your finances should be buttoned up. If they’re not, take steps to get them in order. Your health may improve because you’ve paid off credit cards and student loan debt. You may also be surprised how your wellness at work improves because you found a job/career that you love.

The key points of Minds and Hearts Working Together include: 8

  • Blending human cognition with human emotions creates the skills of the future.
  • A growth mindset enables us to become aware of our emotional messages and choose how to act.
  • Strong relationships are built on understanding what persona you project, and what others perceive.
  • Empathy and accountability lead to mutual trust among team members.

The following is excerpted from page 148.

“Mindset has strong implications for personal growth. Looking at a person challenge, such as improving one’s health or a particular work skill, the fixed mindset tends to focus on limitations and the growth mindset sees possibilities:

  • “I’m just not a good listener,” says the fixed mindset.
  • “I can learn to listen to my team members more carefully,” says the growth mindset.”

Chapter 8 was one of my favorite chapters because it talked about mindset and emotions. When you purchase the book, I recommend spending more time on this chapter because you may be surprised to learn that what we label as “good and bad” emotions may not be as cut and dry as it seems.

The key points of Overcoming Technology Overload include: 9

  • We have adopted information technology far faster than we have adapted to it.
  • Work technology based on social media design is compelling, but magnifies social media’s design drawbacks, including its addictive qualities and propensity to magnify emotional states.
  • Taking deliberate small steps, like a week-long digital detox, can return us to greater control over our technology use.
  • Living and working virtually through teleconferencing invites us to adjust our behavior from bureaucratic, “professional” personas to intentionally more empathetic, caring interactions.

Let’s face it. Most of us are hooked up to technology more than we should be. Being “on” 24/7 is no way to live. And it’s no way to promote wellness at work.

For the sake of your well-being at work and home, try taking a weekend digital detox. If you have to inform your boss, co-workers, family, and friends, do it. You may be surprised to learn that seeing which person in your life “ate a pound of pasta and guzzled glasses of red wine” isn’t that important. Taking steps to improve your mental health by giving yourself a break from social media and email can do wonders for your health. Furthermore, it’s a great way to promote workplace health and well-being. When you’re off from work, you should be off from work.

The key points of Leading the Change include: 10

  • Leaders begin by articulating a vision for well-being, connected to the values and mission of the organization.
  • Managers, team leaders, and other employees start their well-being habits in their immediate teams, practicing new behaviors with those they trust the most.
  • Leaders at all levels must model well-being habits themselves, telling stories and being explicit about their personal “nonnegotiable” habits and boundaries.
  • A long-term well-being program is strategic and measure success in improved human capital metrics over years, not months.

“You can be part of the change toward a culture that nurtures strong, meaningful relationships and well-being—whatever your position in your organization.”

You may want to be honest if you can or can’t improve your workplace’s well-being. If you don’t think you can do it, that’s okay. You may want to find a company that aligns with your values. Start by asking yourself what you look for in a boss, co-workers, and culture.

If you work for a company that wants to improve employees, volunteer to start a group or get on an already formed committee. Hopefully, there isn’t a clique within the group. If there is, you may have a tough time breaking through the group. But keep at it because all it takes is one crack, and you can slip in and do some real good.

Conclusion: Seeing Ourselves and Each Other

A Zulu tribe in South Africa uses the word “Sawubona,” which means hello. The translation is ‘I see you’. The reply is “Yebo sawubona,” which means ‘I am seeing you’.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we in the West would learn to listen and respect one another and our differences (put them aside)? Wouldn’t it be nice if we’d grow up and understand that even though we may have different ideas and opinions, most of us want the same things:

  • Love
  • Respect
  • Comfort
  • Safety
  • Freedom
  • And our basic needs met

One of the reasons I love to travel is the opportunity to learn about another culture. Some are older than the U.S.

Imagine what America would be like today if adopted the Zulu greetings of “Sawubona” and “Yebo sawubona.” We may not have the issues that we have. And our workplaces wouldn’t be filled with toxicity.

If you want wellness at work, you may look in the mirror because it starts with you.

Think about how you’re building relationships in your workplace. Have you been treated fairly? Have you treated others fairly? Or maybe you’ve witnessed lousy behavior and didn’t say anything for fear of losing your job.

Whatever the case, ask yourself, “Do I want to sit on the sidelines? Or do I want to be brave and be a part of the solution?” It won’t be easy. If history has taught us anything, it’s that change always comes with struggle and a price. Do you think you can handle it?

Why Wellness at Work Matters

Let’s face it. If you’re not happy, the people (family, friends, and co-workers) around you won’t be either.

And there’s a saying: birds of a feather flock together.

If you’re miserable and can’t stand your job, boss, or co-workers, chances are they feel the same. Well, maybe not your boss. He, she, or they probably think they’re the greatest thing since the internet.

But seriously.

You may want to prioritize your health and well-being because life is too short to live it stressed out and worried.

If your employer offers employee assistance or a wellness program, use it. It should be anonymous, so don’t worry about others finding out. And quite frankly. It’s none of their business unless you want to share that you’re seeking help.

By seeking help, you’re taking the first step toward better workplace wellness.

Final Thoughts on “Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines”

There’s no doubt that wellness at work, in your life, and community depends on your critical connections. But what happens when you don’t have those at your place of employment? Or you perhaps you did, but then a leadership change happens within your department or with the CEO. The well-being strategies that may have been in place may go out the window.

If you feel strongly about wellness at work, do something about it. Get involved, talk to HR leaders, and join groups on social media. Learn what strategies worked and read success stories. If they can do it, so can you!

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