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5 Must-Read Books about Improving Employee Health & Happiness

Benjamin Prinzing

Founder and President of Kadalyst

Editor's Note: What are our writers and experts reading? In the ReWork Bookshelf series, ReWork contributors share their "must-read" recommendations for HR professionals and business leaders.

HR teams that want to create a positive workplace culture and improve employee health and happiness have to juggle multiple elements of healthcare, including health insurance, corporate wellness programs and mental health initiatives. It can be a lot to take on and many HR executives don't where to start when it comes to getting new efforts off the ground.

From understanding our nation's current healthcare situation, to learning how to influence behavior change and creating positive work environments, my top five must-read books cover it all. You're guaranteed to walk away with new wellness initiatives for improving employee health and happiness that you'll want to implement personally, and at your workplace.

1) An American Sickness

The author does a fantastic job simplifying our modern healthcare system, and even explains how hospitals and health insurance operate. Be prepared to be shaken up, and possibly a bit frustrated. Eventually, however, you'll realize that this change didn't happen over night.

The good news is that there are many ways for consumers and employers to fight back—in the second half of the book, the author provides tons of resources to do so. An American Sickness sets the groundwork for my other recommendations, so I'd definitely recommend starting with this one first.

2) The Company That Solved Healthcare

It's easy to find information online about the problems plaguing our healthcare system, along with many opinions and theories on how to fix it, but there aren't many examples of people taking real action. This book made it to my top five because it's a story about a real CEO who rallied other employers in his community to do something about their rising cost of healthcare.

This book shares employees' personal stories (with their permission) and provides a step-by-step breakdown of how their employers made a difference. Spoiler alert: One way the companies achieved their goal was by involving and empowering their workers to become more informed and educated healthcare consumers.

3) Connected

The subtitle perfectly summarizes this book: "How your friends' friends' friends affect everything you feel, think and do."

You'll learn about how people who are several degrees of separation removed from your personal social network are actually the real influencers of your behavior.

The book also gives tactical advice on how to locate these "influencers" in order to create real behavior change for yourself, your family and your colleagues.

4) The Power of Habit

The hamster wheel on the cover depicts what the author calls the "habit loop," which consists of three factors—cue, reward and routine. The book explains how to address each factor individually to change habits. The author says it best with this statement, "It's not that formulas don't exist. The problem is that there isn't one formula for changing habits. There are thousands."

The Power of Habit is divided into three main sections, Habits of Individuals, Habits of Successful Organizations and Habits Impact on Society, each of which include amazing stories of what can happen when habits change.

5)The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace

Author Cy Wakeman's previous book, Reality-Based Leadership (which is also a great read) highlights the hopelessness that many employees feel when dealing with the realities of their workday, and gives leaders ideas for turning things around.

In the sequel, 5 Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace, Wakeman unveils how employees can improve their own experiences through the adoption of five "reality-based rules":

  1. Your level of accountability determines your level of happiness.
  2. Suffering is optional, so ditch the drama.
  3. Buy-in is not optional.
  4. Say "yes" to what's next.
  5. You will always have extenuating circumstances.

If you can get your employees to embrace these five rules, creating a healthy workplace culture filled with happy, productive and supportive people is absolutely possible, and the author provides the tools to do it.

Photo: Creative Commons

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