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  • jane anderson

Beyond the Fruit Bowl

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

Who'd have guessed? Fruit bowls in the staffroom can cause upset.

Not to stomachs but emotions.

How? Because a well-intentioned gesture from a single generous member of staff turned into a weekly onus that eventually bred disillusion.

How's that again? Fruit as a troublemaker? Actually no, fruit is a friend, on the whole. But this lovely person thought it would be a good idea to kickstart a health and wellbeing strategy in her small organisation by bringing in an attractive bowl for the staffroom and filling it with fruit via her own pocket. Every Monday morning.

She hoped, without voicing it, that others would pick up the baton and run with it to the point where everyone was making a contribution to the free fructose facility. But it didn't happen. Fruit was eaten and enjoyed, unthinkingly, and never replenished (by anyone else).

Lots of food for thought in this story, but the takeaway is that when it comes to wellbeing, even something as innocuous as a staffroom fruit bowl can backfire and should probably be considered within the context of a wider staff wellbeing framework.

My work is built on fifteen years of research into the nitty-gritty of wellbeing at work, the minutiae that either makes life quite nice or can cause a bewildering amount of angst. There's never a completely right answer to a lot of this stuff but life can be easier for everyone when there's a reasonable amount of give and take and communication.

The fruit-giver could have made known what she was up to: really people aren't mind-readers. The fruit-eaters could have shown some curiosity about where the fruit was coming from instead of simply guzzling it down. But people are people - shy and busy (and hungry seemingly). And these things always work better when everyone's involved, especially when they're enabled as a representative group.

Staff Wellbeing Teams are the way forward (I would say that; my work's based on my own Staff Wellbeing Team model). But they do work. They're of the people. The staff knows what makes them well. Let them go, all they need is liberating. Enabled and supported, they will find their own way to better wellbeing.

Dr Jane Anderson, JCA Consult Ltd, specialises in Sociospacial Reciprocity and Place Therapy. She's been working in wellbeing for nigh on 30 years and is especially interested in the people-place relationship and how it underpins all other aspects of staff engagement and wellbeing. Her Staff Wellbeing Framework Model is now charter-marked for quality assurance.

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