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A Lesson from Baseball on the Importance of Wellbeing

March 18, 2016 / Employee Wellbeing Best Practices

ThinkstockPhotos-463536415 (1)Earlier this week, Chicago White Sox slugger Adam LaRoche walked away from a lucrative contract, announcing his retirement from the game of baseball on Twitter with the hashtag #FamilyFirst. It turns out, LaRoche was asked by team management to limit the amount of time his teenage son spent around the team and in the clubhouse during spring training. Rather than oblige, LaRoche chose to end his career, creating a stir amongst his teammates, baseball and the media.

Sport, in general, oftentimes offers us valuable lessons beyond the confines of the playing field. This situation is no different. It’s a case study on the power of wellbeing and the important role friends and family play in helping to drive engagement in the workplace.

What can any organization learn from this current scenario? Consider these three takeaways:

Understand What (Really) Drives Productivity: White Sox management asked LaRoche to “dial down” the amount of time his son was around the team, explaining that it would allow him to focus on improving performance. Sure, it’s about balance. But the underlying assumption is that his son’s presence was a distraction to LaRoche’s productivity. And that’s an oversight.

Research shows that highly engaged employees are more likely to feel their family and friends have a connection to their work life. They are motivated by them. Showing your employees you care about them – and the ones they care most about – drives a productive and loyal workforce. Take the time to recognize that before you draw a line in the sand.

Personalize Your Approach: In and of itself, LaRoche’s decision to choose his family over the game says much about him and what he values. But the context dives even deeper than that. LaRoche, himself, is the son of a former major league ballplayer. He grew up around his father’s former teams and in the clubhouse. This was about family tradition. And clearly, he wanted the same experience for his own son and for himself.

When it comes to creating a culture of wellbeing, personalization is a must-have. One-size-fits-all doesn’t drive the outcomes you seek. Offer programs that are tailored to the unique wants and needs of each individual to inspire loyalty, establish a great culture and ultimately build a better business.

Consider Culture Over Cash: Few of us will ever even face a decision to walk away from a $13 million contract. The fact that LaRoche chose to shows how much more incentivized he is to work for a company with a great culture rather than one that simply pays. Believe it or not, this is becoming more and more common, even in your organization.

In fact, the largest generation in today’s workforce – The Millennials – are vocal about the importance of working for a company with a worthy culture that helps them balance the different aspects of their lives. You can’t buy your way out of building a loyal workforce. So don’t overlook the significance of implementing even the slightest change when it comes to your employees’ wellbeing. It might mean more than you think.

Want to knock employee engagement out of the park? Download our paper to learn how including friends and family in your wellbeing program can boost employee engagement.


Bryan Mahoney is the Director of Content Marketing at Virgin Pulse.  He brings more than a decade’s worth of experience as a content producer and blends his interests in all things wellbeing to help organizations become the best places to work. A former marathon champ, he now balances running with family by constantly chasing after his two-year-old daughter, Gia.

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