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From beanbags to mindfulness; how wellbeing is making business more human friendly

We are in the midst of what some have called “a wellbeing revolution”: natural and functional foods, alternative therapies, meditation and more. Partly in response to the pressures of modern life  – one recent global survey of wellbeing found that only 1/6 of people alive today are thriving.

Naturally some enlightened businesses - stretched to the limit with stress and competing for the best talent - took wellbeing on board. But what started as a few HR reforms at companies like Google has started to change our view of what a business is, and what it is for.

Wellbeing is 80% social. That’s why this book calls it wellbeeing. Just like bees, we are a social species. We need much more than good food and exercise to thrive. We need fellowship and belonging, a stimulating environment, contact with nature, happy communities, a sense of purpose.

That’s where business comes in. Business used to labour under the mistaken idea that companies are like mechanisms, and it is all about financial results. But in the last few decades an alternative worldview moved in from innovative fringes (like Body Shop and Google). One that sees business fundamentally as a living human system. Its purpose being to produce wellbeing; including financial prosperity but also community, health, human progress.

This book explores how that ‘better’ idea took hold first in ‘free range’ workplaces; with their natural, human-centred architecture and processes, flexible working, mindfulness classes. It looks at the evidence that these changes aren’t just nice, they produce better work. And it explores how ‘better’ as an ethos has seeped from workplace culture into the strategy, products, transparency, community and purpose of leading companies like Unilever.

To reflect a new business culture, this had to be a new kind of business book. It had to be less wordy, but worthy and rational. Full of humanity, insight, provocation, fascinating facts and intriguing images. That’s why John Grant came to Unbound who he has known and loved since the early days – with the ambition of creating a book to capture and be faithful to this amazing trend.

John Grant was the co-founder of the legendary 1990s London creative agency St Luke’s; as famous for its free-range office, ethics and employee co-ownership as for its creative work for clients like Body Shop, IKEA and the BBC. John has published six previous business books on brands, sustainability, innovation and globalisation. All written to celebrate fresh ideas, bold experiments, spirit and change. John has worked as an entrepreneur (notably in an eco workplace venture with Deborah Meaden). Has advised some lovely companies like innocent, Method/Ecover, Eden and Ecotricity - on how to grow bigger. And some big companies like IKEA, Samsung, Unilever and Pepsi on how to be more human, relevant and lovable. His adventures along the way have led to him work for Napster (the pioneer of illegal file sharing), the Catalan independence movement and even the UK government (‘ActOnCO2’). John has a lifelong passion for wellbeing. For instance as a student he was ‘captain’ of the Cambridge University Yoga Society. And it may be testament to the trends in this new book that he has been able to carve out a career as a corporate hippy?

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