It’s relatively easy to sneeze a cold virus on to a coworker. Spreading great health habits, both personal and professional, however, is a much more complex task in the workplace. There’s no simple and fast way to do it but health is like a cultural virus and the ways that viruses spread can teach us a lot about spreading health:


Somebody who has recovered from or is in active recovery from a mental or physical illness is going to be aware of what they need to do to stay healthy in the workplace and they’re going to express that and take action on those needs. Health isn’t the absence of illness. Health is something that has to be created so bring in people who invest energy in tackling the complexities of health holistically at work and outside of work.


Viruses need systems that facilitate their spread and so do healthy habits and behaviors. Silos in the workplace are the bane of health because they prevent healthy ideas from spreading easily. For healthy projects, the mission, values, and strategies need to be communicated in a way that’s persistent and tangible so people can catch them every day. Open spaces and scrum-style meetings every morning that bring people together are going to help the spread, too.


There are millions of viruses in the world but humans only have to deal with a tiny fraction of them because a virus host has to have the specific receptors on particular cells that any given virus will interact with. When it comes to spreading health, people also need to be receptive to the ideas and actions or they’re not going to stick. It does not matter how beneficial the healthy changes will be to a person if they’re not open to making them. Making healthy changes is difficult and as much as somebody might complain about the negative effects of their unhealthy habits, when offered the choice to change and eliminate the things they’re complaining about, whether those are work habits or personal habits, many people balk at the change. Complaining about a problem always seems easier than fixing it (in the short-term).


Viruses that die quickly tend not to infect as many people as viruses that can survive outside of their hosts for longer periods of time. So being persistent with healthy behaviors is important. You’ve got to keep them alive even if nobody is being receptive to them. Healthy change takes time so stick with it and keep adapting and evolving, just like any virus does if it wants to infect as many people as possible.


Mark Freeman is a writer, sought after speaker (formerly the Executive Director of the Self-Help Resource Centre ) and the Editor-in-Chief of the mental health community Everybody has a Brain. He tweets from @thepathtochange and you can reach him directly at


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