Two simple things for wellbeing in the workplace
‘What are you doing to look after yourself?’ It’s a question I often ask at the beginning of team or leadership meetings, and I’ve noticed that the more consistently I ask it – the more people come prepared with an answer and actively think about their own wellbeing between meetings. Asking the question of others also encourages me to proactively practice wellbeing for myself and others.
Over the last month I have been working in the area of wellbeing. It’s a new area for me and I’m learning so much, it’s becoming a bit of an obsession!
We spend so much time at work - wellbeing in the workplace is so important and can’t just be thought of as something separate that we do in our 5 minutes of spare time that we’ll get to at some point.
For individuals it’s about maintaining a healthy mind and emotions, as well as focusing on physical health, nutrition and energy levels. For organisations there is a significant link between people’s wellbeing and high performance. Focusing on wellbeing can lead to higher levels of morale and productivity, reduction in work related ill-health and injuries, and a decrease in absenteeism and staff turnover.
Work can also contribute to a range of stress and anxiety related conditions, as well as chronic diseases (partially related to lack of movement).
Arguably there is also a social responsibility to look after the wellbeing of people in your organisation.
I say arguably, because while I hold it as something that is true, I ran a workshop recently where a senior leader quite forcibly argued with me that ‘it is not our responsibility to care about what people do in their personal lives’. Perhaps not, but when you are asking people to work very long hours, late nights and weekends – where is the line between work and personal life? In these instances, it’s not just about having a positive impact on wellbeing, but rather trying not to have a negative impact on wellbeing.
Enabling people to thrive in their work, career and lives will bring better outcomes for all involved, at least in my opinion and some pretty good research.
Interestingly, it’s not clear cut around an organisation’s role in people’s wellbeing or how to implement programs to best support people, a few of the questions that I’ve faced are:
Do wellbeing programs counteract the fundamental burnout and stress inherent in the job design of many organisations?
Do you aim for ‘wow factor’ wellbeing programs (like a 12-week workplace wellbeing challenge) or focus on simple and subtle nudges that change behaviour?
How do you create an integrated approach to wellbeing, as opposed to add on programs?
How do you get cut through so that lots of activity in the wellbeing space actually leads to impact?
If you work in the area of wellbeing, hand on heart can you say you prioritise and role model wellbeing and that of those around you?
I’m working through the answers to these - but I’m leaning towards it’s a combination of both integrated initiatives and a series of targeted specific wellbeing programs, as well as using data insights to better measure impact to inform the design wellbeing initiatives.
Two simple things to try
Addressing wellbeing is not all about programs, but mindset shifts and a change in focus and perspective. So here’s two small things that I’ve been trying more actively in meetings to improve wellbeing in the places where I work:
Take a minute to be present: at the start of a meeting or if it’s getting off track, stop and ask everyone to take a minute where we get back to breath. We usually do this silently or guided as a group through a mindfulness practice. It might sound a bit out there, but I find often in meetings people’s minds wander elsewhere or they’re rushing from one meeting to another they don’t come to the meeting with the intention of being present – so taking a minute to regroup has a profound effect of bringing everyone back to being present.
Create focus on wellbeing with one question: start a conversation or meeting by asking people ‘what are you doing to look after yourself?’ And consistently ask this question so it becomes part of your operating rhythm. Something so simple can change focus and have an impact.
What are some of the simple things you do for self-care and to encourage the wellbeing of people in your team?
Would love to hear your thoughts.
About The Agenda Agency
Dr Heidi Sundin is the Director of The Agenda Agency — a boutique consulting firm specialising in creating diverse, inclusive and flexible workplaces. Her approach is to collaborate with leaders and teams to develop tailored solutions. Her experience spans strategy development and creating transformational programs across corporate, professional services, academic, government and the non-for-profit sectors. www.theagendaagency.com