It’s probably not a surprise to any of us that stress and mental ill-health are two of the leading causes of long-term workplace absence in the UK. We’re working longer hours – even compared to just four years ago – and we’re struggling to switch off when we get home. The impact of this is lower personal productivity and job satisfaction levels, as well as a range of health issues, with insomnia, muscular aches, headaches and constant irritability topping the list (and, incidentally, feeding into the most common causes of short-term absence).
I’ve spoken to several clients this year who have ‘wellbeing’ on their agenda, and I wonder: what does this mean for most organisations?
From what I hear, interventions tend to focus on one of two key areas. There is a health focus, providing our people with fresh fruit at work, stand-up desks and gym memberships. And there is a focus on providing the best support that we can for people with mental health issues, including being more open about illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders. Both approaches are positive ways in which organisations can support their people, and increasingly important as we spend more of our waking hours at work.
However, are we missing a trick? Is there a way of supporting the wellbeing of all of our people, beyond physical or mental health? For me, the answer is a definite yes. I passionately believe that the answer lies in Positive Psychology, and in empowering people to be their best selves at work.
We can use the emotional intelligence model to help us know ourselves and others better, supporting us to manage ourselves and our relationships more effectively. When we work with emotional intelligence in a way that helps our people respond more effectively to modern work demands, the impact on wellbeing at work and organisational performance is significant.
We can also help people develop a growth mindset, focused on learning and development. This supports us to continually evolve our understanding of the world, and better respond to new and different challenges; it helps us learn resilience, and to develop positivity and optimism around our goals. A growth mindset encourages us to craft our own work environment, increasing the amount of ‘flow’ we experience, and opening opportunities for positive relationships and collaboration.
When we think about wellbeing, it is tempting to take a parental approach and try to ‘look after’ our teams, but the real power lies in empowering our people to take responsibility for themselves. I frequently hear clients say ‘I wish my team would step up and take accountability’. We need to provide the platforms that empower people to do just that, and not assume that people need protecting or hand-holding. We can all take a more adult approach.
Life is a journey and can be incredibly challenging at times. Although providing apples is nice, giving our teams the simple and human tools for managing and developing themselves is much more valuable.
Alex Bailey will be speaking at the Wellbeing at Work event in London on 19 October alongside senior representation from HSBC, Clifford Chance and Hine Legal. Go to http://london.wellbeingatworkevent.com/ for further information.