Today, 30th April 2021, is National Workplace Wellbeing Day, an opportunity for you and your workplace to take a moment to assess your workplace wellbeing. Like most things that are assigned a specific day within the calendar, the intention is to create awareness but workplace wellbeing should be considered on a regular basis.
On average an individual will spend 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, which is approximately the equivalent of one third or 30% of our lives in the workplace, considering we also spend approximately one third of out lives asleep, or attempting to sleep, it is not hard to see that how we feel in the workplace will have a significant impact on our overall health and wellbeing.
In turn it is thought poor mental health and mental illness costs the Irish state approx. €8.2 billion each year (accurate in 2019) and contributes to a 3% decrease in GDP, often through loss of productivity and absenteeism. Poor workplace wellbeing can also ultimately lead to increased staff turnover. So, while we could be looking after our own and our staff’s workplace wellbeing on a regular bases, let’s use today as a prompt to assess our own workplace wellbeing.
Tackle Your Feelings Workplace Wellbeing not only focuses on the importance of poor mental health and wellbeing prevention but also positive mental health and wellbeing promotion. While it is important to do all we can to avoid undue stress in the workplace, so too is it important to strive towards creating the best work environment in which to thrive.
We see mental wellbeing as the balance or equilibrium between the challenges we face and the resources that we have to deal with these challenges. It is fair to say that this past 12+ months have been some of the most challenging we have ever had to face and will hopefully have to face in our lifetime. The challenge of Covid-19 and the additional challenges it brought i.e., working from home, additional childcare considerations, lack of connectivity and isolation, regardless of the challenge and risk to our physical health, has left the majority of the population feeling fairly fed up, lacking lustre and often feeling like we are going through the motions.
This is a very normal and unsurprising consequence of living through this elongated challenging time and rather than tell you that you should pull yourself up by the bootstraps, think positively and get on with things, I will say: don’t be hard on yourself – you’ve been through a lot. Take a breath, take a moment to assess your wellbeing, what are the things you are doing well right now? What are areas that you can improve in? Take a moment to read through the following tips and see if there is anything you can tick off as something you do and do well, or if there are things that you can do to take control of your situation and make it better.
The following tips are more pertinent the in climate of work from home / blended working / working through a pandemic but can also be applied to improving workplace wellbeing regardless of the global situation.
- Create Boundaries.
There is a major difference between a positive approach to working and a harmful approach to working and that is our ability to detach. Research into the phenomenon of workaholism shows that on the surface it can replicate the practice of someone who is work engaged. Dedicating a lot of time to your work has often been heralded as a positive, undoubtedly there are times when we have all been lost in the work that we are doing, becoming fully absorbed in the task as hand, losing track of time. However, the defining factor of workaholism vs work engagement is that a person who is engaged in their work can switch off and walk away without feeling any kind of guilt or regret for doing so.
With working from home literally blurring the lines between our place of rest and recreation with our place of work, exacerbated with fewer opportunities to engage in social activities, the tendencies of many have leant towards working longer hours. Part of this is because we can – we no longer have a commute from the office to home to signify the end of the workday, we are not necessarily able to physically leave the workplace because we never left home in the first place. The temptation to check on something or “finish” something off can easily be enacted. Rather than be lured back by the laptop we should create a physical boundary at the end of the workday.
One way to do this is with the fake commute. Come the end of the workday take yourself away from the desk, out of your house and out for a walk. Or for another form of exercise. Research shows the benefits of being outdoors, in green space or near water to our mental wellbeing. Even engaging in a workout/ exercise class, yoga or stretching (how many of us used to leave the office and head straight to the gym after work?) at can help create a meaningful stop to the end of your day.
On the days where we need a rest or physical activity is out of the question, shut the laptop down, put it in a drawer and turn off notifications to smart devices (smart watches especially) or close the office door on your way out with a promise not to return until morning.
- Know Your Resources and Use Them.
Tackle Your Feelings promotes the recognition of positive mental wellbeing resources. Things like optimism, confidence, compassion, and resilience. Research links all these characteristics with positive mental wellbeing, increase physical health and overall life satisfaction and happiness (to find out more about cultivating these resources, you can check out our FREE App on the Apple App Store and Google Play). These are personal resources that will contribute to your overall mental wellbeing in all aspects of your life, work included.
Alongside these personal resources are job resources. Things that are specifically related to helping improve your experience at work, contributing to you achieving goals and reducing stress. Examples of these are: autonomy and control, strong work relationships with both supervisors and peers, opportunity to upskill, develop and advance. Other resources include recognition, feedback, and opportunity to use skills.
Having an abundance of both personal and job resources will vastly improve your sense of positive wellbeing as well as reduce the likelihood of job stress, dissatisfaction, and burnout. However, not only knowing the resources available to you is enough, utilising them is key. If you have the opportunity to improve and upskill, take that opportunity (as long as it is within your capacity to do so), if you work in an environment that promotes open communication and offers feedback, seek opportunities for review and reflection. Having the support structure there is only part of the picture, you need to take ownership of them too.
- Be self- compassionate
Research suggests that self-compassion is more effective at improving wellbeing and leading to a satisfactory life in comparison to self-esteem or confidence. So, what does this mean? Compassion, or the act of showing kindness to someone in distress coupled with the desire to alleviate the suffering is an admirable trait to possess. However, we are often more inclined to show that compassionate kindness to others rather than ourselves.
Whether it’s feeling like we should find certain task easier, being afraid to make mistakes, beating ourselves up for not nailing something on the first attempt, taking on too much work or not allowing ourselves to take a break, a lack of self-compassion can have a detrimental effect on our workplace wellbeing.
By showing ourselves some self-compassion, we give ourselves the permission to recover from a busy time (which is essential for performance), ask for help or admit we are struggling with a task. This self-compassion extends to practicing self-care, an integral aspect of minding our mental health and promoting positive mental wellbeing.
- Check our Values
Values are the principles that you feel are most important in your life, they are the personal beliefs which help guide us through life and offer meaning to what we do. Values such as hard work, honesty, optimism, humour, continual learning can guide your approach to work which will ultimately result in increased feelings of life satisfaction. It is important to check your values regularly, ensuring that you meet or enact your values on a regular basis in your work life.
Not only should you check your values, but you should attempt to ensure that the values of your organisation are not at odds with your own. An example would be if you worked in the tech industry and you found out that the company you worked for was providing tech support for drones in the US Army. If this does not align with your personal values, you would start to feel that your work was disingenuous and you may even become cynical about the work your organisation is doing, ultimately leaving you feeling unsatisfied and less inclined to put in your best efforts. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you have every right to start reconsidering your place in the organisation and look to find an alternative that aligns more closely with your own values.
- Find your squad
Having the good quality relationships in your life is proven to facilitate long term health and happiness. The people you work with will often be the people you spend most of your time with. Even with working from home, the likelihood is you may be in contact with your colleagues more often than some friends and family. Forging and cultivating strong interpersonal relationships at work are going to be integral to your workplace wellbeing. Do you have to become best friends with the people you work with? Not necessarily, but that is not to say that it cannot happen. Research has shown that strong social support can not only reduce the likelihood of burnout at work, but it can also promote positive workplace wellbeing.
When we face increased pressure, we can be inclined to shut ourselves away, either to avoid distraction or to not let people see that we are struggling. In actual fact, reaching out, connecting with someone whether for a work based chat or not can be just the right thing to boost our positivity, help us see the woods from the trees and make us feel better.
Similarly, and just as importantly, our wellbeing is contingent on life outside of work, so ensure you have your squad outside of the office walls too. Those who can distract you from work stressors and help you detach (remember tip no.1?) Do not abandon the relationships that you have outside of work, reaching out briefly to mention you are busy but would like to plan something for when the work pressure comes off can help maintain those relationships and ultimately contribute to your positive sense of self. Just make sure that you are willing to give back to those people who support you in the tough times and equally celebrate their wins as much as your own in the good times.
By enacting these tips you can proactively manage your positive mental wellbeing. There may be some that you already do or that come more naturally to you than others. Whereas some may highlight areas that you can improve on. No matter what, take a moment to reflect on your own workplace wellbeing as it is right now. What can you do to improve it? What can you do to make those marginal gains? What can you do to take control?
For more tips on positive mental wellbeing, make sure that you check out the FREE app, follow us on social media and keep an eye out for our upcoming dedicated workplace wellbeing section.