Although the challenges of the last couple of years will leave their mark for some time, savvy businesses are also recognising the opportunity to forge a new ‘normal’; adapting to stand out ahead of their competitors.
Many businesses were ‘missing a trick’ even before the pandemic, mistakenly seeing workplace wellbeing and mental health as an optional staff benefit or a tick box exercise. What they failed to recognise is that poor wellbeing underlies many of the daily business challenges which limit their success, from staff absence, reduced productivity and interpersonal conflict to resistance to change and the loss of skills staff through high turnover.
One positive outcome of the last two years is that we’re seeing an increase in dialogue around wellbeing and recognition of its importance, not only personally but also professionally.
Here are some top wellbeing tips for both individuals and organisations:
- Self-care – one of the biggest mistakes we make is failing to prioritise self-care. All the small things which support our wellbeing can be so easy to miss at busy and stressful times, but they’re vital for keeping ourselves well. It isn’t selfish or a luxury to take the time to make sure we build those into our lives – in fact we owe it to ourselves and others to ensure we are keeping ourselves as well as can be. We often use the analogy of a car – if you’re too busy to check the tyres, get a service and fill the fuel tank, you’re not going to get far on your journey!
- Take a break – one of the simplest things we can do to protect our health and wellbeing is to take a break. Endless research shows that taking breaks away from our work actually make us more productive and more than pay for themselves, as well as being necessary for our health and wellbeing. So why do we find it so hard to do it? We suggest people schedule or set an alarm to remind themselves to take breaks and be part of a culture of working which allows for people to take breaks without judgement.
- Self-compassion – we all react differently to the things we experience, even a shared event such as the pandemic. However, it’s our nature to be more judgemental to ourselves than we are to others. This often leads to us holding ourselves to higher standards, or feeling guilty and beating ourselves up for the things we do or the way we feel. Make sure you treat yourself with compassion! We will all deal with the coming year differently – if you’re feeling more anxious or worried than those around you, are still wanting to take precautions where others don’t, or even just don’t feel yourself yet – that’s completely normal and doesn’t make you wrong. We have to make sure we are as kind to ourselves as we would be to our friends, family and colleagues.
- Sleep, sleep, sleep – sleep is the most important thing we can influence which affects our health, productivity and even lifespan. Since the start of the pandemic, numerous studies have shown how our sleeping patterns have changed and that so many of us are reporting difficulty getting consistent or quality sleep. Fortunately, it’s not something we just have to put up with and even the most entrenched sleeping difficulties can be improved. Start with making sure you’re getting the basics right (things often called sleep hygiene), such as managing your caffeine intake, making sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep and developing an evening routine. If that doesn’t work, seek out evidence-based recourses and support such as CBT-i, which can give you the skills to retrain your sleep and gain the health and lifestyle benefits which will significantly improve your quality of life.
- Talk – every part of wellbeing, including mental health, is a completely normal part of being human and we all struggle at times. The problem is we tend to try to hide it. We can’t support each other, share things which help or even realise how normal it all is unless we talk and stop trying to pretend to each other that we’re fine all the time. We’re so happy to moan about our headaches and colds; we need to normalise when we need to talk about any aspect of wellbeing and be part of that cultural shift.
- Ask and listen – don’t make assumptions about what your people find challenging and what wellbeing means to them. There’s isn’t one perfect approach to wellbeing as no two teams are the same. In our anonymous workplace assessment we often identify things which business owners were unaware of – and they’re often things which are easy to change and which make a big difference to the teams! Involve your staff in wellbeing initiatives and you will get much better engagement and results than simply assuming what will make a difference.
- Walk your talk – It’s vital that organisations model wellbeing supportive behaviours at every level and lead by example. You can have the greatest policies and initiatives in place but if you aren’t seen to truly believe in them you won’t engage your people. For example, policies and posters encouraging staff to take regular breaks are unlikely to have much impact where leaders are seen to work 24/7 and people fear the reprisals of being caught away from their desks for 10 minutes.
- Don’t just guess – whatever strategies, initiative or training you use make sure it is aligned to the needs you have identified and is evidence-based to achieve the changes you are aiming for. So many organisations waste time and money on wellbeing ‘fads’ or guessing what will work without understanding what they are actually trying to achieve. You wouldn’t take random medication to try to make yourself feel better without consulting a health professional and getting a prescription – and it’s the same with wellbeing.
- Make it safe – create a genuinely non-judgemental, supportive culture within the workplace by openly discussing wellbeing. Some of the most unhealthy and unsuccessful workplaces can look like everything is going great when everyone is pretending to be fine, but those that truly thrive and succeed are those where people can honestly and openly discuss wellbeing challenges without judgement and work together to benefit everyone.
These are just some basic tips to get you started! It can be difficult to know where to begin but even the first changes can have a positive influence on wellbeing. To reap the full benefits of strong wellbeing, consider your fundamental approach to wellbeing, assess the current situation and develop an effective strategy which is right for your business and people. Done well it will be an investment that more than pays for itself and as we move into the new ‘post pandemic’ landscape, the businesses that get ahead will be those who recognise that wellbeing drives success.