I was delighted to have Dr. Kevin Teoh as a guest on this week’s episode of ‘My Pocket Psych’.
We explored the topic of workplace wellbeing and how organisations – despite good intentions – can get caught up with fads, rather than addressing the fundamentals of good work.
One area I’d like to explore in more detail is organisations’ tendencies to trumpet ‘wellbeing week’…without much follow-up for the rest of the year.
Walking the wellbeing talk
I’ve seen many organisations arrange elaborate and impressive wellbeing weeks, with multiple events and speakers, coffee mornings, yoga sessions, mugs and mouse mats. And then…relative silence.
When you draw attention to wellbeing in this one week, the onus is on you to keep the momentum going. If you trumpet the importance of wellbeing one week, but fail to address inappropriately demanding behaviour from a manager the next week, the disconnect between these experiences is obvious to employees.
If you lay on an impressive wellbeing lunch for your employees one week, but the following week they’re once again too busy to take a break for lunch, it simply highlights the temporary nature of your interest in the topic – and leads to cynicism.
An area of focus, not a project
Just like our personal wellbeing, workplace wellbeing is better understood as an ongoing area of focus. Rather than a time-limited project. Of course, you may decide to launch wellbeing-related initiatives, like introducing mental health awareness training or rolling out ergonomic evaluations of workstations. Fantastic! But wellbeing at work is more than these projects and ideally, should permeate through everything you do.
- To what extent is wellbeing considered when you’re hiring new employees? Is their wellbeing considered when you design the process? Is wellbeing something you discuss when onboarding and do you live up to these promises?
- To what extent is wellbeing considered when you design and deploy manager training? In addition to the skills of leading and motivating others, do your managers understand how to discuss wellbeing and spot the signs of stress? Do they understand how their own decisions and behaviour can impact the wellbeing of those around them?
- When you reward employees for ‘pulling out all the stops’, do you reflect on the impact this can have on their health and whether you’re inadvertently encouraging unsustainable working styles?
- Do your senior leaders role-model sustainable working styles and do they themselves demonstrate a focus on their own wellbeing?
These are just a few of the scenarios where wellbeing is incredibly important, but may go unnoticed.
So who owns this?
A related weakness I’ve seen in a number of wellbeing initiatives is that responsibility is handed over to someone with little understanding of the topic – but with a flair for organisation. This can lead to buying in fads and fashions and, without senior sponsorship, end up looking like a gimmick.
The simple answer to the question is: everyone ‘owns’ wellbeing. But to put insight into action, employees need the resources, the support and the environment in which to thrive. A week of guest presentations from olympic athletes and new screensavers to remind people to ‘take a break’ aren’t enough.
How we can help
Wellbeing is a core area of focus at WorkLifePsych and we can help you quantify wellbeing challenges, identify appropriate interventions, train managers in wellbeing themes, coach employees to boost their resilience and support the rollout of wellbeing-related changes.
Our emphasis is on doing what works, using scientific evidence and a sensitivity to the organisation’s context to bring wellbeing to life and ensure it lasts beyond an initial week.