The Art Of Workplace Wellness In The Era Of Burnout

The Art Of Workplace Wellness In The Era Of Burnout

In this guest post, The Possibility Partnership’s people and culture partner Gabrielle Tourelle (pictured below) recently attended the Workplace Wellness Summit. Here’s her key takeouts…

The Workplace Wellness Summit responds to alarming statistics on the escalating costs of workplace absenteeism and the new presentism – up to 85 per cent of employees are unengaged and 90 per cent say they are looking for another job.

GabsWhen an injured passenger delayed my train to the conference last Monday, a dark thought came into my head – was that injured passenger desperate to escape work as the hit single “Tell me why I don’t like Mondays” describes? Because avoiding going to work is one of the symptoms the World Health Organisation has determined is a characteristic of burnout.

Amongst the optimism of learnings from this annual Summit lurks a shadow side describing the escalating costs of workplace burnout.  We don’t need statistics to know that unhappy or unwell people don’t come to work, or don’t work well and are likely to leave you. No Shit Sherlock!

In agency land, where I’ve spent most of my working life, full blown Workplace Wellness programs are rare. Sure, some are making efforts but it’s hard to compete with the likes of what’s on offer at the big end of town where companies joust for positions in the Great Place to Work surveys.

As is true of any human problem, the impressive line-up of experts from world leading health expert and journalist Michael Mosley to David Gillespie of Taming Toxic People fame have many and varied beliefs about what workplace wellness is and how to create it.  Here’s what I gleaned as being most relevant to the challenges of consulting based businesses and the health of the people within them.

Workplace wellness tip one: start with a conversation and a question

This gem comes from Lendlease’s Head of Workplace Health and Wellbeing Duncan Young who helped his company win gold medals for their wellbeing efforts.

It all starts with a simple question. How are you? How is your health? How are you sleeping?  This conversation can be peer to peer, manager-led and develop into an organisational initiative backed by educational programs and newsletters to keep the wellbeing focus alive and kicking.

Above all, it’s such a scalable and human approach and most of us are good communicators which is why it stood out for me.

Workplace wellness tip two: crack the dynamic of time

Many of us are time-based billable hour workers. We want more time, both at work and outside of it. We especially want time to do the things we love, the things that keep us healthy like exercise, eating right, socialising and sleep.

Remember the wisdom of the palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware in the Five Regrets of the Dying that went viral?

On their deathbed, no-one wishes they had worked harder. But they do wish for more time with their loved ones and doing more of the things they love.

Strong leaders understand this dynamic of time and create efficient, productive and even fun workplaces in which open and honest communication thrives. They provide time-saving technologies and move swiftly to solve the problems that are stealing our time and energy. They get technology to do the crappy jobs!

Workplace wellness tip 3: Workplace wellness lies deep within the DNA of your organisation

It’s always about the people you recruit, company values and how they are lived, mission and purpose, diversity and inclusion, growth and development of people and the quality of your leadership. These factors are a more powerful health cocktail than any fruit bowl.

Workplace wellness tip 4:  Values are powerful in creating wellness.

Great Place to Work winner Salesforce has a value called Ohana, which means family. It supports them in caring about each other’s wellness and lives – it’s a happens to one, happens to all mentality.

Popular values like “excellence” or “perfection” can be traps towards increased mental stress and overworking, which suggests more human values or virtues may serve us better. Humans ebb and flow making perfection tough.

Ever lived through a trend that spread like wildfire in your agency because someone had a value or virtue that they wanted to share – like the 5:2 diet, Keto, lunchtime yoga or probiotic eating to influence the gut microbiome? Passionate people within agencies are great at taking other people on a journey, it’s what we get paid to do (but let’s hope in hindsight these journeys are wise ones).

Workplace wellness tip 5:  Beware of superficial add-ons like bolting on yoga to a toxic and dysfunctional workplace.

Sam Makhoul, Author of A Higher Branch and Managing Director of banking and finance firm MSA National outlined five keys to wellness at work. Workplace wellness is best served with a multi-faceted approach and the five below are good targets.

  1. More time
  2. More sleep
  3. More sunshine
  4. More impact (meaning and purpose)
  5. More growth (especially young people).

The hot prediction for where this conversation about workplace wellbeing is heading next will be around the mind – understanding how our thoughts and beliefs create our reality and influence our health, along with our emotions in a workplace context.

Yes, the gut microbiome and its impact on our wellbeing is still hot, along with good diet and movement but the more exciting science and insight about the mind is deemed to be the next big wave in workplace wellness.

Master the mind and all is possible – the diet, the exercise, healthy relationships, the dream job and anything else you can imagine.

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