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The Importance of Well-Being at Work

change leadership change management change readiness coaching culture professional development wellbeing Jan 31, 2022
Wellbeing a work

When you think about well-being in the workplace, do fitness programs, meditation apps, and self-care days immediately come to mind?   

While offering benefits and support for employees in the areas of physical, mental, and emotional health is critically important, well-being also includes a person’s financial, social, career, and spiritual health, and fulfillment in life overall. In the context of work, well-being is about creating an environment that embraces all aspects of what people need to feel safe, connected, and able to thrive.

Even if organizations address the other areas, with savings plans, social clubs, or internal development programs (for example), it’s rare that the strategies and solutions are positioned as a package that cares for the whole person, which is really what well-being is all about.

As a result, well-being remains ad hoc, which impacts employee consumption and an organization’s ability to sustain a positive return on its investments. This in turn leads to leadership questioning not only the value and efficacy of the solutions, but the responsibility of the company to care for people in this way.

Tom Rath , an author and expert in employee engagement, strengths, and wellness, described well-being as being “the combination of our love for what we do each day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we contribute to our communities.”

According to Rath, we all need to be in the business of improving the health and well-being of employees, customers, and the communities in which we operate.  His reasoning is rooted in the idea that when we care for people as people, we build more resilient, adaptable, and sustainable organizations in the process.

Just how to do this can be both confusing and frustrating for leaders, as well-being is distinctly personal, and it requires individual ownership for the outcomes. At the same time, work is one of the most influential communities in a person’s life.  What people do for their jobs, how they are compensated, the quality of the relationships they have with their bosses and peers – all these factors (and more) can positively or negatively impact physical, mental, financial, social, career, and spiritual health. 

And, when employee well-being is poor, they are unable to use their strengths and gifts to contribute to business growth, vitality, and innovation.

The good – and hopefully refreshing - news is that improving employee well-being does not have to include another benefit or program. It starts with connecting the dots for workers, which can include communicating about the current offerings, policies, and expectations around well-being in a different way. Dedicate time in team meetings, town halls, group calls, and other forums to ensure employees understand what well-being is, and why it matters to your place of work.  

It also includes modeling the behaviors, at all levels in the organization. Consider the boss who tells their employees it’s ok to not respond over the weekend but continues to stay plugged in so they can “catch up”. Not only does this send a mixed message, but it also creates an unspoken understanding that working all the time is both valued and required if you want to advance in your career or operate at that level.  

It works in the reverse as well. For example, the leader who makes it a point to ask how people are doing at the outset of every meeting and leaves five minutes at the end so people can move or take a mental break before their next call, gives everyone else on the team or project implicit permission to do the same. This is especially powerful for young professionals and new hires, who look to more senior teammates and peers for guidance on the norms and cultural values to uphold.

No matter how you approach well-being at work, the most important thing is to make sure you do it. The reality is that you can’t build resilient, adaptive organizations without resilient, adaptive leaders. When you arm your people with the information, tools, and support to improve employee well-being (including their own), you unlock human potential and create a culture where both people and profits can thrive.

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