Many organisations know that workplace wellbeing is not just the right thing to do, but is also a sound business decision. So why do we still see so many cases of workplace stress, burnout, bullying and intimidation? And now the great resignation and quiet quitting?
Starting on Monday, we will embark on our first-ever World WellBeing At Work Week, kindly sponsored by Deloitte LLP, to spotlight good practice in workplace wellbeing. Our focus will explore the various elements which contribute to a successful, sustainable, motivating and productive working environment, with employee wellbeing front and centre.
With all the challenges businesses face in the world today, workplace wellbeing has never been so important.
That said, wellbeing works on many different levels.
Individuals have a responsibility for their own personal wellbeing, although it is my core belief that leaders ARE responsible for workplace wellbeing in its most fundamental sense in terms of the culture and working practices of an organisation. This is the differentiator.
I am not referring to individual tactics and interventions which no doubt provide much essential support, I am talking about going to the root cause of workplace issues. For no matter how many stress management sessions an employee may attend, it is of little value if the employee returns to the same workplace which caused the burnout in the first place.
It’s all about the culture, workload, working practices, and how leaders lead, it’s as simple as that.
THIS is where we need to start with workplace wellbeing – for only the culture and the way leaders talk and act will determine if the environment is motivating, empowering and engaging. Or if it is toxic and damaging.
Good Leaders Start with Themselves – Or Do They?
Burnout due to increased workload or lack of staff resources is the top stressor for British workers. Cigna’s latest survey results show that 77% of employees are stressed and 83% have experienced at least one symptom of burnout.
Further research shows that 31% report having a poor work-life balance and 30% say ‘poor management and leadership’ contributes to their stress. 63% of British workers have missed at least one day of work due to stress, anxiety or other mental health challenges, and one in three feel their employer isn’t doing enough to support their mental health.
Leaders have to start with themselves and lead by example. Not just talk but take authentic action aligned to their values and those of the organisation.
Only this will create an environment which feels psychologically safe, where people can own up to making mistakes without fear of reprisals and where people can speak up and be heard.
We all know that human beings want to be listened to, respected and appreciated. The human being in the workplace is no different.
How do we do this?
I am reminded that it is exactly 30 years this month since I joined Standard Chartered Bank CI. If there was ever an example of how to create a psychologically safe environment, it was there.
In the late 90s, we implemented a sales & service culture throughout the entire organisation, supported by a code of honour to which we all contributed and agreed to work. It was the best thing we ever did.
We constantly looked for the good, showed appreciation to fellow colleagues, never abandoned a team-mate in need, created growth and development opportunities, and above all, we knew that come what may, the Directors had our backs.
As a result, we felt heard, valued and appreciated, we worked as a team, motivated, engaged and empowered to excel. People still mention ‘the good times’ to me to this day.
So, what did we learn?
- When we treat people as human beings, assume the best of them, make it ‘cool to care’, and trust that they will perform, then they will excel and exceed all your expectations.
- When we create an employee centred culture of collaboration, it shapes the behaviour of everyone in it. Team members support one another and the results for the business can be dynamic. This is the non-negotiable aspect of culture.
- Leaders CAN implement workplace wellbeing, they just need to listen and engage their greatest asset – their people. High quality conversations are key, with frequent regular and meaningful dialogue.
- People are all different, they have different strengths and they need different things at different times. It is by knowing every single one of the team, their strengths, often their hidden strengths, and their aspirations, that we can provide the right environment for them to grow and flourish.
- Leaders need to make people feel seen, valued, and involved in major decisions. When people aren’t happy or functioning well at work it’s usually about the way they feel or are made to feel whilst at work. Recognition and involvement at work matters. People who are recognised by leaders have been shown to be 40% more engaged.
- Open communication is vital. Not email circulars but leaders out and visible in the workplace, mixing and talking with the team. And if something can’t be implemented, say why not. People will understand if their views are listened to and they are treated with respect.
- Find your purpose. Look for the unbelievable importance in your organisation and its work and live it, every day. Your people will do the same.
- The right systems, policies and procedures are essential so everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing, how and when. This provides clarity for your people to succeed.
- Workplace wellbeing cannot exist without great leadership. It’s as simple as that. Look after your people, give them a sense of belonging, and they will move mountains for you.
- One note of caution: Adherence to the values and policies should be consistent. Nothing destroys employee wellbeing and buy-in faster than watching an employer tolerate, and even reward, those who don’t support the culture.
Leaders also need to look to themselves and make sure their own wellbeing is being protected. The leader who intentionally or otherwise, bullies, disrespects or treat his people with indifference or unkindness, may well be under terrific pressure themselves.
That’s no excuse, of course, and needs to be called out, although it is why self-awareness, having the right employee wellbeing support, and creating an organisational culture which provides a feeling of psychological safety, with the right policies and procedures adhered to and maintained throughout every part of the organisation, is essential.
As Maya Angelou famously said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”