Next week, we’ll be celebrating World WellBeing Week, an international awareness event now in its fifth year.
Created by WellBeing World, the event aims to promote individual wellbeing across all aspects of life and has reached thousands of people worldwide since its inception. It serves as a reminder to us all of the benefits of prioritising wellbeing and encourages individuals to re-focus their efforts. Updates have already been received from participants as far away as Australia and Vietnam, highlighting the global reach of the event.
Who is responsible for our wellbeing?
The responsibility for wellbeing is a topic of ongoing discussion, with arguments pointing towards the roles of the individual, the employer, and government.
Solid evidence supports the idea that all three have a part to play. While individual wellbeing begins with personal responsibility, employers and governments can provide support without hindering personal agency.
Self-care plays a crucial role in promoting wellbeing, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, social, financial and occupational aspects. Activities such as walking, pursuing hobbies, attending classes or support groups, healthy eating, maintaining supportive relationships, seeking therapy, setting boundaries, spending time in nature, enjoying a spa retreat, doing something differently, practicing gratitude, or simply sitting on the beach at sunrise or sunset, can all contribute to individual wellbeing.
Leaders, in particular, have a responsibility to lead by example, creating an environment where team members feel comfortable discussing their challenges and asking for support.
The energy and passion of our people is the most critical enabler of team and business performance. We cannot be energised if we’re not healthy – mentally, physically or emotionally – so it is incumbent on leaders to inspire and enable their teams to prioritise their wellbeing.
The role of employers in supporting employee wellbeing is more critical than ever. Apart from offering employee assistance programmes, resources and workshops, monitoring workload, encouraging regular breaks, and creating team bonding activities, some employers are able to create spaces for relaxation, mindfulness and social connection. They also provide flexible work arrangements, underpinned with compassionate leadership and a supportive culture of trust and openness.
Employers are emerging as a powerful source of trust, according to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, highlighting the growing role of businesses in shaping employee experiences, with employers now viewed as the most competent and ethical institution, above government, globally.
Research published this month by Gallup reveals that while employee engagement has increased globally, a significant proportion of employees (77%) remain disengaged, representing an $8.8 trillion untapped productivity opportunity for global workplaces. Addressing employee engagement and wellbeing concurrently is crucial, as employee stress levels have also increased.
The Power of a Safe and Positive Work Environment
This said, the workplace isn’t always a source of stress and overwhelm, or it certainly doesn’t have to be. It can offer a temporary escape from the pressures of our personal lives, providing an opportunity to redirect our energy and find fulfilment in our professional pursuits.
Successful achievements, recognition of a job well done from a manager, and the social connection so important to our human psyche can all make the difference to one’s day. The confidence built at work then permeates the rest of one’s life and spreads joy and hope.
In order to make these moments accessible to everyone, it is essential for organisations to establish a psychologically safe environment. This involves cultivating a culture where individuals feel valued, respected, and supported. It allows employees to bring their whole selves to work without fear of judgement or reprisal.
When employees feel safe and supported, they are more likely to be engaged, innovative, and productive. Organisations can create a psychologically safe environment by walking the talk, promoting open communication, actively listening to employee feedback, recognising and appreciating diverse perspectives, and providing opportunities for growth and development.
Tailoring Wellbeing Initiatives to Individual Needs
No one size fits all.
Wellbeing is a multifaceted concept that encompasses numerous interconnecting aspects of our lives. Recognising the diverse needs and preferences of employees, organisations should aim to provide a range of resources and initiatives that address different dimensions of wellbeing. By offering a comprehensive array of options, employees can choose what resonates with them and create a personalised path to enhance their own overall wellbeing.
This may include flexible work arrangements, recognition programmes, access to fitness facilities or wellness programmes, stress management and other educational workshops, and resources for financial wellbeing. It may also include confidence building and teamwork skills following lockdown, along with the empowerment and enablement of individuals, and accountability of managers.
It is impossible to do everything, therefore rather than introducing initiatives which will fail on delivery, the most important thing is to consult with your employees. Study the most recent feedback from your last employment survey and ascertain what it is that they need. Feedback can be achieved with the right type of survey asking the right questions, focus groups or manager feedback.
Ideally this would be tracked and monitored to give you the data you need on an ongoing basis for heat mapping, early intervention and accountability. It may be that the employee wellbeing needed now in your organisation is very different to initial expectations.
World WellBeing Week and Beyond
World WellBeing Week presents the opportunity for organisations and community groups to actively engage their employees and members in meaningful activities that promote holistic wellbeing. This is just the beginning for some, or a chance to refocus existing efforts and programmes for others.
Of course, it is not limited to a week-long event; it is an opportunity to enhance personal and professional growth, happiness, and a fulfilling life, now and in the future.
The responsibility lies with us all.