I was recently asked to create a presentation for work. I had the chance to cover whatever topic I felt was important, while incorporating information relevant to our team’s development. I decided to talk about wellness.
What is wellness?
It’s the sum of your physical and mental health. The pieces that make up each of these are incredibly nuanced, but the key is not allowing the activities that give you energy to be pushed to the back for ‘more pressing’ things. Say, work you don’t enjoy or tasks for others that drain your energy.
How do organizations facilitate wellness?
I see lots of wellness initiatives in workplaces — it’s the nature of my work as an organizational psychologist — but I rarely hear about how our roles as people development and engagement practitioners exist to facilitate employees to build wellness into their own days.
The conversations we have as managers and leaders are often around how to build wellness initiatives that are there for employees to take up as they wish. There isn’t much discussion about how we support people to want to take up those initiatives. We don’t talk about how we create space in people’s lives (or encourage them to feel they can make space) to build healthier and more effective days that incorporate their needs both inside and outside of work.
What does it mean to facilitate wellness in others?
Wellness comes when you feel you have ownership over how your day plays out. Yes, you need to fit work into that, but when work is something you get fulfillment from, it becomes part of something you want to fit into your day. It begins to give you energy instead of draining it.
For example, I see some companies offer free gym memberships, but they frown upon people taking time out of the middle of their day to go to the gym. Another example is companies that expect people to take a limited amount of time in their gym session to ensure they are back at their desk or workstation by a certain time, limiting the type of workout they can have.
The thing that’s missing here is ownership. The company owns these approaches and they have boundaries in place about how and when they are used. The control sits with the company.
The key to creating a well working environment, is saying to people, these are the things we are offering, use them as you please. This is the work we need to get done, these are your responsbilities — which we work out together — it’s up to you to manage your day.
What if people are junior and don’t work well this way?
If people are more junior, we work with them to help them to understand how to build their days and weeks with ownership over their time.
They may choose to do a 9–5 day, or they may choose, 10–12, 3–7, and 8–9. The point is, it doesn’t matter. If they achieve their goals and they feel happier for it, we have succeeded in creating a more well workplace.
We can still share tips and best practice ideas about what might work, but letting people choose is where wellness comes into its own.
Our roles as leaders
As leaders, it’s our responsibility to create spaces where the people we work with day to day feel psychologically safe to create their own working schedules. Spaces where people feel they are owners of their own time.
However, this only works if we truly understand the people we’re working with and the kind of work that engages them enough that they want to take time out of other activities in their day to engage in that work. Where work becomes not something we have to do, but something we want to do that adds positivity to our days.
This means two things have to happen.
1. We need to understand the people on our teams well enough to know what drives and engages them so we can create opportunities where they can do more of that kind of work.
2. We help people to develop the skills to be introspective so they can learn what makes them tick, and so they have the capability and confidence to speak up when they want to work in a certain way or work on a particular activity.
Our role, as leaders, is to rethink what it means to work.