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2 December 2021

People Wellbeing – The foundation of a Company’s common good

by Natalia Staina

How are you? Did you have time to stop and think about it today? Remember what it was like when you were a child? Maybe you were going to the zoo with your mum and dad, the beach with your friends, or a party with your best mates? Compare that past feeling with your current state of mind and you can understand how much stress you are carrying right now.

Most of us were carefree as children. We could gaze at the stars, wait for an alien ship, play video games and not
worry about tomorrow. But now, as grown-ups, we have responsibilities. We go to sleep stressing about things
like work tasks or the wellness of our loved ones.

A pandemic of stress

After more than 18 months of the pandemic, extra stress and pressure have become part of everyday life, and our wellbeing is more important than ever. Last year the world changed unexpectedly, leading to a prolonged crisis which is set to have a widespread effect on our collective wellbeing. This may not be noticeable in the short term, but will
definitely become evident in years to come.

When humans have to deal with an urgent or unexpected crisis, we often go into stress response mode and adapt by
consuming our internal energy resources. The many small changes we make to our habits, routines and schedules
combine to induce stress too. But, instead of acute stress, disruption causes chronic stress which is much more
dangerous. In the same way that food deprivation over a long period is more serious than fasting for a day, chronic stress is far more detrimental to health than short-term acute stress.

More stress and less energy

Chronic stress can result in our energy reserves being depleted faster than normal. We may work the same amount of hours and make the same number of calls as we did before the crisis, but we find ourselves twice as tired. For many months since the pandemic began, people have relied on their ‘internal batteries’, been deprived of positive emotions and lacked opportunities to recharge their energy levels.

So, next time you are talking to a colleague who is slightly more irritated than usual or wants to discuss their kids or
weekend with you, they are probably looking for a bit of much-needed social connection to make them feel better!

The World Health Organisation estimates that over 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide. So, even
in a small organisation with 50 employees, it’s likely that at least two people will have a history of depression without knowing it.

Happy people are productive people

Oxford University research has found a strong link between happiness and professional performance and that happy employees are 13% more productive. The lack of work/life balance brought about by the pandemic has inspired many articles about wellbeing at work, but a Gallup study* I particularly like finds that people who successfully combine five “elements of wellbeing” perform better.

“These elements are the currency of a life that matters. They do not include every nuance of what’s essential in life, but they represent five broad categories that are essential to most people.”

  • Career Wellbeing: how you occupy your time or like what you do every day
  • Social Wellbeing: having solid relationships and love in your life
  • Financial Wellbeing: managing your economic life effectively
  • Physical Wellbeing: having good health and the energy to get things done daily
  • Community Wellbeing: the engagement you have with where you live

Whilst 66% of people do well in at least one of these areas, just 7% thrive in all five. If we struggle in any one of these domains, as most of us do, it damages our overall wellbeing and impacts our daily lives.

Improvements to any one of these areas yields benefits in the days, months, and decades to come. Address all five and we are most likely to get the most out of life.

How to ensure better wellbeing

Surveys:
If your company doesn’t have a corporate psychologist to monitor employees and offer support, why not conduct staff engagement and performance surveys? The more regular, the better.

Relationships:
Managers need to establish more human, less formal relationships with their direct reports. Promoting cooperation and collaboration is always better than a ‘request and isolation till the work is done and time to report back’ type approach.

Sociability:
Social activities, Friday tea times and virtual coffee breaks are all opportunities to see your colleagues, even if it’s next to your favourite cat mug(!) on a Teams call rather than beside the office coffee machine.

Time management:
Businesses need to encourage employees to look after their wellbeing by setting Outlook reminders on when the working day should end. In the home workplace, it’s very easy to fall into a timeless rabbit hole, just like Alice did in Wonderland.

Exercise:
Sport, physical activity and meditation should be encouraged. Sitting in the same position for extended periods can cause long-term health issues, unless balanced with regular movement or activity.

Last but not least, please don’t be like me in the past. Never eat in front of your laptop when you’re distracted by emails. Your stomach won’t thank you for that.

I wish you all well!

* Gallup Study – “The Five Essential Elements of Well-Being