Workplace wellness - The 3 R's you need to focus on right now.
It's fair to say that we are now officially in the midst of 'new normal'. Boris' roadmap has outlined our exit from lockdown, complete with a timeline that has everyone circling and underlining the 21st of June 2021, lest we forget the day our freedom will return.
Many of us will have spent some time daydreaming about which activity from our 'pre-covid' life we will immerse ourself in first, holiday anyone?! Yet, there are some activities and practices that will remain forever changed by the events of 2020, 9-5, 5 day a week office working is surely one of them.
Covid-19 has led to a business revolution. For many of us it's a revolution we were wholly un-prepared for. Anyone else remember walking out of the office slightly amused at the prospect of 'home working', only to quickly realise this wasn't at all what you had envisaged? Add to this, that despite the almost excitable 'see you in a few weeks' waves we gave to our colleagues back in March 2020, many of us have not stepped foot back in the office since.
This presents a number of challenges to businesses in the short, medium and long-term and two of the biggest challenges in relation to wellbeing are:
Redefining workplace wellness for colleagues working from home
Nurturing connection, collaboration and inclusion outside the office
Recent research has shown that a large proportion of colleagues are struggling with increased stress, loneliness and anxiety. There is also a growing disconnect between the perceived wellbeing of staff by HR and the realities faced by many staff working from home (Westfield Health, 2020). My guess is that some of the wellbeing decline is driven by, what I like to call, the 'laptop hover'. Many staff are so afraid of being seen as lazy and unproductive that they overcompensate, hovering by their laptops afraid of missing an impromptu Teams call. This results in very few breaks, often no lunch and a hover that can sometimes last hours after they would usually have left the office and switched off for the evening.
With this in mind, and the fact that a large number of organisations have committed to maintaining work from home practices, some going so far as selling off now unused office space, there has never been a more critical time to focus on the 3 R's in order to future-proof your wellbeing strategy.
Many businesses have been under immense pressure to keep delivering services in any way they can over the past year, but this continued focus on business as usual (in a completely unusual world) has left little time for reflection. The benefits of reflection on action cannot be underestimated, they present an incredible opportunity for strategic development in the short, medium and long-term.
Taking a step back to reflect on successes, learnings and assumptions, results in the ability to take a greater step forward when it comes to wellness.
Maintaining the status quo will result in your organisation's wellbeing strategy becoming outdated faster than the turn of a head after a cough on the train. With reflection comes re-imagination, what could and should your strategy look like when it takes into consideration, a global pandemic, a workforce that no longer require an office, a movement for equity and anti-racism that requires systemic change, an increased awareness of the importance of, and reliance on technology across sectors, a growing call for sustainable practices due to the continued effects of climate change... to name just a few key issues on the societal agenda.
Now is the time to be braver, bolder, better than before. Society has a growing appetite for 'out with the old, in with the new'. Will your business heed that call to action, or hold tight in the belief that this too shall pass... before scrambling into action when it becomes apparent that a few sporadic wellness initiatives and an annual health check simply aren't going to cut it in today's social climate.
Reimagining your strategy through the lens of social wellness allows you to take a birds eye view of society and it's current challenges, acknowledging their implications for colleagues and asking the question, is our organisation and its culture helping or harming in respect to this.
With a year of Covid-19 under our belt we're no longer work from home newbies, there is now a permanent place for the laptop on the kitchen table, and the days of switching our camera on for a quick Teams catch-up are well and truly behind us. What we are still learning is, once we have re-imagined workplace wellness in a work from home culture, how do we effectively re-engage colleagues to create buy-in.
Hint... it's not an all staff email or a dreaded lunch and learn.
Authentic buy-in happens when we create the right social and psychological environment for wellbeing to flourish. When we anchor wellbeing to our culture and communicate our vision for the future in strategic terms, not as a calendar of activities.
Re-engagement is also about utilising the technologies we have become so quickly accustomed to, in the right way. We have never been more connected at work with email, Skype, Zoom, Teams but are we utilising these communication channels effectively when it comes to building engagement, or are we continuing to fill up colleagues' calendars with death by Teams for the sake of perceived productivity and connection?
I get it, wellbeing in a pandemic is tough as hell! There are a myriad of competing priorities and we're all trying to get through the best way we can, but making an organisational commitment to invest time in the 3 Rs will almost certainly be the difference between nailing new normal or failing new normal.