Employees are struggling with stress, burnout, and mental health like never before. As a result of the pandemic, we’ve all experienced what happens when we try to juggle work and home. This took its toll and clearly taught us the importance of taking care of ourselves and our needs, as human beings first, regardless of the type of work we did or our work location.
A recent Forbes article highlighted how all the post-pandemic research has emphasized well-being as the number one issue that companies need to address in order to thrive. In the war for talent and in the wake of the great resignation, the employee-employer contract has tipped in favor of the employees. We, as employees, are clearly voicing our needs and expectations; we are prioritizing work-life balance, mental health, and a meaningful job over a steady income. If our employer doesn’t meet those demands, we’ll look for a new one who does.
We’ve heard, time and again, how important our well-being is to our life satisfaction, our work cultures, and both our personal and business results. We know research supports this, yet organizations and leaders continue to grapple with how to best support our most valuable asset: our people. And as people, we continue to wrestle with how to navigate the demands of our work and personal lives.
Why does well-being matter?
Workplaces don’t exist without people. When we are stressed, struggling, or even suffering, it directly impacts our individual ability to be successful, and our teams and the broader organization suffer as well. We know that when we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re not showing up as our best selves or doing our best work. Subsequently, we know that not paying attention to our well-being impacts our ability to achieve the goals that we want – both at home and at work.
According to Gallup, “Employers who care for employee health and well-being see numerous measurable benefits, from higher productivity and profitability to lower turnover and fewer safety incidents. Well-designed and research-informed well-being initiatives and strategies provide all-important organizational resilience and remove risk from organizations.” We know that thriving employees fuel a thriving workplace. So why is it so hard?
Let’s first define what we mean by “well-being.”
It’s common to think of well-being as solely related to our physical and mental health, but a complete well-being definition incorporates much more. Research by Gallup identified five distinct facets of life that separate a “thriving” individual from one who is struggling or suffering.
These five universal elements of well-being are:
- Career – You like what you do every day.
- Community– You like where you live.
- Financial – You manage your money well.
- Physical – You have the energy to get things done.
- Social – You have meaningful friendships in your life.
Further analysis by Gallup determined that one type stands out as the foundation for all the rest: career well-being. In other words, liking what you do every day has the strongest impact on overall well-being. This makes sense. Enjoying your work impacts all the other aspects of well-being. Not only does it provide you with financial benefits, but it also offers you social contacts, physical and mental interaction, and connection to a community. Working provides purpose and meaning in one’s life. It’s not simply that life would be better without work. Meaningful work is an important part of a fulfilling life.
Being successful in your work and personal life requires creating healthy boundaries to allow yourself to not let your work consume you. Are any of the following statements true for you?
- I have constant demands of my time, attention, and skills.
- I am juggling multiple, often competing, priorities.
- I experience high expectations of productivity and performance from my leaders, team, and even myself.
If so, you’re not alone. Nor are you wrong if you’re thinking, “But this is my reality!” However, it’s not about being right or wrong. Rather it’s about the end results – in other words, are you getting the results you want? And if not, are you willing to look within yourself?
At Fierce, we believe in the power of conversations.
At Fierce, we teach others how to have real, authentic conversations – those we need to be having to get the results we want in life – at work and at home. Sometimes the conversations we need to have are with ourselves. And just like those conversations with others, we need to be genuine and honest.
A transformational idea in our Foundations workshop is, “All conversations are with myself and sometimes they involve other people.” This essentially means that each of us makes sense of the world around us based on our experiences. We call this our context filter. It’s made up of our attitudes, beliefs, and values, brought about by our experiences. Based on our unique context filter we tell ourselves stories about what we believe to be true, and we operate accordingly. We don’t necessarily pause and consciously reflect on how we might not be seeing the full picture. We don’t question our experience of the world and how we see things, and as a result, we can often get in our own way.
So how do I have those conversations, with myself and others, that will have a positive impact on my own well-being and that of my team or organization?
This starts with us.
“If it is to be, it’s up to me.” – Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations
As an employee, what can I do?
You might be wondering: “With all these expectations, demands, and priorities, how do I take care of my own well-being and support that of my team members?”
Start with your own self-reflection. This is that conversation you need to have with yourself.
When we think of being accountable, we often think about holding other people accountable. “If only [insert external person or event] was different, I wouldn’t be so stressed.” We tend to blame our workplaces – the constant demands from our bosses or the amount of work we must accomplish in a workweek – as the problem. We blame others or the situation, real things that are outside of our control, as the reason we’re experiencing stress or burnout. And those things may very well be true.
Yet at Fierce, we define accountability as “a desire to take responsibility for results; a bias toward solution and action. An attitude; a personal, private, non-negotiable choice about how to live your life.”
Accountability starts with us.
- Instead of succumbing to a “powerless” mindset, consider how you can take charge to get the results you want. Rather than assuming your boss, team, or organization is setting you up to fail, consider, “How might I be contributing to this? What part of this is on me? Where do I have some control and where can I take personal responsibility?”
- Instead of your inner critic prodding you with thoughts like: “I’m not driven enough, smart enough, or resilient enough to survive in this role, this organization, or even the modern workplace,” consider those work or personal habits that may be pushing you towards burnout.
- Now, empower yourself by recognizing: “I am accountable for getting to where I want to be. I am in the driver’s seat of my own work experience and well-being decisions. I have the agency to make some behavior changes, create new habits, and make different (and better) decisions that can influence my future.”
That is choosing accountability.
Your personal well-being starts with choosing personal accountability, including taking an honest self-inventory of how you’re showing up. Have an honest conversation with yourself about how you might be contributing to your own work-related stress or path to burnout.
Here are common behaviors within your own control that can undermine your well-being. Do any of these sound familiar?
- Checking email or other technology platforms (Slack, Teams, Zoom, etc.) during non-working hours
- Peeking at internal channels to see who is still working after 5 p.m. (and feeling better or worse about yourself as a result)
- Placing value on being “so busy”- perhaps identifying as a “workaholic”- even bragging to yourself or others about putting in the most hours
- Habitually skipping lunch or breaks to get more work done
- Believing that your organization will not survive without you for even one day, a week, or any amount of time
- Carrying unused PTO or accumulating a high balance of time off for a financial payoff when you leave the organization
- Advising your team to prioritize work-life balance without role-modeling it yourself
- Numbing after work with social media, television, or alcohol because you do not have the energy or motivation to engage in other activities that are important to you
- Interpreting a need or request from a client, colleague, or leader as your top priority, sometimes even an emergency
- Constantly wondering if you would be more satisfied in a different role, organization, or even line of work
Be honest with yourself. How many of these resonate with you? One? Several? Many? All?
You’re not alone. Many of us glorify overwork, immersing ourselves entirely in our work and moving at a rapid pace from one thing to the next. But this is unsustainable and will lead to the very outcomes we want to avoid, namely stress and burnout.
Remember: “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” You have the power to change these habits.
If you’re not getting the results you want, reflect on the following questions:
- How might you approach your daily work routines and habits differently? (e.g., refer to those in the personal inventory and consider others that may be true for you)
- What are the stories you’re telling yourself about why you’re feeling stressed and unable to make more balanced or healthier choices? (e.g., I’m being set up for failure; my boss hates me; I should be able to do it all.)
- How might you look at your work experiences in another way or reevaluate your context around those responsibilities, colleagues, or situations? (e.g., Are you feeling overwhelmed from being handed a new project that you don’t feel qualified to lead vs. considering how you can secure additional support or the skills required to learn something new?)
Re-evaluate the expectations you’ve placed on yourself and reflect on the imbalance you’re experiencing. Take an honest look at yourself and consider how you might adjust your mindset and behaviors to choose accountability for yourself and for your well-being.
To help you along, below are 3 tips to focus on your own personal well-being:
1. Reflect and Acknowledge: You can’t change what you don’t notice. Reflect on that self-inventory.
Ask yourself: How am I showing up for myself and others? How are others experiencing me? What is my energy like throughout the day? How are my relationships with coworkers and at home?
2. Listen to your body. Pay attention to the signals your body is sending you. Maybe it’s your head, your heart, your gut. Whatever information agent is sending you signals, listen to it.
Ask yourself: Are you restless? Moody or grumpy? Short-tempered? Feeling uncreative? Are you spinning your wheels?
3. Commit to self-care. Self-care means different things to different people. Decide what it means to you, and make a commitment to yourself. For many of us, it’s simply ensuring we get enough sleep, fuel, and exercise. Prioritize taking breaks and eating healthy meals.
Ask yourself: What do I need to do to take better care of myself and my needs? How can I make a commitment to myself that I will follow through?
As a leader, what can I do?
As a manager or leader, you likely are facing additional well-being challenges, such as adapting to changing work environments and processes brought on by new remote or hybrid work arrangements. In addition, many managers are challenged by high levels of turnover and staffing shortages. Managers’ roles include responsibilities tied to both achieving results and caring for people.
Not only are you required to get your own work done, but you are likely assuming greater responsibility for supporting the well-being of your team members. Employees expect more from their managers and leaders than ever before. Employees look to their managers to support them in everything from their wellness needs to how to get work done. As a result, you are likely feeling this pressure and being stretched quite thin.
As a leader, here are 5 tips to support the well-being of your team members
In addition to evaluating your own self-practices, here are five ways that you can help build the well-being of your team members:
- Focus on your employees’ strengths. Use a strengths-based strategy to develop your people and design your employee experience. Delegate responsibilities based on the skills and interests of your team; consider the uniqueness of your team composition and customize learning opportunities, projects, and responsibilities based on individual needs and interests.
- Develop managers to be coaches. Move the mindset from being a boss who is solely focused on high performance to being a coach who develops and broadens one’s skillset by providing new opportunities along with frequent feedback. Make time for conversations to help guide team members towards self-generated insight and actions to reach their goals.
- Include well-being in conversations about career development. Build trust in and across your team by having meaningful discussions about well-being, with individuals, and as a team; create space in regular check-ins to get to know what’s going on in the personal lives of your people and take the time in team meetings to provide opportunities for your team members to personally connect on topics outside of work.
- Don’t tolerate toxic leaders. This one should be obvious, but often isn’t reality. Remove those toxic people who make employees’ lives miserable. Their top performance or specialized skillset is not worth the risk to the culture and the long-term success of the team and organization.
- Provide regular praise and recognition. Most of us can agree that we don’t experience enough praise (given or received) in the workplace. Reward those behaviors and successes across your team; learn how your team prefers to be praised and recognized, once again considering the unique needs of each person.
New research from Gallup and Workhuman finds that recognition and well-being, together, can pave the way for improved business outcomes. Specifically, when employees have strong well-being and are experiencing the best recognition experiences possible, they’re more likely to be a top-performer and to feel like they’re paid fairly, and are less likely to be actively looking or watching for job opportunities.
Fierce can help you with many of the tools you need as an employee and as a manager to better navigate your well-being journey.
Don’t underestimate the power of conversations that you can have with yourself and your team. Our resources help individuals and leaders become more effective at communicating authentically, coaching others to self-generated insights, providing feedback and recognition, delegating effectively, embracing accountability, building resilience, and much more. Our individual, team, and organizational well-being and success depend on our ability to have these authentic conversations.
So have those conversations with yourself and your teams that will empower you all to choose well-being as a top priority. Your people will thank you.