As a professional recruiter, I interview 100’s of job seekers, and the pursuit of well-being and balance is top of their list. Everyone wants it. Fair enough. I too, quest for that elusive perfect balance… as I write on a Sunday at 5 am. But it is my balance and choice. It is also my passion. I am certain my thoughts on this notion of well-being will be a little different to most, so bear with me.
Well-being and self
The CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, describes well-being as ‘judging life positively and feeling good’, and includes satisfaction with life, fulfilment, and positive functioning. No one would contest the value of well-being, and I am sure we all favour a fulfilling life. However, the freedom to choose better conditions for ourselves concerns the perception of ‘self’, which cannot be disconnected from external influences, society, places of work and even our families and friends.
With the heavy hinged focus of, ‘what is in it for me’, have we left no room for others? Observations of narcissistic traits are usually covertly reserved for managers and leaders, but are they now seeping into our teams? And the catchphrase, ‘we are all in this together’, seems to have quickly dropped from our rhetoric.
The deskilling of our workforce
Well-being is not a new concern, but in our current working world, it has heightened acutely. Inescapable and for managers and business leaders, permanently tattooed on our consciousness. But are our endeavours assisting or hindering?
According to the latest OECD economic outlook, Australia has the second most severe labour shortage in the developed world. Add our unemployment rate at 3.5%, and we have a dire human resources problem. In addressing our pressing skills shortage, the world advocates upskilling and reskilling.
Too late, and we need much more than that, as our approach to workplace wellness may be simultaneously deskilling the workforce. If not careful, with admirable intentions, we may be producing potential systemic problems for the future of our labour force.
The problem with labelling
Have we adequately considered that life is more complex, and the belief in what is right doesn’t necessarily make for an easy solution? The pinpointing of ‘What! No lunch break’, or ‘receiving emails over the weekend?’ and the labelling prognosis, ‘you must be burnt out’, is irresponsible. The collective also plays a powerful role, feeding the self-mythologizing malaise compulsively with causal chain reactions.
The negative self-fulfilling prophecy plays out, and the quick to label with superficial conclusions can be harmful and noxious for all, individuals, teams, and businesses. Everyone’s well-being needs are different. Abhorrent to most, I am sure, is my predawn working habit, but for me, it is perfect. The problem would be if I push others to do the same or judge their choices. And vice versa. Our notions of well-being are evolving, and no wonder, living in such a fast-shifting world.
Token gestures and the dog
Let us not triage workplace wellness with generic, standard approaches and euphemisms. The lists are surface level insufficient and nauseating in their appease; paid vacations before you start, work 4 days not 5, lunch paid, ‘so you take it- that’s how much we care’, wellness and spa days, days off for your birthday, and it goes on. Cosmetic company adornments with value only for self-satisfaction and gratification, not well-being.
True well-being runs much deeper than token gestures, self-nurture, ensuring breaks are taken and even whether the dog comes to work or not. These alone do not guarantee stable feelings of balance. A band-aid remedy when the wound needs to breathe.
What of workplace stamina, resilience, self-awareness, self-sufficiency, and confidence? Attributes muscled from exposure to discomfort, pushing limits, crashing a little and exploring boundaries. And yes, on occasions working longer hours. Well-being co-exists while experiencing more challenging times and conditions. Research has found up to 70% of people experience positive psychological growth from difficult times. Mostly though, your well-being sits with you and anchors heavily on purpose.
We must look at workplace well-being; the need for it cannot be contested. Thank goodness for the move ahead already. More needs to be done but to empower, not disable. Provide an environment where people can safely fail and embrace both negative and positive experiences. Environments of trust and empathy allow people to share what is on their minds and needs to be heard. Yes, have balance but have your balance, not what is prescribed by others to suit their cause and projections. Reinstate pride in our work and attitudinal heft. Do not turn well-being into code for, ‘I don’t want to work that hard’. Make it less about you and more about the good of all.
Written by Roxanne Calder.
Have you read?
The Future Is Global by Theodore (Ted) Clark.
Science-Based Strategies to Control Stress and Improve Your Digital Life by Dr. Diane Lennard.
Leaders: Is Your Biggest Strength Actually Your Biggest Weakness by Antonio Garrido.
Why Smarter Collaboration Should be at the Top of Every Senior Leader’s Agenda by Heidi K. Gardner.
The 5-point plan to build a fantastic reputation by Ros Weadman.
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