Last week I was invited to a full-day conference on employee wellbeing. The conference was held in central London on a Monday morning – the Monday morning that followed the heavy snowfall we’d had the day before. As would be imagined, the journey was not a good one. Phase 1: sort out snowboots and far too many layers of clothing for the children’s early school run; phase 2: get them there – only to then find out about late school starts and early finishes so call upon favours from friends to help out; phase 3: get me there – grapple with the packed and delayed commuter train; phase 4: arrive at the conference, exhausted, hot and bothered. As I peeled off the layers and looked for somewhere to hide the snowboots and the layers, I must admit, the notion of ‘wellbeing’ was not really at the forefront of my mind.
Thankfully, my mindset was to be changed pretty quickly. First up were the facts, the figures and the research that support the ‘very-obvious-when-you-think-about-it’ notion that if you and your company take better care of your personal wellbeing, you will be healthier and happier, which makes you then perform better at work. Wellbeing is how you evaluate your life – it’s all the things that are important to how we think about and experience our lives on a daily and long-term basis. 2 survey results surprised me more than anything:
1. In looking at our social lives, the person we most dislike to be around is our boss (at the absolute bottom of the list) – consider the effect of this on your emotional wellbeing after a 40-hour week together!
2. If you are ‘disengaged’ at work, you are less likely to have positive daily experiences than someone who is unemployed! Again, consider the impact of the knock-on effect of this negativity and lack of productivity in the workplace. We have all personally experienced periods of disengagement at some times in our working lives, and I was reminded that it’s particularly important to spot when it’s happening and change direction
How refreshing and inspiring it was, when I looked around the room at the conference attendees, that senior managers from global companies in so many sectors had taken a full day out to actively think of ways in which they can improve the health and wellbeing of their staff. HR, Diversity and Reward Managers have the time, the skills and the motivation to inspire senior management into investing in wellbeing projects for the good of the organisation. During the day, the solutions that were discussed ranged from corporate childcare and eldercare, maternity coaching, company gym and yoga sessions; to wellbeing network groups. Great, I can’t wait! But is there anything the rest of us can do to improve our personal wellbeing in the meantime?
Personally my top 3 take-away tips were:
1. Work with your own energy levels; take a break or change activity every 90 minutes for maximum productivity; if you know you are better in the mornings, do all your harder tasks then and save the simple ones for the afternoons
2. Do one thing at a time – really difficult to do as we are constantly juggling and multi-tasking, especially at home – but if you multi-task, consider that it takes 25% longer to complete the task!
3. When you have stopped working, make sure you do stop – no sneaky peaks at your phone or emails – when you are having a break from work and enjoying time with friends and family, make it a productive break, so when you do pick up work again, you are energised enough to tackle it
By mid-afternoon, I also realised that the way the conference had been structured around our wellbeing – we had over an hour for a sit-down lunch, where we had time to appreciate good food, and had the opportunity to chat, meet new people, learn new things and relax before the afternoon session. Immediately following lunch, we had discussion-based activities, that involved moving around the room, preventing us from going into that post-lunch ‘graveyard shift’ and keep our energy levels high.
So is ‘employee wellbeing’ the latest buzz phrase? Yes please!