What does wellbeing at work mean to you?

I read an interesting piece from Stephanie Davies recently on her Laughology blog where she makes the case for measuring happiness at work over measuring productivity. It’s quite hard to suggest that productivity shouldn’t be measured. As Stephanie says, and I agree, productivity is only one measure of the success of a company – it’s the main one most stakeholders are interested in. There’s only a minority of external people who will be interested to know things like the happiness of the people who work at your organisation.

I think one of the things about modern workplace challenges is that the concepts of happiness at work is at odds with traditional methods of management. Add to that, senior people may understand that having an engaged workforce, providing meaningful work and feedback, including them in decision making, and having inclusive work practices are good and healthy things to do, but can sometimes be misconstrued to be barriers in the way of productivity, and also somehow increase workload and/or expenditure.

I’m an advocate of making things concepts like the above accessible to people. Using terminology and phrasing that makes sense to people. Let’s not get caught up in unnecessary speak, and make better use of the English language. That’s as much the responsibility of in-house practitioners as it is the vendors and suppliers we work with. Too many times do I see emails at work talking about resilience, wellbeing, engagement and everything else, and often they’re a term too far for most people to connect with and make sense of.

At the same time, I appreciate the value of clever and fun use of campaigns to highlight and share messages. Effective campaigns are those where we can give a clear message, unsullied and help people to know something directly. For example, at my current organisation, for our appraisal completion target, I’ve got posters around the offices with the simple message “100% completion” against a simple graphic. There’s no narrative, no punchline, and no small print. It doesn’t need to be anything else.

Where it can be more is when we take the time to help people to understand messages in ways that weren’t accessible to them before. I’ve recently partnered with Video Arts in helping them compile their new series calles ‘Wellbeing Essentials‘. It’s a series of short videos all about wellbeing at work, with accompanying e-learning and exercises that help put the learning into practice.

What I really appreciate about this series is how they help take the lexicon of positive psychology, wellbeing and happiness at work and break them down into understandable, and practical things for managers and leaders to understand better. Things like:

  • Helping people in your team think about their work differently. Instead of thinking positively – help them to challenge what the worst thing is that could happen.
  • Understanding that emotions can affect performance, even when we don’t want them to. It’s better to work with our emotions than it is dismiss them.
  • Cultivating transparent work practices – share information openly, have open and honest discussions about work, and help others know there’s no negative consequences for doing so.
  • Small accomplishments on the way to big achievements are important to recognise and give yourself small wins for.
  • Noticing your own needs and how you can do your best work in different ways – e.g. if you’re a morning person and have had breakfast you’re more likely to be alert and thinking well, so get your most important tasks done then.
  • Regularly appreciating team members for the work they’re doing, doing so fairly, and inclusively so it’s not just coming from the manager, but team members offering the same appreciation to colleagues.

I’m going to be a guest on a webinar launch of the series on Friday 12 May at 11.30am (UK) where I’ll be talking with Martin Addison (CEO of Video Arts) more about the above.

And if you’re interested in doing more on this topic with your organisation, get in touch.

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