10 Ways to Improve Well-being at Work
Conscious leaders recognise the vital importance of well-being. Both their own well-being and that of team members within their organisation. One of the most significant contributing factors to performing at a high level and being committed to your work and your team is to make physical, emotional and mental well-being at work a priority.
As a leader, you can promote the well-being of your team (and that of your own) in many ways. Well-being is one of the elements of the Wheel of Conscious Leadership I created for coaching and training work I do with teams and individuals.
Here is a starter for 10 of practices and principles you can implement at work to help look after the wellbeing of your people.
1. Create Clear Boundaries Between Home and Workplace Technology
Technology has revolutionised the way we are able to work – with so many benefits as a result. It’s not all good news though as technology, especially smart phones have blurred the boundaries between work and life outside work in a way that is damaging to well-being.
It is important to create boundaries and respect the home life of people in your team. This includes not expecting emails to be answered outside of working hours or to be on call constantly. This starts with us as leaders by being clear on expectations not sending emails or making calls on evenings and weekends. People need to feel it is ok that they can switch off at the end of each day and can enjoy their days off, free of the demands of work.
2. Support Restorative Time and Workplace Well-being
The best and the most challenging thing about people is that they are not machines. You get much more out of a committed team member than you will from any other resource at work. Because we are not machines, it’s important to recognise that we need to take breaks and engage in activities and practices that enable us to manage stress and maintain our energy levels. This will not always be predictable. People will have good days and others when they don’t feel good.
Encourage people to take regular breaks, especially at lunch time, when it is good to get some fresh air and some exercise, even a short walk. Allow people to take the time they need during the day, whether that is to have a chat with someone else, do some meditation, have a rest, refuel, or switch to another type of work.
3. Encourage People to Take Holidays
Research suggests over a third of workers in the UK do not take their full holiday entitlement. Many don’t take even two thirds of their leave. This is often because people feel too stressed to take their leave, due to pressure and expectations of line managers, worries about their workload or dread about what they will come back to when they return from leave.
Paradoxically, taking time off, whether going away somewhere or switching off from work at home or seeing friends or family is one of the best antidotes to feeling over-stressed at work.
Annual leave has a valuable purpose. To enable people to take time away from work and rest. Encouraging people to take their leave and at times that work for them will help people to manage their well-being across the course of the year and lead to greater commitment. Be an organisation that offers more than the statutory minimum holiday entitlement and consider flexibility in enabling people to take more holidays so they get the restorative time they need.
4. Provide Opportunities for Human Connections at Work
People need people. One of the reasons why so many suffered during Covid lockdowns was isolation, especially people who live alone and found their opportunities to connect with others severely limited.
When co-designing with your team the structure of their roles, include within the working week time set aside for human connection, and opportunities for conversations about other things than work. Allow each individual flexibility to decide what works best for them as everyone is different and enforcing a one size fits all approach across an entire team won’t work for anyone.
As well as opportunities for informal connection (in person or online) consider incorporating regular social activity within working hours
5. Design Realistic Workloads and Offer Support
Nothing is more demoralising or demotivating for team members than to feel their workload is completely unrealistic. It creates a feeling that whatever they do they are being set up for failure. This often leads to reduced workplace efficacy and feeling disengaged with their team, their line manager and the organisation. Team members’ quality of life outside work is likely to be impacted due to additional stress and habits to manage to stress. Left un-checked, people are at risk of burnout.
Most workplaces will experience busy periods where there is extra expectation placed on staff members. This will only be manageable in the short term and if team members feel supported by their line manager. It’s important for people to feel their manager ‘has their back’ when times are tough. Also, for their manager to help set priorities so people know what is most important to focus on when workloads otherwise feeling overwhelming.
If workloads become too large it may be symptomatic of needing additional human resource, a re-design of working practices or both.
6. Provide Flexible Working Opportunities and Greater Autonomy
Since Covid lockdowns, organisations have become more aware of how to work flexibly. Covid forced them to, in order to survive. Now we know what is possible, allow team members more control in designing how they do their work, including where they do it and when. Empower people to make decisions so they feel they have greater agency.
Both will foster greater commitment and motivation when done properly, and when you have the right people working for you.
7. Show Gratitude for Effort and Achievements
Show people that you appreciate the work they do on a regular basis. Not just for meeting quantitative targets, for who they are and what they contribute as individuals to the organisation.
A simple verbal ‘thank you’, a kind email or letter will go a long way to helping people feel valued at work. When we feel valued, work feels more purposeful, and a sense of purpose increases well-being.
8. Remove Stigma About Mental Health Conversations
Treat mental health with the same degree of seriousness as physical health. There are many facets to this, including encouraging more conversations about mental health and providing training so people better understand key principles of mental health.
As a leader, your team should sense an environment has been created that allows them to feel comfortable talking to you about your mental health and well-being, having trust in you that you will treat them with compassion and understanding. Sharing you own challenges with your mental health will also make others feel better able to talk about their experiences.
9. Train Leaders to Better Support Their Teams
As you develop leaders within your team, it is vital that they have the skills to lead the people they manage. Too often, people are promoted to leadership roles without making the investment in developing the skills to lead – and support their team. This can especially be the case in professions such as law or medicine, where people are highly skilled experts in their field, yet do not have the skills to lead a team.
10, Lead By Example: Be a Role Model for Well-being at Work
One of the most powerful ways of promoting well-being at work is to do all of the above yourself. Have clear boundaries between work and home life, take your holidays, go for a walk at lunchtime, support your teams, have impromptu conversations, let people know when you are not feeling your best and talk about mental health.
Being a role model demonstrates to the people you lead that it is ok for them to do the same. Your people look to you for example of how to be themselves at work, and likewise will feel pressure to work in the same way.
If you show commitment to your own well-being, others will too and cumulatively you will have fitter, healthier, happier, more committed, and more productive team.
That is not to say this is simple. Conscious effort goes into great leadership, and you may need external help and support to create an effective, well-functioning conscious culture at work.
Make well-being a priority and everyone benefits. It is a true win-win for everyone inside of your organisation and the customers and clients you serve.