By Michelle Coates Mather
There’s a reason why workplace well-being has become such a hot topic across industries. Evidence is rising that employers and employees alike feel increasingly burdened and stressed at work. Monster Canada has reported that 1 in 4 Canadians have left a job due to unbearable work-related stress.
What the heck is going on?
Office politics, culture, mounting workload and the perception that an office paid for smartphone means you must always be accessible are some, but not all, of the prevailing culprits.
To put this bleakly, according to the Conference Board of Canada, workplace absenteeism, often associated with stress and other related illnesses, is costing Canadian employers and the economy an estimated $16.6 billion. These financial costs are stark, but let’s not forget about the human costs.
We can all sense a shift in morale when times at work are stressful. And eliminating work stressors is far from an easy task. The reality is there will always be deadlines, conflicting priorities, issues to manage and projects to deal with. That’s the reality of having a career. But we can become more mindful of these periods of stress and their impact on our corporate culture by implementing tactics to help mitigate the negative long-term impacts.
There is an opportunity for many forward thinking and modern companies to show some real leadership in this area. Smart companies understand that the well-being of their employees is paramount to their business success.
There is no time like the present to invest time in this area. We’re talking about more than shiny perks. We’re talking about consistent behavioural practices that really manifest into a change in mentality. Behaviours that can be implemented with ease until they become foundational to your culture.
Establish clear and reasonable boundaries: This is something employers and employees should establish together. Often there is a disconnect between what is actually expected and the assumption of what is expected. Have an open dialogue with your employer/employee. If you’ve been given a corporate phone (as is the case for the vast majority of employees these days) clarify that this doesn’t mean you are expected to be available 24/7. Be vocal about the reasonable expectation of limits between work-life and personal-life.
Encourage a ‘wellness-first’ environment: What does wellness look like for your employees? Why not ask how you can help enable them to prioritize self-care, in order to promote a health and well-being office culture? One where people feel it’s acceptable to make time for daily exercise, proper nutrition and/or mini-mindfulness breaks. For example, push back against the mentality that skipping meals is a badge of honour of productivity. It’s not. This isn’t something any of us should be proud of. How many studies about the link between self-care (exercise and proper nutrition) and increased productivity must be published before people believe it? We know the benefits of employee health far outweigh the inconvenience of them stepping away from their desk for an hour so they can enjoy a re-energizing group yoga session with their colleagues.
Be mindful of the office mood: Have you noticed your usually peppy colleague suddenly seems brash, rushed and frustrated? Why not consider asking them if everything is alright? You might just discover a heavy workload and a belief that he/she must handle it all by their lonesome is to blame. Often, we focus too much on our own stress without realizing if we just opened up to others, we might learn their stressors are the same as our own. This creates a more collaborative and supportive environment where employers and employees learn to lean on each other for support. There is no shame in asking for help.
Embrace flexibility: It might still be the prevailing truth that most corporate companies assume a 9-5 schedule, but many of us know first-hand that while your pay stub might say 37.5 hours, the truth is likely much more than that. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you love your career you don’t mind that you had to spend extra time polishing that latest report. A real culture of flexibility is one where people are okay with putting in more time when needed because they understand when the workload is lighter, no one is watching the clock making sure they’re in their seats until a certain time of day. That seems an outdated approach – one that feels a lot more like adult daycare than a trusting and empowering work environment.
Michelle is an entrepreneur, communications consultant and Director of Content Marketing and Communications with Nurtured Life Company. Mama to two beautiful kiddos, Michelle is an advocate for re-defining work-life culture so that it make sense with today’s modern life. She believes we all have the power to prioritize personal well-being; sometimes it’s just a matter of getting out of our own way.