Workplace Happiness And Wellbeing – It’s A State Of Mind
Workplace happiness and wellbeing is a hot topic right now – as seventeen million search results in Google will testify – and there are 1000s of wellbeing ‘solutions’ being offered to companies, from yoga sessions to paintball days.
More sensibly, conferences like Wellbeing at Work are putting mental health right at the top of the agenda and giving HR directors a chance to think through the causes of workplace stress and develop practical solutions for their companies.
In the UK there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in 2013 (1). Many of these affected members of the UK workforce – needing time off, medication and treatment. This has a significant impact on GDP – around £30 Billion in fact (2) – but it is the human impact of this that riles me the most. How those people must be feeling, the impact on their relationships, families and health – it’s just tragic.
There are multiple initiatives aimed at reducing the problem, from the NHS Mindful Employer programme to the many commercial providers of everything from meditation to pilates and, yes, even paintball. But wouldn’t it be better, more humane and economical to get upstream of these issues and prevent the whole sorry situation in the first place?
That’s a rhetorical question of course, and many business leaders have already connected the dots of stress, mental health and productivity. But how do they build an environment where the mental health of their people is valued, protected and nurtured?
Here’s what we know:
Stress is inherent in the workplace – and that’s a fact! Deadlines, the year-end or a big client pitch – it’s normal to have some stress in the operation. In fact some stress is even good for us – we rise to it, relish the challenge and revel in the success of overcoming it. A core human need is to be stretched to overcome adversity – it makes us feel good, up to a point.
These peaks in stress are fine; part of the deal, though it takes planning, good management and sometimes a bit of luck to make sure the peaks do not become continuous and take people to breaking point.
However, there is another problem – a silent assassin – and solving the workplace stress issue depends on understanding this. Apart from the acknowledged peaks and troughs, there are background stresses in the workplace, nibbling away at people, unconsciously eroding their mental capacity and diminishing their ability to think clearly, communicate and collaborate.
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