Putting a monetary value on the basic action of going to work with a smile may seem simplistic, but the science behind a smile and how it impacts on wellbeing is indisputable.
Before you raise your eyebrows at this statement take a look at history.
Mondayitis is such a pandemic it garnered its name in the 80s and has been recognised by psychologists ever since. It means going to work with an underlying sense of reluctance, weariness, apathy, sadness and resentment. If you suffer from Mondayitis, it’s very likely you’re playing a starring role in decreasing workplace productivity by 15%.
In our Thriving at Work podcast ‘Putting Wellbeing to Work’, we talk about how this reduction in productivity (especially when Mondayitis extends throughout the working week) could be avoided with a focus on creating wellbeing from within to generate wellbeing at work.
So where are we now?
New Zealand’s overall wellbeing levels are lower than countries like the UK and USA.
- 7/10 people experience symptoms of psychological stress, costing employers $1.5 billion per year in stress-related health care and missed work; for Millennials this figure appears to be even higher.
- Anxiety scores are right up there as well, with 1 in 5 New Zealanders saying they experience high levels of anxiety. Most of us know the feeling of struggling to cope with the demands of everyday life – we worry, get irritable with other people, feel tired and just can’t relax.
- We have the highest suicide rate for teenagers in the developed world and the second-highest rate for bullying in the OECD. It doesn’t exactly make you proud to be a Kiwi!
The good news is that these statistics aren’t fixed – we can alter and improve them with lifestyle changes and by putting the hard science behind wellbeing into action.
What exactly is wellbeing?
Wellbeing is about your ability to feel good and how well you can cope with day-to-day life. It is what provides us with the resilience to navigate the natural highs and lows we all experience, while enabling us to mentally, physically, emotionally and socially thrive.
Half of the determinants for wellbeing are formed early in life by our genetics, parenting and schooling. The more controllable factors (for those of us over 18) are employment, relationships and health. As we spend so much time working (either domestically or commercially) employment is the biggest influence on our wellbeing. And the stats clearly show that if you have high wellbeing and thriving employees, then you are more likely to have a thriving company.
Research by whatworkswellebing.org uncovered the five key drivers of wellbeing:
- Health: Optimising mental, physical and emotional health by keeping your body and mind healthy. This includes the basics like sleep, exercise and nutrition but also how you breathe, how you stop and pause for reflection; giving employers enough support, building resilience, reducing stress and so on.
- Security: Experiencing and creating a workplace environment that is secure and safe; financially, physically and emotionally.
- Relationships: The multi-directional impact of relationships; work and personal, how to manage, improve and show support.
- Environment: The physical conditions, culture and systems in place in an organisation. It covers things like commuting time, flexible working, poor acoustics, overcrowding, indoor air quality, thermal comfort, lighting, colours etc.
- Purpose: Having a clearly defined purpose; vision; reason to engage, true meaning and significance (which is particularly important for Millennials).
Let’s focus in on purpose …
The average person will spend 1/3 of their life at work – that’s 90,000 hours, plus commuting time on top. Yet engagement levels are staggeringly low with 60% of the global workforce ‘not engaged’ which means they may be doing their job but aren’t inclined to give anything extra, and another 24% ‘actively disengaged’ which Gallop defines as either “wandering around in a fog or actively undermining co-workers success.”
And many of those people are frustrated, disappointed and pressured because they either have not found their purpose or have lost it – what Steven Covey calls their ‘voice’.
To find your voice means to engage in work that genuinely taps your talents and fuels your passion. It means to do something significant with your career – to sense an unmet need and then to fully harness all your talents and passion to meet that need. When this happens, a fire will light inside you which will fuel tremendous drive and commitment. So how can you find more meaning and purpose at work and in life, creating an enduring sense of wellbeing?
Discover your own voice exercise (from Stephen Covey’s 8the habit book)…
Step 1: Relax;
- Grab a pen and a piece of A4 paper. Draw four circles on it (as per the diagram.)
- Sitting comfortably let your eyes close, partially or fully and loosen your jaw, releasing any tension.
- Begin to focus on your breathing … noticing its rhythm, noting where in the body it is located. And if you can, bringing it into a nice rhythmical balance where your in and out-breath take the same amount of time e.g. 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out.
Step 2: Passions;
- And as you continue to breathe, place your hand over your heart. Ask yourself what do you love doing? What are your passions? Those things that naturally energise, excite, motivate and inspire you?
- Write them down in the passion circle.
Step 3: Talents/gifts;
- Now asking yourself what are your natural gifts and talents? What are you naturally good at? You will intuitively know these strengths because you find them easy to do and others don’t. Others will often come to you to do this thing that you do really well. You can also ask others for their thoughts on this.
- Write them down in the talents circle.
Step 4: Needs;
- Now ask what needs do you intuitively sense in your family, community, church or in the organisation you work for?
- What needs resonate with your conscience and which do you want to respond to?
Step 5: Conscience;
- Take another deep breath and listen for that still, small internal voice or compass which confirms what is right and feels fully aligned with who you are.
- You might sense lots of needs, but for you to be true to yourself, to your conscience, fully consider which needs you want to respond to. You probably don’t care about them all … so which ones really resonate with your conscience?
Step 6: Your voice;
- Taking another deep breath now, consider your unique voice – one that taps your talents, fuels your passions, and fills the need your conscience has drawn you towards…
- It will feel right because you will intuitively know that when you engage in this sort of work; work that taps your talent and fuels your passion; that rises out of a great need in the world; that you feel drawn by conscience to meet; that this is your calling and voice in life.
- Write down whatever comes to mind, even if it’s just a word or an image. If you aren’t sure yet, that’s OK too, just let these thoughts and images percolate and integrate through you. And perhaps talk it through with another person who knows you really well.
We’ll leave you with a stat … In one survey of 12,000 employees, 50% said they didn’t get a feeling of meaning and significance from their work, but those who did reported 1.7 times greater job satisfaction, were 1.4 times more engaged and were more than three times as likely to remain with their current employer.
So doesn’t it make sense to figure out how to feel better about the time spent earning a living, too – to make it more meaningful?
If you’d like to find out more or get help tapping into your voice and helping people in your organisation find theirs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.