by Jamie Bell, Service Desk Specialist
Earlier this year I wrote a blog detailing my personal experience with workplace stress and emotional wellbeing. It’s now seven months since that blog was published and I’d like to reflect on the impact of putting that article together and some more general observations and advice to organisations wishing to promote positive wellbeing in the workplace.
One thing that I was particularly apprehensive about prior to the blog being published, was that many of my friends and family would be learning about my experience with stress and adverse wellbeing for the first time.
I needn’t have worried. The compassion, support and understanding that friends, family and colleagues (old and new) showed me was overwhelming. What has been even more heart warming is that, on numerous occasions in the last seven months, people that I have met for the first time have commented on how the blog has resonated with them, how it was a brave thing to share and in a couple of instances how it has actually helped. There is no greater compliment. Knowing that by simply sharing my story, it has helped others, has left me wanting to do more.
What other initiatives are there?
At the Service Desk Institute’s annual conference in March this year, myself and other lead contributors to version 8 of the Global Best Practice Standard for Service Desk, discussed how to encourage the right behaviours, professionally and morally, through our interpretation of best practice. That’s why we put more emphasis on Social Corporate Responsibility in version 8 and added criteria specifically for Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing.
Mental health in the workplace is touted as being the biggest non-technology related talking point in the IT industry.
No single person is immune to adverse wellbeing. At some point a person will feel low, upset or stressed. Sometimes, unavoidable life events can have a significant unexpected impact too. Common events that may affect negatively impact wellbeing include;
- Relationship issues
- Problems at work
- Problems with finances
These types of events are typically easier to identify and therefore recover from, than those where there is no clear outward reason for why a person may be experiencing adverse wellbeing.
Oher common, but often overlooked contributors to adverse wellbeing include;
- Sleep disturbance
Delving a little deeper in to causes of adverse wellbeing in the workplace, specifically causes that can often be overlooked. It doesn’t just have to be bad managers or a toxic culture that can bring about adverse wellbeing, it’s possible that advancements in technology, whilst bringing increased productivity and other benefits to the organisation, can have a negative impact on employee wellbeing. For example: being unable to ‘switch-off’ due to being constantly connected or relying on IT or devices to an extent where their failure results in increased frustration. It’s paramount that organisations consider the impact that technology can have, both good and bad.
There is often a level of stigma associated with adverse wellbeing. You have probably heard stories and many of us may have even witnessed people being made to feel bad for taking time off work for legitimate reasons, perhaps even stress related.
Regardless of the reason for suffering from adverse wellbeing, there are steps that people and organisations can take to improve and maintain a state of positive wellbeing.
Tips for Promoting Positive Wellbeing in the Workplace
Earlier this year I wrote an article, published on the SDI blog, covering the topic of employee satisfaction. It may come as a surprise that the number one contributing factor to the satisfaction of employees within the workplace is the organisation’s culture and values.
Organisations that demonstrate a clear, positive culture and values typically provide the following for their workforce:
This may seem a little obvious to many but ensuring that staff receive training related to wellbeing and stress management will empower everyone to be able to recognise the signs of adverse wellbeing in themselves and others. Furthermore, training will help develop skills for managers and staff to be able to have supportive conversations.
One of the main contributors to adverse wellbeing is poor physical health. Organisations can offer support and even incentives to help people reach and maintain good physical health. This could include providing healthy meal options and encouraging more movement through exercise. A simple example of this would be where an organisation subsidizes a gym membership.
Many people achieve a feel-good factor by helping within their local community. Forward-thinking organisations will engage with the local community and afford time for staff to get involved with fundraising events, regeneration initiatives and charitable activities.
Honesty and transparency
Another organisational trait that can deliver great results for employee wellbeing and satisfaction is creating a culture that promotes openness, transparency and honesty. An open-door environment that enables staff to talk to all levels of leadership encourages communication and collaboration.
Wellbeing at work should be a top priority for every organisation. One of the most widely repeated phrases on LinkedIn, I believe coined by Richard Branson, is that if you look after your staff, your staff will look after your customers. Whilst the topic of ‘looking after the staff’ is quite a broad one, there is clear data which demonstrates that a positive, happy, motivated, satisfied and healthy workforce can bring tangible benefits to the organisation. Although, in my opinion, this should be a secondary reason for wanting to promote positive wellbeing.
It would be impossible to cover everything that an organisation could to do help ensure they create and maintain a workforce with positive wellbeing, and neither could you expect every organisation to get it right 100% of the time, especially as every individual person is different. I think the key thing is awareness. Awareness and training. Awareness to increase understanding and training focused on encouraging supportive conversations. As my original wellbeing blog demonstrated, just talking and sharing experiences can have a wide-reaching positive impact.
About the author
Jamie Bell is a Service Desk Specialist with the Service Desk Institute (SDI), London, UK.