The idea of “wellbeing at work” sounds like an oxymoron or a simple directive found in an HR manual. However, in my work with numerous leaders and employers I'm hearing quite the opposite.
Wellbeing at Work is actually the title of a book published post-COVID by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter using Gallop research and data. This book explores five key elements of wellbeing and how organizations can help employees and teams thrive in those elements. Leaders today are faced with a vast complexity of issues and challenges accelerated by the demands of high-pressure decision making and a challenged workforce. And, in this post-COVID world where work and life are more blended than ever, maximizing employee wellbeing takes on greater urgency. Ponder this:
At this writing (2021), the U.S. Census Bureau finds that a third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression. This is a huge jump from even before the COVID-19 pandemic. In a question about depressed mood, the percentage of Americans who reported symptoms doubled from 2014. Gallup also found historic increases in stress and worry across our U.S. sampling frames. (1)
Every region in the US, every industry, every age group and income level are represented in these numbers. I sit on the board of a very large behavioral health organization in the U.S.; Pine Rest, located in West Michigan. I can attest that the demand for mental health services has never been greater.
Even leaders, those seemingly in positions of making the decisions, are dealing with issues of wellbeing. In fact, I believe that leaders are more susceptible to these post-COVID mental health issues, but may be capable of "hiding" it better. Leaders today are facing challenges beyond shipping logistics, supply chain management or an exhausted or scaled down workforce. Many are tasked with creating not only a resilient and adaptable workforce but also one where people are valued and thriving.
A recent news story featured an airplane en route to Hawaii that experienced severe turbulence. A number of passengers were injured and air-masks were dangling from the ceiling. Immediately the image of the flight attendant standing in the aisle directing the passengers what to do in case of an emergency: place the oxygen mask over your nose and mouth FIRST, then assist others to do the same.
As a leader, it’s imperative you place your own “oxygen mask” before attempting to help others. In this new year, how are you doing physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually? You can only lead well if you are aware of your own health needs. What is one small (or big) change you need to make this year to take care of yourself as a leader? What resources do you need to make that happen?