The New York Times bestseller by Tom Rath and Jim Harter – “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements” – provides a holistic view of what contributes to our wellbeing over a lifetime.
It insightfully begins with a sideways look at the many ‘life changing’ programs available, promising to get richer, lose weight or strengthen relationships, each creating ‘a better you’ independently of the other.
Read on though, and we learn that they are not independent characteristics at all, but integral, all, to the cycle of wellbeing.
What happens when each of these elements are challenged in one single place – the workplace:
It is the interaction of all five that balance, or unbalance, our mental wellbeing.
As an employer, an employee or some executive part of a small business, we are all part of that business community. Large organisational divisions between the responsibilities (and employee participants) of workshop, distribution, procurement, market and finance are pretty robust. In much smaller operations, such divisions are blurred as members cooperate and multi-task in many different disciplines.
The problem of monitoring staff wellbeing has never been greater. Spotting, understanding and managing mental wellbeing in the workplace is a challenge for us all. Ironically, we learned so much more about the mental suffering of work colleagues when we were forced apart because of the COVID pandemic.
Trapped in the cell of the bedsit, apartment or dining room office, we were removed from the social interaction that is part of all our lives – the workplace.
Returning to work, the flipside of this started creeping into more vulnerable minds. Forced loneliness allowed perceived weaknesses to fester. So much so, that when returning to ‘the community’ those weaknesses manifested themselves in a new environment where self-confidence was shattered.
The Work Community
A thriving community is one where there are connections, shared experiences, support and a sense of belonging. Being part of (or indeed a leader in) a community involves using your skills to improve things for all. It can help individuals to cope with life’s challenges and gain a sense of purpose.
We typically think of community as being where we live, our neighbourhood, but a community also exists in our workplace. In some organisations, the sense of community is strong. Whilst stressful situations still occur, the chances of them being sustained and having a significant impact on wellbeing are reduced. This brings benefits to the employer, their employees and their customers.
Smaller organisations may be more likely to spot an employee with ‘problems’. And, those problems are more likely to have been brought in from the outside. That said, as an employer, you have a duty of care to that employee.
What are ‘The Signs’
Signs that indicate employees may be suffering from excessive pressure or stress could be changes in behaviour or performance.
- Declining/inconsistent performance.
- Uncharacteristic errors.
- Loss of motivation/commitment.
- Lapses in memory.
Conflict and emotional signs
- Undue sensitivity.
- Over-reaction to problems.
- Arriving late to work.
- Leaving early.
- Reduced social contacts.
Inclusion is the biggest asset an employer can have. It is the feelings of exclusion, unworthiness, loneliness, social isolation that feed the negativity which comes with stress, depression and mental ill-health.
The Power of Inclusion
The power on inclusion helps to remove such negativity. Let everybody know why they / you are doing what they’re doing; how their part supports the next person and the next. Talk, but above all – LISTEN. It is time consuming, yes, but give anyone you see to be struggling time to talk, share, unburden themselves.
By you talking / listening / encouraging, they may come to realise that the mountain is in fact a molehill and the storm is well contained in that teacup. But then again, they may not.
There are many organisation to which you can turn if you don’t feel capable, or you feel the problem is bigger than it first appeared. A great place to start may be here: mindsetmentalhealth.co.uk.