Employee Wellbeing — Why Paying it Lip-service is Damaging Your Company.

For a long time productivity and profit have been the developed world’s primary drivers. What we are now seeing more clearly than ever is an emerging understanding that the planet and it’s people have to be thriving in order for these drivers to make sense. “Put your own oxygen mask on first” is what we’re used to hearing, but that assumes you then remember to stop to help others with theirs. How often do businesses apply this more broadly to the wellbeing of their people and the planet rather than simply individual interests or shareholder profit?

Who is gasping for air whilst you are breathing?

Scratch not at all deeply under the surface of any individual experience and in many organisations you will find distressingly common and sadly pretty standard complaints. Overly long hours, feeling bored and disengaged, “they don’t see or understand me as an individual”, workplaces that don’t feel good to be in, processes that are draining, experiences of management that are far from exemplary. Whatever level you are at in your career I’m sure you have your tale of a less than perfect wellbeing culture in a place you have worked, either now or in the past.

What did you find the most difficult? The culture, the environment or both? The fluorescent lights, workspaces that felt depleting rather than energising, a lack of fresh air? Management restructures that weren't understanding of your workload or individual capacity? A boss who emails you at 2am? An expectation that you should eat lunch at your desk whilst you’re drowning under a ton of emails? A culture that punishes creativity and individuality and rewards conformity?

What else?

Wellbeing cannot be an afterthought. You are a human. Your people are humans. Humans don’t work well under less than satisfactory conditions. No-one operates well when they are disengaged, stressed or tired or when they feel undervalued or underappreciated.

No-one achieved optimally when they felt they were negatively compromising their life.

Workplace stress. People walking to work.

Don’t kid yourself that this isn’t happening in your workplace, because it definitely is. It will be on a smaller or larger scale, but it will be happening. We have collectively created structures that are not working for the humans within them. Sadly, where we have got to now includes far higher statistics of stress, anxiety and depression than we’ve seen before. Burn out is common. Changing companies frequently is very common. And as people become more aware of each other’s experience through social media, and the internet having opened up global dialogue, employees are voting for what they want with their feet. Ask any HR director and they will tell you that two of their primary concerns are employee engagement and retention, as increasingly, potential candidates are continually seeking out workplaces that feel good to be in, allow them to self-actualise to a certain extent — and offer rewards outside of traditional remuneration packages. The best people want to know not just that they will have an excellent career progression but that they will feel highly valued, respected and both intrinsically and extrinsically rewarded.

The level and depth to which you understand this is the level to which your organisation's future success will be guaranteed.

Paying lip service to wellbeing will actually hurt not help.

Often we see a problematic grabbing at quick-fix solutions to address these things, but some employers are really moving things in the right direction. There is a perception that it can be harder for older companies to change as their structures and culture are larger, heavier and can be more stuck. There is truth to this but also we see it as an opportunity. Individuals who have already reached leadership positions already know how to make an impact and now many are ready and excited to make a positive change they can be proud of and that will leave a legacy that is far greater than they have achieved, until now. They are also often connected to others who feel the same and who have a level of power, influence and resources that can really make a difference. Change can be far easier than you would think when the beliefs are in place to support it.

Belief is a powerful thing. Nothing ever changed without the belief that it could.

We see that the newer companies are already thinking in so much more of these terms. They have been created by forward-thinking millennials from a sense of far greater possibility and are growing up and maturing whilst working hard to maintain their healthy culture. Particularly some of the very successful tech and gaming companies are understanding employee and global wellbeing in a new and innovative way and are setting the stage for difference to be the norm.

But knowing difference is needed and having incredible intentions isn’t the same as knowing how to implement it.

This is where we see the problem. The understanding of the ‘how’ needs to become as great as the desire to do it.

We start with the conversation.

Unless you understand why and how you’re doing something (and have truly clear and positive motives for doing it) you will not achieve what you are looking to do. Not profit! Profit can be one reason but it cannot be your primary driver here.


Always remember.

People are not dumb. They smell rats.

They know if you are putting a scheme in place with the aim of squeezing a bit more productivity out of them. They can know it a mile away.

It is easy to hire a yoga teacher to come in on a Tuesday. It is simple to restructure the canteen menu. A 6-week mindfulness class is a nice addition.

But it’s not coherent. It’s not deeply impactful. It’s not going to actually change anything.

It’s a sticking plaster on a broken arm.

Go deeper.

I cannot tell you the number of people I’ve spoken to who were so angry at being made to go to a seminar on ‘resilience’, ‘mindfulness’ or similar because they felt as if it were to prepare them to take on another person’s role after yet another ‘reshuffle’ or to paper over another crack they were experiencing. I’m sure resentment wasn’t on the top of the list of outcomes for the manager who commissioned the seminar, but there it was.

But there’s a wider picture here. It’s a global picture. We believe that leadership isn’t any longer local but global. Being an inspired Global Leader is what the world needs from you and your colleagues. The globalisation of all of our lives, beliefs and the enmeshment of our working and societal cultures, our patterns of consumption, and the growing belief that we can create whatever we want as we want it has its pluses, but at this point, caring for the planet and the humans on it turns out not to be one of them. We are creating ways of living that are taking us so far away from our natural instincts that poor mental health and a lack of wellbeing is so commonplace. This affects your organisational success far more than most people are currently talking about. Global leadership means taking responsibility in a wider sense. Creating structures that work for your immediate needs but are also for the wider good. The decisions you make for your people are not just about them and not just about you, they’re about what happens when we all go home, the experiences of our children now and into the future, and to the world that we love so much.

The conditions are now present for meaningful and impactful investment into wellbeing at an individual and corporate level. We believe that this investment can result in thriving and prosperous corporations, nations and humanity as a whole. We must start by seeing what is here, by clearing space and understanding from a far deeper level. We must consider the recent evolution of wellbeing and how this sits within the repeating dynamic of human development. From local to global understanding - an inspired vision of what is now possible.

Inspired Global Wellbeing

In a decade from now we believe that we will have moved beyond this. We will have leaders of industry and society advocating wellbeing as something which is foundational to thriving corporates and society, and the tools and techniques will be readily available for all.

At Inspired Wellbeing we are re-writing the narrative of wellbeing and are passionate about how this can positively change our working cultures and the world we live in. We create space for leaders to step outside of their current reality and actively decide what they want to have happen for their people and for the wider world in a way which enhances the success of their goals, not detracting from them.

I like to imagine a world where all leaders are Global Leaders. It’s an amazing place to live. I also like to believe this isn’t impossible. It might actually be far simpler than we think. Dare I say that it might even be fun! After all, we’re all humans who want to feel good and who want to be remembered for the best reasons. We just need to tap into inspiration, be willing to take action, create simple ways to do this — and know that we’re all part of the creation of the solution.

We invite you into a discussion with us. What are you experiencing? What do you do already? What would you like to do if you knew how or had full permission to? What do you want everyone else to know? What do you actually want to be remembered for?

We are all leaders in some way or another. You might have thousands under you in your role as CEO, you might be a parent or a teacher, you might lead a political party, you might have a start-up with a staff of 10. How we choose to impact those around us is a moment by moment choice. It is actually really simple as a leader to move in the world creating positive impact. Does your next action lead to the wellbeing of the individual and the collective, or not? And if not, what can you do about it? How can you look back on your actions and feel really good at the part you played?

From today, let’s put Wellbeing centre-stage. It makes sense to do so.

Kirsty Macdonald, Transformational Leadership Coach and Cognitive Hypnotherapist

Transformational Coach and Cognitive Hypnotherapist www.KirstyMacdonald.co.uk Founder of www.AlwaysChoose.com