In line with this week focusing on Women's Wellness, the wonderful Jessica Larsson kindly wrote an article about Wellbeing in the Workplace and how important it is to our health and lives in general. Thanks for the article Jess! :)
I am what you call a user experience manager; I sit on the board of Workplace Experience Experts and Innovation Experts for some of the most influential, notorious companies in the world. I’m employed by a fin-tech giant to deliver their workplace wellbeing solutions. My role is to oversee the experience side of our corporate company whether our staff are physically present, or working from home. I am a visionary by nature.
I theorise that if I can inspire the largest fintech company in the world to adopt at least some of the wellbeing practices as standard and share them with their other companies and offices, we could spark a flame that will influence and improve the globe. This reaches human wellness but is also sustainability focused as well. This is my motivation. Change the lives of the few who have the influence of many.
My father was a professional bodybuilder for most of his young life, at age 57 he continues to train daily; growing up with his influence in my life set me up for a nutrition, weightlifting, self improvement and focused, driven life from a very young age. Without knowing it, I had been primed to improve the lives of others through the focus of improving my own circumstances and I consider myself extremely fortunate that I get to do what I love in a professional capacity.
Why is wellbeing in the workplace something we need to consider?
I invite you to pause for a brief moment, take an inhalation and exhale slowly, when is the last time you were invited to focus on your breathing? How often in our daily lives are we presented with an opportunity to slow down, be present?
I speak from experience when I say that stress is a killer but if you don’t believe me just have a quick look through medical journals on the recorded effects that stress has on the body, mind and spirit. In addition to stress being one of the most lethal situations we can put ourselves through, the inverse of this is that tranquility, peace, stillness, a dark quiet space and just twenty minutes of no technology can revolutionise your work day.
If you’re like me, you have a 9-hour workday with a lunch break you ignore unless you’re working from home, because God forbid someone saw you leave your desk or think you were slacking! The reality is that we are the sickest we have ever been, we are completely disconnected from our essence, our mind and our bodies.
I would be shocked if in this day and age we would see employers who haven’t understood the business-related benefits to having happy, healthy, thriving staff. If you aren’t already aware, sick days cost employers around the world billions of dollars per annum. We live in a world where some companies offer as many holiday days per year as you would like, and entire countries who offer their employees a meagre seven days per calendar year which consists of 51 working weeks besides their annual leave.
It may be my personal opinion, but I have trouble fathoming that human beings can do something 9-12 hours a day (including their commute), five days in a row and are supposed to fit their life around the nooks and crannies of six to seven thirty am and seven to ten thirty pm. It is a highly flawed and illogical methodology. Science tells us that the human brain can concentrate on a singular task for twenty to thirty minutes without requiring rest. While my memory of the study is faulty, a recent google search showed me a study conducted by the Draugiem Group, made popular by Dr. Travis Bradbury, suggests that 52 minutes with a 17-minute break is the ideal working situation for the humans of today.
The brain requires significant chemical compounds and chemical reactions or processes to process our surplus of information, to focus, to speak, think and solve problems. Each chemical must be synthesised by our own body, which requires energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine TriPhosphate) which is our cell food, we make this out of the food we eat.
The processes involved in digesting our food, creating the neurotransmitters, hormones, proteins and the like that allow for basic cognitive function is amazing. As quickly as we can make it, we can use it just as fast, resulting in fatigue. When we are mentally fatigued we are prone to distraction such as falling into an instagram, YouTube, or LinkedIn wormhole; we’re losing more time and energy by pushing through our fatigue and skipping breaks.
The eight-hour working day was invented two hundred years ago during the industrial revolution to minimise the time employees were physically out on the factory floors. Why then, do we continue to use an outdated model that ignores our basic need for light, nourishment, social activity, rest, water and play?
It is my hope that it will not require a crisis before change, however, this is most often the case. As I write this we have just endured a three-month shut down of the entire planet as well as the economy, due to a zoonotic (of animal origin) viral infection that swept the planet in a matter of weeks. This is a turning point in our history which has presented us with the opportunity as a collective whole to revisit, restructure and redesign our working lives, as well as every other aspect of our modern living. (I hope!)
Workplaces owned or influenced by younger (below 40) people are listening and adapting, for example Twitter has shut its office doors and encourage employees to work from home using virtual tools for collaboration. It is their new normal, and it's working for them. Facebook have made it optional to return to the workplace, offering salary adjustments for employees looking to move out of the city for a slower pace of life.
I can attest to living in a city simply because I am required to for my job, I sacrifice my time, freedom, energy, health and on occasion happiness, because I require a paycheck and I have a global mission to accomplish. I dream of the day we live in a world where humanity is valued more than profitability, and these factors are considered not only important but essential in determining the value of a job.
Why the Rise in workplace wellbeing?
I cannot speak matter of factly because I have seen very few published studies on the reasons employers recently added wellbeing factors into their considerations and offerings as a whole, but I can make an educated guess that it was millennial/Gen Y whose revolutionary way of treating employees spread a wave around the globe of exceptional standards. Imagine companies who were founded in the 1900’s, the further we progress, the further away the 1900’s seem. In no time at all, we will refer to the late 1900’s the way we refer to the late 1700’s, with very little recollection for their ways and modalities. In the year 2000, 1980 was only twenty years ago. It is now 2020, 1980 was almost half a century ago.
Time is moving faster than ever, because we are moving faster than ever and are acquiring and sharing information on levels never seen before. While this article isn’t the place to discuss pros or cons to our modern-day society, I do believe we have the internet to thank for the widespread sharing of information on workplace wellbeing practices.
Thanks to Google and a few other unicorns who decided to run things their own way, we saw the crowding out of outdated modes of working, outdated technology and the likes. It isn’t necessarily that humans viewed one piece of technology and said “no more,” they simply crowded out the old by bringing in the new! In 2020 I am hoping this is the new way!
It is important to note that wellbeing in the workplace is not solely the responsibility of the employer, it is a shift in mentality from slave drivers to caretakers. Management positions will be filled by those with the highest emotional intelligence quotient rather than those who are the most focused or the hardest working.
Those who will become leaders of a team will not be the highest educated, but rather the highest in empathy, understanding and ability to elevate those around them to be higher than they currently are.