By Katie Jacobs
It would be hard to find an organisation today that doesn’t at least ‘talk the talk’ on the importance of wellbeing. After all, there’s no shortage of evidence that wellbeing IS a business issue.
Take research from Deloitte, for instance, that found for every £1 employers invest in supporting their people’s mental health, they make a return of £5.30. Or numerous studies that find focusing on wellbeing helps reduce absence rates and turnover and increases engagement. People are far more aware of, and open about, their mental and physical health. The global health and wellness industry has been valued at a staggering $4.7 trillion.
But there are worrying signs that some organisations may be taking their foot off the pedal when it comes to prioritising wellbeing. Given challenging economic conditions, it’s not surprising many businesses are choosing to focus sharply on productivity and performance. Both are undeniably important, but for some leaders a laser focus on performance can come at the expense of wellbeing. Think putting intense pressure on teams to deliver against demanding KPIs, focusing on negative feedback, overworking and expecting others to do the same – all leading to higher levels of stress and burnout. Deloitte’s latest Wellbeing at Work study finds most employees feel their wellbeing has either stayed the same or got worse over the last year.
All the evidence tells us that focusing on performance and productivity without considering the importance of wellbeing is short-sighted and counterproductive at best, highly damaging to individuals, teams and organsations at worst. Lose focus on wellbeing and you will soon find productivity and performance grinding to a halt. Because sustainable high performance only comes when leaders focus on wellbeing as an outcome for the organisation, teams and individuals.
Follow these five top tips to achieve the right balance between performance and wellbeing.
- Understand the evidence for wellbeing
Bailey & French’s work has positive psychology pioneer Martin Seligman’s PERMA model at its heart. This model is based on data sets of more than two million globally and all of its pillars improve wellbeing and directly link it to organisational performance. PERMA stands for: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. By focusing on each of these, leaders can create a flourishing, healthy work environment where individuals can thrive and are encouraged to take accountability for their own and others’ wellbeing, leading to improved performance across the board.
- Help teams find their flow
Being in flow, a state where individuals are fully absorbed in an activity, is linked to higher levels of personal wellbeing. Various pieces of psychological research have found that people who experience flow more frequently have higher life satisfaction, more self-esteem and a greater sense of fulfilment – all positive emotions which lead to a general sense of wellbeing and have a positive impact on work. Help your teams find their flow by focusing on strengths, human connection, meaningful connection and a sense of purpose. Getting into the flow means achieving the optimum level of wellbeing and performance.
- Focus on strengths, not weaknesses
Using our unique strengths, those things we love doing because they come so naturally, makes us feel energised and excited: the perfect state for improving our wellbeing and our performance. Research from Gallup has found that people who use their strengths at work are 8% more productive and significantly more engaged, another driver of performance. Other pieces of research have found that using our strengths makes us less angry, stressed, anxious or sad. Leaders should encourage a focus on and conversation about strengths and deliver feedback and development based on building strengths rather than picking on weaknesses.
- Create psychological safety
If people feel safe to share openly their experiences, feelings and challenges, safe to stretch themselves in new ways, and safe to be themselves at work, then wellbeing and performance will follow. Psychologically safe environments allow people to thrive at work, centered around trust, inclusion and respect. Research from Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson has found teams need psychological safety to be effective. Leaders can create psychologically safe environments by focusing on strengths, leading inclusively and promoting a ‘no blame’ culture where it is OK to fail and people are empowered to try new ways of working.
- Prioritise human leadership
Human leaders are those who lead authentically, inclusively, with integrity and as a human connector. In an increasingly tech-driven world, human leadership is required to build resilient, sustainable and innovative organisations, organisations where purpose, performance and wellbeing are inextricably linked. Human leaders understand the importance of wellbeing, encouraging their teams to take accountability for their own wellbeing while role modeling the importance of setting boundaries and staying healthy. They understand that without wellbeing there is no sustainable performance.