Looking after Everybody

Looking After Everybody

Are you busy looking after everybody? 

Whether it is a family member, friend, work colleague, team of direct reports, or pet (yes, these too, as lots of them have become part of our families during lockdown!), we are often so busy looking after everybody else we forget about ourselves. 

When was the last time you asked yourself these questions?

  • When do I let myself off my own hook? 
  • How do I think about my own wellbeing? 
  • When do I take action to do something or make a change? 

In Unmanageable: Leadership Lessons from an Impossible Year, co-author Melissa Nightingale says: 

“The number of hours a person works should not be the measure of their output” … Burn out can be experienced in 40 hours a week, but it can also be experienced in as little as 4 hours a week. If the boss is really disrespectful, if the culture is abusive, if the climate is toxic, the number of hours isn’t the factor in terms of people having the Sunday scaries or that feeling of dread.

The best answer really hinges on clarity—

    • Does my boss have clarity on what success looks like?
    • What is the work that we’re being asked to do here? 
    • Is the work even possible given the time constraints that we’re under? 

A lot of folks are really burnt out, and in part they’re burnt out because they’re committed to doing work that is not actually physically possible in the number of hours in the day. 

People can work 80 hours a week, they can work 100 hours a week, it’s just that the quality of work sharply declines. It’s unsustainable. There are physical repercussions. It’s the tool people reach for when they’re underwater: “If I just sign on after the kids go to bed!” “If I just pull an all-nighter, I’ll get back on top of it!” Often what ends up happening is that the work we do when we pull an all-nighter is work that has to be redone”.

Can we let ourselves off our hook if it is contrary to expectations or deadlines in the workplace? 

Absolutely—we need to in order to be able to look after our own wellbeing. But how can we manage that? 

Where, when, and how do we start?

Through my work, I advocate that work environments are ideal places to promote health, safety, and wellbeing. It is estimated that we spend approximately one third of our time in work, probably even more, making the workplace an ideal environment for improvement. Work should keep us well, not just ensure we are well enough to work.

There are ample opportunities for workplaces to promote good health through workplace wellbeing programmes and awareness days. National Workplace Wellbeing Day, now in its 8th year, will be marked this year on April 29th

IBEC, the driving force behind this awareness day, says employee wellbeing continues to rise further up the agenda for employers. Public awareness of the importance of good workplace mental health and wellbeing is also growing. 

Turn good intentions into office culture

However, awareness does not go far enough. Organisations need to move beyond good intention to achieve a true culture of wellbeing. Positive health and wellbeing must be a core business priority with proactive approaches to employee health. 

The modern workplace is fast paced and tinged with uncertainty. When healthy working behaviours are incorporated into the workplace, respecting the diversity of everybody’s life and the need for wellbeing in our everyday interactions, it becomes easier to look after everybody else—and ourselves!

Accommodate employees’ evolving needs and identities

As we experience life, our needs change, requiring varying levels and kinds of support at different times, all the while hoping that the workplace can accommodate changing requests. I believe that a person’s work role does not represent their total worth. Yes, it is a big part of our identity, but it is, and only ever will be, a part of the bigger entity of us: as a Person, Partner, Parent, Child, Sibling, Sports enthusiast, Friend, Hobbyist, etc. And all these facets of life impact on our ability and capacity to work. 

What would it look like
to be in an organisation that
is set up so workers can thrive?

Organisations that are open to diversity ensure inclusion, support their employees’ physical and mental health needs, and achieve greater rates of employee retention. Given this, I am asking you and your organisation to consider wellbeing in a broader context for this year’s Workplace Wellbeing Day: 

  • What can your organisation do differently this year to promote wellbeing with a spotlight on positives like attendance and retention versus managing absenteeism? 
  • Are there policies or guidelines in place to support absent employees returning to their work? 
  • Are there guidelines to support employees in work but at risk of absence? 

Train to lead by example

Are managers and team leads adequately equipped to have conversations about return to work planning? In my experience, they are not, as I often hear from clients, “What do you suggest because I don’t know where to start…”. 

This year, the focus of National Workplace Wellbeing Day is on physical, mental, and  social wellbeing. Let’s ensure that together we make it an everyday focus, not just one day per year. 

If you would like to schedule an exploratory meeting with Connect4Work to discuss how we can support your goals of increasing staff wellbeing in your organisation, please click on the link here


IBEC National-workplace-wellbeing-day 2022 

 Here are other upcoming awareness days in May: