This article is about how you can maintain your wellness in the workplace. It's the mental equivalent of how to maintain good posture to avoid musculoskeletal pain.
I have a starting point which is that workplace mental health is the responsibility of the employer. It's their workplace, you are their employee. The employer is responsible for ensuring that the workplace does not have a detrimental impact on your wellness.
I don't get why employers don't have a more positive approach to workplace mental wellness. Report after report reveals that employees experience a lack of support for mental wellness, poor treatment when things go wrong, and stigma.
We also read that the lack of a meaningful wellness strategy means that employers suffer too, with lost productivity, greater rates of absence, grievance, complaints and litigation, and lower levels of staff satisfaction. A government commissioned study even quantified this as being in the region of £140,000 per 100 employees. That's a staggering loss for employers to ignore. And the same report showed that an investment in mental wellness produces a 400% return on investment.
Putting that to one side though. Until employers get this right, what can you do?
In my Coaching practice, much of my time Coaching is spent on working with clients to reflect on days when they were able to perform & be effective, and days where this was more challenging. The purpose in this is to help them identify the things that happened on a good day to make it good, and the things that happened on a bad day to make it bad.
Of course, there's the big and obvious stuff - a rotten commute, quality of sleep, eating properly, getting exercise, an engaging boss, a critical boss, workplace pressures, workplace culture, the workplace environment - all these big and obvious things can contribute to a good or bad day.
But what we're also looking for in Coaching is the micro stuff. The smaller things that together contribute to whether the client has the resilience to ride the ups and downs of the day. This micro stuff is like taking a cerebral fingerprint. There are elements here that are unexpectedly small but important and things which go together to build resilience or destroy resilience.
And when we raise self-awareness of these things through Coaching conversations we discover a whole variety of things. We see mindset resources (patterns of thinking, beliefs that are infringed when we engage with others); environment resources (noise, lighting, seating); cultural resources (expected or common behaviours, pace of work, levels of teamworking); interpersonal resources (level of feedback, how instructions are given) and personal resources (regularity and frequency of breaks, eating, relaxation, reading, time for hobbies, time to oneself, time with others etc).
The list is endless. And what's right for one person is wrong for another. Each element is like a graphic equaliser, and when all the dials are in the right place we see Resilience and when all the dials are in the wrong place we see discomfort and challenge.
Find the Triggers
So, have a regular conversation with a Coach or trusted friend or colleague (someone who will listen rather than try and supply all the answers). And explore all the things that contribute to you having a challenging day. Identify the things that trigger a threat to your resilience.
Find your Resilient Resources
And alongside this, identify the big and micro things that lead to you being able to perform & be effective. Notice what you do differently.
In both these areas I find the micro-stuff fascinating and, more importantly, the key to achieving Resilience. The barely-noticeable things mount up to either shore-up or grind down resilience.
I've worked with clients where an incredible difference can be achieved by just moving to another seat, having different lighting, making time to take the dog for a walk, reading a good book for 20 minutes in the evening, having some quiet time, eating the right amount of calories (not too much or few), having a 'good' conversation, getting good-quality & honest feedback from a boss, friend or partner, having short & regular breaks, working early or working later in the day and so on. This is a long list of relatively small things that can together contribute to whether you have the resilience to perform & be effective at work.
Having raised self-awareness of Triggers & Resilient Resources, the next step is to self-monitor. Preferably on a daily basis. This can mean keeping a diary, or using an App. It certainly means spending a few seconds each day to think through your list of Triggers & Resilient Resources. Observe how frequently they popped up in the day. Give them a score. Give your overall day a score.
And by observing this and talking through your day with a Coach, friend or colleague you'll be able to refine your list through this self-monitoring.
This self-monitoring will also have the benefit of giving you the determination to avoid more of the bad stuff (Triggers) and get more of the good stuff (Resilient Resources) which is vital for the next step.