Employee Wellness and Organizational Wellness: Two Sides of the Same Coin  0

Geetanjali Wheeler
“I wrote the article on Employee Health and well-being just a few days into the lockdown as a perspective to strengthen employer branding. The pandemic has positioned it as foundational to an organization’s existence. I’ve therefore come to learn that employee wellness and organizational wellness are indeed two sides of the same coin!” says Geetanjali Wheeler, one of our star authors for 2020.

In April 2020, when I wrote the article on Employee Health and Wellness, I described it as “No longer just a compliance obligation”. I brought all of my experience together to speak about how progressive organizations were using it to strengthen their employee branding strategy. This was just a few days after the lockdown began and little did I know that all of us would be relooking at a whole new dimension of what employee health, wellbeing and wellness means to the existence of an organization! We care about these more than before as it finds its way into people metrics in business dashboards.

In the last few months, the lens through which we understand “Employee Health and Wellbeing” has changed…it is no longer confined to the walls and floors of the organizations. It has expanded into our homes and exists in the same space as our personal relationships. It is no longer about “not bringing work home”… if at all anything, the already blurring lines between personal and professional lives have disappeared overnight. Teams know more about each other’s personal lives more than they ever did when working together in the same office. These times have also seen traditional mindsets being challenged and forced to accept aspects that would have taken them years to otherwise. For example, how many of our managers actually thought that work from home (WFH) was nothing more than an excuse? How many organizations declared complete WFH or are seriously considering hybrid models giving up physical workspaces?

employee health and wellness

The fact is that the focus on employee health and wellness is not a “nice to have” anymore but a “must-have”. This reminds me of how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has surfaced many times representing the relevance of human needs in modern times. At every point in time, the relevance can change – even from the context of social media impact on Millennials and Centennials. So, if we were to come back to it, the so-called needs were met and taken for granted by many of us. The status quo changed and they were threatened. In the midst of all these changes, there is ambiguity about when will we go back to normal?… If that’s still the definition of “normal”.

For many of us, there is a need for accepting the fact that we are all susceptible. This is not easy to accept and that’s why, peeking out on the horizon is the topic of “mental wellness”, something that was not openly spoken about or even considered as a significant predictor of employee performance and effectiveness. Organizations that offer employee assistance programs are reporting a steep rise in the number of employees reaching out. Today, we acknowledge the weight that falls on our people managers to manage themselves and lead teams in one of the most challenging times we know. The leaders need to embrace uncertainty with mindfulness and not shy away from showing their own vulnerabilities. It’s about leading by example to encourage expression since it cannot be a pulse survey that’s okay to be done annually. It’s people who make organizations and therefore the resilient characteristic of an organization comes from its people.

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The ability of an organization to overcome challenges or bounce back to being successful depends upon its people’s resilience and motivation as a long-run factor. In the face of the current situation, the effect of these factors has broadened and more widely acknowledged. As many leaders said that there is no playbook available for what the world is going through right now and while we see stories of organizations and people not being able to pull through, on the other hand, there are numerous examples of those demonstrating resilience. They are the ones who are creating history in their own way. As John Maxwell said “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” Everyone is a leader and it does not matter what your title or designation is!

In the midst of all these changes, there is ambiguity about when will we go back to normal?... If that’s still the definition of “normal”. Click To Tweet

In my last article, I explored the role of an organization to create a focus on employee health and wellness. Today, I’d like to explore the role of its people because as an employee myself, I think we play an equally significant role. Our health and wellness start with “Us”.

Practice Gratitude:

I’ll admit this…12 years ago when I was first exposed to the practice, I asked how can we be grateful for something every day? That question changed my life and I began to see so many people, things, and life experiences to be grateful for. This practice must come into workplaces, where we encourage each other to express. For example, the results that collaboration and teamwork bring about, the learning from failures, the leveraging of the network, or even if it means investing in emotional bank accounts to building real relationships.

Practice Mindfulness:

Even when attempting to practice, one will realize the potential power of mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us be guided by awareness and not emotions. Imagine the impact this can have on interpersonal dynamics, the ability of the leaders to lead in the light of triggers beyond their control. The journey starts with self, to teams, and then to organizations. This is a building block of mental resilience.

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Practice Mindfulness

Focus on Physical Health:

This is not about size zero figure but asking yourself if you feel healthy. A few minutes of exercise, eating right and on time, can do a great deal in building physical resilience.

Share Experiences and Learning:

Rooting from adult learning principles and the concept of peer learning, the benefits of sharing experiences can be therapeutic. This is why when leaders share their experiences and learnings from their own lives, it matters. It is then about creating a culture of trust and credibility – this is the invisible culture I’m talking about, something that is more powerful and real than the culture statements posted on the walls.

From the Classroom to Life:

Use learning programs to improve lives outside of work. For example, learning time management frameworks and not using it in personal lives does not help. This is like learning algebra for the exam and then forgetting about it! The “whole” person comes to work and goes back home to the family.

Today, we acknowledge the weight that falls on our people managers to manage themselves and lead teams in one of the most challenging times we know. The leaders need to embrace uncertainty with mindfulness and not shy away from showing their own vulnerabilities.

From the Classroom to Life

Take Time to Rejuvenate:

As I write this, I have a confession to make. There was a time when I felt that my work was everything – I made it my identity. I have come to learn that I’m wrong on so many counts. Many of you will still put me in the workaholic category and that’s okay because I have embarked on my personal journey to become mindfully aware of my goals and my being and I’m working on feeling the balance between the two. There was no other or better way for me to explain this point to all of you.

This is not an exhaustive list and there is so much we can explore! While health and wellbeing (both mental and physical) were always important, it took a pandemic for us to realize what truly matters. As leaders, we must ensure that we take these learnings into creating a better future for ourselves. Employee wellness and organizational wellness have therefore always been two sides of the same coin! It’s time we don’t choose between “Head” or “Tails”!

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