Don’t dilute wellbeing

The word “wellbeing” seems to be a popular phrase widely used to strive to improve people’s mental health and state of happiness. Whilst it is such an important focus point and crucial to help people feel better, it can sometimes be misused which leads to people being cynical about it. Wellbeing is not just a buzz word or token gesture that gets pulled out once in a while. Wellbeing needs to thread itself throughout every day life. There is the danger that it will have the opposite affect on people if it is not done correctly.

Wellbeing is more than a “phase” promoting self care, compassion and indulgence. If we want it to mean something, it needs to be part of our core daily being with that same energy and drive that gets put into the “wellbeing week.” It needs to be evenly distributed to have everyone’s wellbeing nurtured, not just the people who are always visible. No one should get left behind.

Wellbeing is not just about workload or burnout, to really improve wellbeing, we need to be aware of it holistically – this includes physical, financial, social, community and career wellbeing. Each factor has a significant role in our wellbeing. We need to feel valued in all 5 domains and have a sense of satisfaction. If we do not review all domains, wellbeing will not improve. Just trying to focus on one aspect can be demoralising when an improvement doesn’t happen. For example, you could improve your physical wellbeing by walking more at work; but at the same time, if you have a pay cut, your sense of wellbeing will plummet.

One element that I have found interesting to observe is how gifts or prizes are given to the lucky few (or most) staff as part of wellbeing initiatives. Whilst this offers a temporary boost; it can cause you to crash back down further if the underlying elements of wellbeing are not addressed. Things like identity, connection and autonomy need to be in place. Gift giving doesn’t empower and whilst it is a nice gesture, if it is not done correctly with the other elements needed, it can feel a bit of a “show.”

In today’s society, we are made to feel “grateful” for what is given for our wellbeing. We might even feel guilty for doing things that improve our wellbeing because it means saying NO to others. For example, going home on time to improve your wellbeing might make you feel guilty if others stay late or if there is lots of work left to do. We can also feel a sense of “gratefulness” for things that improve our wellbeing which are actually basic necessities. Things like “hydration stations” for staff as they are so busy they forget to have a drink or “protected lunch breaks” which we should be having anyway!

Wellbeing is more than just making use feel better. Good wellbeing is linked to improved productivity, motivation and wanting to do the best we can. Wellbeing is powerful, it is not fluffy emotive feelings. It needs to be seen as a fundamental factor in success; yet we still struggle to get it right.

I once saw a paper that went to a committee about how we need to improve wellbeing so we will ensure there is protected breaks. Wellbeing does not happen in polices and procedures. Wellbeing happens through good leadership, empathy, support and empowerment. It is sprinkled throughout our behaviours, interactions and communication. A paper telling us what to do will not make wellbeing better

Motives behind wellbeing matter. If you find wellbeing is being championed by someone who is usually performance driven, uncaring and transactional; it can make situations worse. Wellbeing needs to be authentic, focused on consistently and widely. It is not a flavour of the month with actions being done that don’t hold meaning.

As we move to understanding how much importance it has and needing to focus on it now more than ever, it is time we paused and thought “What does wellbeing actually mean to us?” “How can we make sure we capture everyone’s wellbeing?”

Here’s my little sketchnote to go with my blog, you can download a copy from my shop here

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