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How to help employees to both feel well and perform well     

Chris Preston

We’re way beyond the world of free fruit and subsidised gym memberships when it comes to wellbeing. However, whilst wellbeing approaches are more informed, most still come at the ‘problem’ from the angle of ‘what is right to give people’. Article from Chris Preston, Co-Founder – Bank of Me. 

A better question is ‘what will make people more effective’ – because when we unpack this question (ideally with employees), we develop outcomes that support the business, the teams within it and the individual too.

A story comes to mind from when I was talking with a new coaching client a few months back. In some pre-session general chit chat, whilst we ordered coffee, she was sharing with me the fact that her organisation had just introduced a series of 30 minute lunchtime ‘wellness sessions’, covering everything from yoga, to circuits, to mindfulness. She was enthusiastic about the news, the opportunity to try some new activities and the company encouragement to take a break. 

We settled into our coaching session and it became apparent that the biggest area she wanted to explore that day was a very challenging line manager. She described how this manager was invisible in person yet almost stalked her on email micromanaging her every move, how her briefs were appalling (because she was so time poor) but she consistently ‘blew up’ when work didn’t meet her expectations and how getting feedback was like getting blood out of a stone so the team had just stopped asking. Living with this line manager was causing my client deep anxiety and distress and, according to my client, this manager was typical of many across the company.  

I couldn’t help but reflect on the coffee conversation we were having just minutes before about the series of lunchtime ‘wellness’ sessions being offered by the company and wondered, based on my client’s experience, wouldn’t improving the quality of the line management in the company have a much greater effect on the ‘wellness’ of employees? And therein lies the point. If we were to ask everyone in that organisation what would make them more effective, I’m fairly sure the line management issue would be highlighted in no time, the impact of which, if it were to improve, would be evident in not only employee’s effectiveness but their wellbeing too. 

When we think about wellbeing, it’s easy to over simplify (and many organisations have), into  physical health and mental health and it’s easy for people to switch off to this. “You mean what I eat, how much exercise I do and if I tend to worry or suffer from anxiety.” When people learn that actually, wellbeing is not only about physiological and emotional health but also how fulfilled you feel, how well you are able to focus and how much of what you do is what really motivates you (what you’re passionate about), the perspective starts to shift a little bit. We are a human system after all and to be our most effective, we need all of these different areas to work optimally. 

Focusing on performance AND wellbeing
If we focus on effectiveness, and actually engage our people (with diverse needs) in a conversation around what would make them more effective, rather than just giving everyone more stuff that we think will promote wellbeing, the results are so much more impactful. One result we usually see is that the prompting of a much richer, three dimensional approach to wellbeing, that tackles the issue at an organisational, team and individual level. 

At the organisational level, we see more of a focus on creating an environment that supports, enables and encourages employees to be the best they can be (from delivering their best work to running a 5k). At a team level, it becomes about making sure we all have an attitude with each other that supports each other’s wellbeing, effectiveness and personal growth. Individually, it’s about about educating, inspiring and empowering employees to understand how to be their most effective by grabbing hold of their wellbeing (and getting to know an even better self). 

 When done properly, authentically and honestly, this kind of approach also drives a change in the social norms. Conversations and activities around wellbeing (and a personal best performance) become the new norm. It also results in helping people to be more effective in their entire lives, not just in the workplace. And finally, it promotes an environment of diversity and psychological safety, as people are encouraged to say what they need. 

When we start to focus on effectiveness, what our people need to perform, and tackle it at organisational, team and individual level, that’s when we solve the puzzle of wellbeing. That’s when it stops being a topic that just gets talked about, or a few new processes or tools, or a gym that gets put in place (but rarely used). That’s when people can truly live better lives, perform better (individually and in teams) and create businesses that outperform their competitors time and time again.

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