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Key wellbeing tips for 2023

The cost of living crisis, and the anxiety and uncertainty that will accompany it for many, makes the need for a psychologically safe workplace culture even more pertinent. Feeling able to speak up about personal, as well as professional challenges, has significant wellbeing and performance benefits. Low grade uncertainty and fear about the future, is going to be a feature of the next several months. More than ever it is important that employees feel able to be open about what is going on for them, without fear of additional negative personal consequences, and that they know how to access available support services and what they can expect when they do.  

Whilst many will return to the office after the Christmas period feeling well rested and ready to face the challenges of work, our motivation and positive attitude can quickly dwindle as January goes on. The additional challenges that the political and financial climate will place on people will likely result in many employees feeling overwhelmed with the return to work, so it is crucial leaders are prepared. 

The wellbeing challenges that 2022 brought should be used to inspire a proactive wellbeing framework for 2023 that supports employees through potential future challenges. 

Maintaining a Psychologically Safe Workplace Culture
The cost of living crisis, and the anxiety and uncertainty that will accompany it for many, makes the need for a psychologically safe workplace culture even more pertinent. Feeling able to speak up about personal, as well as professional challenges, has significant wellbeing and performance benefits. Low grade uncertainty and fear about the future, is going to be a feature of the next several months. More than ever it is important that employees feel able to be open about what is going on for them, without fear of additional negative personal consequences, and that they know how to access available support services and what they can expect when they do.  

Avoiding burnout
In the last couple of years the working world has experienced a huge shift towards remote positions and an increase in hybrid roles. For many people, the boundaries between professional and personal spheres are being blurred. Although the flexibility of remote work is advantageous for many people, it can also encourage unhealthy habits such as working longer hours, missing breaks or other forms of presenteeism, such as working while unwell. 

Whether consciously or subconsciously, many may feel that while working at home away from their manager they need to go the extra mile to prove themselves, and so fall into these negative habits. 

As a leader, you must be vigilant in noticing if employees are working outside of hours, not taking their breaks, or not taking allocated holiday. Sometimes this is celebrated as company commitment, but it is important not to normalise this and to encourage employees to take well earned breaks and rest. This will help them recharge and maximise efficiency in the next performance wave. 

Build in intentional recovery in teams 

Consideration of the relationship between focus and recovery is important to build into company culture, as the two are mutually reinforcing. The human brain can focus effectively for 90-120 minutes at a time when working on the same task. 

The more ‘in flow’ of work we are, the more we are likely to keep pushing ourselves to keep going. However, the quality of our processing skills starts to decline if we don’t insert a period of recovery. If teams are making time for focused effort, they also need allocated time for focused recovery. This recovery must be deliberate and tailored to each individual’s needs in order to facilitate future focus. 

Intense cognitive tasks or long, draining meetings that require focus must be balanced with focused recovery time to recharge, hydrate, do some light exercise or movement and switch off before moving onto the next focused task. Taking time away from our screens and taking a short time not to discuss work must be encouraged in all employees to aid cognitive focus throughout the day. 

Encouraging and protecting boundaries
It is key for leaders to consider that many employees may not know how to slow themselves down, or feel fearful of setting and protecting boundaries if a clear culture has not been established. Leaders must make boundary setting the norm within their organisations, and offer clear tips on what boundaries should look like and how to respond when a colleague or management is overstepping them. 

Encourage employees to think twice before emailing colleagues outside of working hours, and normalise asking one another do you have any capacity for additional tasks this week? This should help teams practise self-protecting boundaries that will reserve energy and maximise wellbeing. 

Accessible support
A proactive wellbeing framework should heavily signpost available support services and encourage employees use of them. As well as internal support offered by management and HR, external support from trained professionals such as counsellors, life coaches, or independent financial advice services should be available. 

Making support services available to employees is crucial, but too often these can be veiled by multi-layered bureaucratic procedures which limit fast access when employees need urgent help. Although the aim within organisations should always be to prevent employees reaching a crisis point in which they need urgent help, there must be easily accessible services in place in cases where this does happen. 

It is important to adapt our wellbeing strategies to accommodate employee needs. The cost of living crisis will weigh heavy on many employees, and potentially spark wellbeing issues. Financial wellbeing should be approached in a similar manner to emotional wellbeing and handled sensitively, with seeking help being encouraged as standard practice. 

Protection of leaders mental health
The past few years has put a strain on many, and leaders will have felt the strain of this as they attempt to support the workforce and limit pressure placed on them at work. Senior leadership teams have guided the workforce through the challenges of covid, adapted to the new ‘post Covid’ world of work, and now face the challenges caused by the financial crisis and impending recession. Although supporting employees is an integral part of leadership roles, leaders must not neglect their own wellbeing. 

The impact of constantly supporting others can manifest in emotional fatigue, depleted efficiency, or burnout. Allocating time for your own work and to recharge your own battery is key. Leaders should establish office hours where you can be fully present and available for employees, then establish allocated time for their own work that is uninterrupted. This should help in preventing leaders becoming overwhelmed and burned out. 

A thorough and proactive wellbeing strategy is the best way for leaders to brace themselves for challenging times ahead, and to protect employee wellbeing in 2023. 

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