Creating an environment where employees can flourish and thrive is often a complex challenge, but vital if your organisation is to succeed, write Natalie Hall and Phanella Fine
Employee wellbeing – aka keeping your team happy and healthy – is about far more than gym vouchers and virtual drinks on a Friday. In reality creating work environments where people can thrive is a complex equation:
wellbeing = organisational culture x leadership behaviours + empowering employees to own their personal wellbeing
When designing wellbeing strategies for organisations, we always start from a positive position, encouraging leaders to ask “how do we want people to feel?” rather than “how can we avoid negative outcomes?”
While it might be tempting to focus wellbeing interventions on reducing instances of stress and halting attrition due to burn-out, both research and practice show that a rounded and positive approach is far more effective in creating cultures in which teams can truly flourish and outperform.
As defined by Martin Seligman, the so-called father of wellbeing: “To flourish is to find fulfilment in our lives, accomplishing meaningful and worthwhile tasks, and connecting with others at a deeper level—in essence, living the ‘good life’.
Using the idea of flourishing teams as a jumping-off point for a wellbeing strategy helps to drive this positive focus. Seligman defines flourishing as:
- Positive emotion: happiness and life satisfaction.
- Engagement: being able to immerse yourself in an activity and be in flow.
- Meaning: belonging, feeling part of something bigger.
- Accomplishment: achieving and striving for something for accomplishment’s sake.
- Positive relationships: how we feel about others and how they feel about us.
So using this in a workplace context…
When employees feel positive and engaged, believe their work has meaning, know that they can achieve their goals and experience positive relationships with leaders, co-workers and clients, wellbeing will naturally follow through the organisation. But how can we drive each of these component parts?
Positive emotion: seek to build positive sentiment within teams by finding ways to bond teams together, celebrate successes and support each other through failures. Job satisfaction is closely correlated with how individuals feel about the cultures in which they work so evolving and monitoring your culture is a key element of your employee experience.
- Engagement: create working practices that allow both for deep work and collaboration. When it comes to strategic thinking, it is worth evaluating both the space and time the organisation allows for your people to immerse themselves in solo-tasks. Give individuals ‘permission’ to block off time for deep-work and have ‘meeting-free times’ to allow your people to get into flow. Likewise, collaboration needs both appropriate places – both in-person and online – and time to be effective and inclusive. Finally, leaders must empower their people to take appropriate downtime, creating as culture in which rest is seen as critical to an engaged and productive worker.
- Meaning and belonging: drive a sense of belonging through championing open and honest communication from the top down and welcoming diversity of thought and opinion. Organisations almost universally include inclusivity as a core value, but how often do cultures reflect that inclusivity on the ground? Alongside this, consider the effectiveness (and company-wide understanding) of your organisational mission, as well as opportunities to find further meaning at work through purpose initiatives.
- Accomplishment: understand the personal motivations of your team, including what success and progression look like to them. Ensure managers across your teams are having regular and effective career conversations, helping their people set and achieve their professional and personal goals. In addition, ‘wellbeing workplaces’ provide appropriate agile and flexible working opportunities as well as appropriate time for employees to pursue personal passions as appropriate.
- Positive relationships: support open, honest and respectful interactions across the organisation by agreeing a working practices charter, providing employee forums to allow open feedback and upskilling leaders to be open, authentic and adopt a coaching approach.
Clearly, a culture of wellbeing is an ideal company culture in a broader sense. By adopting a holistic approach across people and culture strategies to drive these five organisational characteristics, you will deliver a culture of wellbeing for your teams: a culture that drives not only individual happiness but also corporate success across a range of metrics from productivity to growth.
Natalie Hall and Phanella Fine run Up Rising, a human capital consultancy focused on culture and leadership. Up Rising supports organisations to develop strategies to deeply embed wellbeing at the heart of their organisations. If you would like to learn more about our workshops and coaching, please do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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