Wellbeing at Work

Dec 14, 2022

The Problem with Poor Workplace Wellbeing

One of the things I see so many organizations struggle with is how best to address employee wellbeing. Generally, organizations are willing to admit wellbeing is important or necessary, but they don’t necessarily understand how significant the implications of poor employee wellbeing are on the business.

I’ve lost count of the number of reports highlighting the current workplace crises around stress and burnout. In fact, the current state of affairs for many people is so bad that a constant state of survival has become common place, even the ordinary way of living.

Overtime, continuously operating in this state of survival – struggling, overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted, unhappy, lonely, and burnt out – has long-term consequences for the individual. Long-term stress and burnout impact nearly every system in the body leading to illness, disease, and even a shortened lifespan. In addition to the health consequences, individuals in this survival state tend to have more relationship issues with more significant conflicts.

The biggest workplace problem with people living in this state of survival is the negative impact it is having on people’s performance. When people are in this state of survival – let’s call it fight/flight/freeze – their nervous systems operate out of coherence (in sympathetic or parasympathetic). When we are out of coherence, it impacts our ability to make good decisions, to problem-solve, maintain relationships, and perform at our best. If workplaces want to be getting the best performance out of their people, they must consider how their practices are impacting positively or negatively people’s wellbeing.

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Typical approach to Workplace Wellbeing

What we typically see workplaces try to do is find quick and easy ways to show they support their employees’ wellbeing, even if it is not actually doing anything significant for people’s actual wellbeing. A few of the more popular approaches include:

  • A few hours off on a day of the week
  • Flexible schedule
  • Employee events – happy hour, massage, etc.
  • Food – maybe even healthy options
  • Casual dress days or dress-code
  • Generic Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • A few webinars on health, fitness, and nutrition
  • A meditation session

Although all of these items are nice and certainly in many cases appreciated by people, they are unlikely to truly make a long-lasting difference in an employee’s overall wellbeing and performance.

I like to compare them to the analogy of giving the starving man a fish so he’ll eat for a day versus teaching him how to fish so he’ll have food for a lifetime. Workplaces have a tendency to focus on how they can give their employees a “fish” so employees see they’ve been given a fish. Unfortunately, this “gift” doesn’t have a long-lasting impact on the employees themselves since it hasn’t equipped them with any change that will impact them long-term.

Even if an employee is appreciative of the additional benefit or activity, if the employee does not learn how to manage their wellbeing long-term with sustainable practices, they will likely end up right back where they were. As great as a massage or meditation session is for the moment, it does not teach or equip people with how to manage their stress and overall wellbeing in a way that works for them.

How can workplaces impact wellbeing long-term?

Most employee performance development programs and training provide a specific approach or technique for how to be successful. The same applies to wellbeing programs. Those that have found success share their secrets in the hope that others will be able to apply them to their lives and get the same results. Unfortunately, what works for one individual in their life is not likely to impact the majority of others in the same way.

Instead, workplaces need to implement programs that equip their employees with the skill sets to know how to determine for themselves what they need to achieve wellbeing. Most people want to operate in wellbeing but are just unclear on how best to do so for them. They have just not been equipped with how to understand their own needs and identify ways to meet them. When people are taught techniques on how to understand their own natural reactions and experiences, then they can identify the best solutions for them.

Instead of trying to make everyone do everything the same way, what if we helped people discover how to identify the best way for them!?!

If workplaces really want to make a difference in their employee’s wellbeing, they need to consider a providing resource (via training or a program) that will truly provide employees the information and resources they need to transform their wellbeing long term. The best programs or trainings will educate employees on how their nervous systems are being impacted, what that means to them in their life, how to understand the challenges they are facing and identify strategies that will specifically work for them!  

What types of programs should workplaces look for?

The most effective wellbeing programs focus on helping individuals identify their unique challenges that are causing stress and burnout. What issues are they having with others? What emotions are they experiencing? How are they dealing with their emotions? Then, they look at how to help an individual understand what they most need to do to improve their wellbeing by coaching them through self-reflection. Only the individual can know what will truly work and be effective for them at the present moment so they must answer this for themselves!

Interested in learning about our approach to wellbeing? Our program is focused on equipping individuals will the skills necessary to evolve themselves – by understanding their current state and emotions, coaching them through understanding why it is important, feeling their emotions, and then taking action that is aligned with their needs and situation.  Contact us today to learn more about this neuroscience-based approach to wellbeing. 

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