Workplace wellness key to organisational efficiency

Whether organisations are preparing for an eventual return to the workplace or extending remote work arrangements, employees' well-being should remain a priority.
By: | May 12, 2020

It is perhaps not a surprise to find that supporting workers’ well-being can help to improve their levels of engagement, performance and job satisfaction. This in turn, makes it significantly less likely they will burn themselves out, said Dr Michelle McQuaid, a specialist in workplace wellness and the founder of The Wellbeing Lab.

Describing well-being as the ability to feel good and to function effectively as we navigate the highs and lows of work, Dr McQuaid told HRM Asia, “In addition, workplaces have found that having happier and healthier workers helps to reduce the number of safety incidents, lowers staff turnover, improves customer satisfaction and delivers higher over average shareholder returns.”

The current climate created by the COVID-19 pandemic is further putting well-being in the spotlight. As Dr McQuaid pointed out, the heightened uncertainty and disruption of the work-from-home (WFH) situation is creating increased anxiety for many workers.

In Australia for example, 82% of workers recently reported feeling anxious or worried about the impact of COVID-19, and 91% felt anxious or worried about the impact on the economy.

However, it is worth noting that workers who reported high levels of worry and anxiety were still performing just as well as those workers with low levels of worry and anxiety. Contrastingly, workers who reported medium levels of worry and anxiety were significantly more likely to report lower levels of performance.

Dr McQuaid explained, “Heightened anxiety about the virus or the economy might motivate productive action, whereas moderate worry might reflect uncertainty and passivity, undermining performance.

“For immediate performance, a little or a lot of anxiety may be better, although, over the longer-term, high levels of anxiety will likely reduce productivity.”

What is not desirable, she added, is people becoming anxious about being anxious. “Our research in countries around the world has found that it is possible to still be well even in the face of struggles.

“The key is to remember that struggle is not a sign that we are breaking or that something is wrong with us. Rather, struggle or anxiety or stress are simply our bodies’ way of telling us that something important to us needs our attention and to use their opportunities for learning and growth.”

Noting that many workplaces are now deploying quick, reliable and confidential tools to track their workers’ well-being, Dr McQuaid is quick to highlight that the goal is not to achieve perfect well-being scores, as well-being naturally ebbs and flows.

Instead, focus on any increase in workers’ ability and motivation to care for their well-being and their levels of psychological safety to ask for help when they are struggling.

Workplaces have also effectively introduced small group well-being coaching to allow workers to stay connected and help each other be accountable for caring for everyone’s well-being.

“Our studies have found that well-being coaching is the most effective way to improve workers’ levels of well-being ability and motivation,” Dr McQuaid added.

For WFH workers looking for the best way to care for their well-being, she recommended the following tips:

  • Take the free, 5-minute PERMAH Well-being Survey to see how you are doing. It is completely confidential and results are immediately made available for you to create your own personal well-being plan.
  • Sprinkle tiny well-being habits throughout your day.
  • Experiment until you find what works best for you. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to check in and ask: What went well today when it came to caring for my well-being? Where did I struggle? What did I learn? What will I try tomorrow? Remember that your goal is not to have perfect levels of well-being; your goal is to figure out what works best for you when it comes to caring for your well-being in different situations for different outcomes.