We are in the early days of a new era, and the workplace is changing.
In the Agrarian Era that marked our transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers 10,000 years ago, our economies were based on producing food through agriculture and rearing livestock. It was backbreaking work, and strength and stamina were the keys to survival.
No-one bothered asking whether they were happy in their work, they just wanted enough food to feed themselves and their families, and enough money to buy a few essentials.
The term 'Workplace Well-Being' just didn't exist!
Then came the Industrial Revolution, which heralded the introduction of new manufacturing processes. This shifted the focus of goods manufacturing from small shops and homes in rural areas to large mechanised factories in big cities. Efficiency and craftsmanship were prized skills in the workplace, and employees increasingly started to ask themselves if they were truly satisfied with their jobs.
Then, in around 1970 came the invention of the microprocessor chip that made personal computers possible. In the Information Era, machines controlled by computers began to replace the factory work of blue-collar workers and production became automated.
As such, the focus of human-based work shifted from factories to offices and from machines to computers and the internet. Now employees needed knowledge and curiosity, and innovation and creativity were prized assets. Workers began to ask if they were truly engaged in their careers.
We are now at the beginning of what is known as The Fourth Industrial Revolution, where focus has shifted to the Purpose Economy and where employees are now seeking a higher sense of meaning in their work lives.
In this new age of work, it is fulfillment that is the new standard for employee engagement. Today’s workers are now asking themselves – and their employers – whether their work gives them a sense of purpose and meaning.
The workplace has changed so much in such a short period of time, and we are constantly questioning our role in it. No longer do we work to merely survive or have job satisfaction.
We are even starting to move beyond simply being engaged in our careers and are now asking whether our employer’s goals fit with our own beliefs and whether we are finding true meaning and fulfillment in our working lives.
We are striving to make the workplace an extension of our own persona, such that there is little difference between our personal lives and our working lives – and it is a journey that modern employers are embracing!
Here, we investigate the subject of workplace well-being and what role the Age of Purpose plays. We will discover that there are three factors to workplace well-being; work-life balance, purpose and fulfillment. We will explain what each of these are, what affects them, and –more crucially – how to get them.
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In the first of this series of four posts, we will be delving into workplace well-being, whether in the office or working from home. In the next posts in the series we will find out how to find work-life balance, we will be looking into how to find purpose in the workplace and how to find fulfillment in your career.
What Is Well-Being in the Workplace?
Well-being at its simplest is ultimately about personal happiness – feeling good and living safely and healthily.
In the workplace, well-being used to be about health and safety at work – limiting physical injuries and health problems caused by the workplace, but these days, workplace well-being is as much about improving the mental health levels of employees as physical health.
More than that, it extends beyond health and into happiness and job satisfaction and relates to how workers feel about the work they do, their working environment, relationships with colleagues and the impact of their working life on their personal life.
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Why Is Workplace Well-Being Important?
Workplace well-being has become more important recently, and there is growing evidence showing that a healthy workforce is happier, more productive and less likely to be absent due to ill health.
According to the Thriving at Work report, 2017, poor mental health costs UK employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of double that amount.
Conversely, investing in workplace well-being can lead to higher productivity, increased levels of innovation and reduced sickness absence.
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There are four reasons as to why workplace well-being is so important:
- 1Increased commitment and productivity
- 2Better staff retention
- 3Reduced absenteeism
- 4An enhanced reputation
Increased commitment and productivity
Staff who feel valued are more likely to be positively engaged in their work and to the goals of the organisation.
Better staff retention
A highly engaged, happy employee is more likely to be loyal and remain committed to the company for longer, reducing recruitment and re-training costs.
Staff whose well-being needs are being met are less likely to be absent or take sick leave.
An enhanced reputation
A company that values workplace well-being can attract a high quality workforce because of its enhanced reputation and powerful message about values and ethics.
Given these benefits, is it any wonder that modern businesses are implementing well-being in the workplace programmes?
What Are The 3 Ways To Workplace Well-Being?
Whilst there are many factors to consider in workplace well-being, such as happiness, stress levels, autonomy and inclusivity, among others, ultimately they can be grouped according to just three factors:
- 1Work-Life Balance
This graphic will help you understand where workplace well-being sits:
If you have any one of work-life balance, purpose or fulfillment, but not the other two, then you do not have workplace well-being.
Let’s see if you recognise any of these situations:
Scenario: Work-Life Balance Alone:
You have a job where you clock on, clock off and simply do your job but no more; you do the minimum that your employer asks of you. You don’t look forward to your work, you don’t believe in what you are doing and you are only doing the job because you need the money. The only thing you are happy about is getting your paycheck at the end of the month.
Scenario: Fulfillment Alone:
You are working long hours doing thankless tasks that by-and-large you don’t mind doing, but your heart really isn’t in it. You do lots of overtime because you need the money, but you just get your head down and get on with it. You are not unhappy with your situation, but mostly because you don’t allow yourself the luxury of thinking about it for too long. Yours is a life of mindless drudgery.
Workplace Well-Being - (1) Work-Life Balance, (2) Purpose, (3) Fulfillment. Are you happy and fulfilled at work? #workplacewellbeing #worklifebalance #worklife #purpose #fulfillment
Scenario: Purpose Alone:
You are required to work long hours and you have a burning sense for something you feel passionately about. The only problem is that your employer doesn’t share your passion and you are pulling in opposite directions. Whatever you do to persuade your employer to change focus gets ignored, or worse – you are constantly being disciplined for your beliefs. You are in the wrong job!
Now let’s look at scenarios where you are only missing one of the elements of workplace well-being and see what we get.
Scenario: Work-Life Balance + Fulfillment - Purpose:
You are working the hours expected of you, but you don’t volunteer for overtime. You don’t mind the work, but it is not something you would do if you had a better option. You go through the motions smiling and nodding, but perhaps you feel that you could be doing more and making a bigger contribution to your career and to issues that matter. It’s time to have a chat with your boss to see if you could find a common purpose!
Home Office Tip
There are 3 factors to workplace well-being:
If you feel you're missing out on any of these, schedule a chat with your boss - your lack of workplace well-being is costing him both time and money!
Scenario: Work-Life Balance + Purpose - Fulfillment:
You are doing your job and you are working towards your company’s stated goals, but you don’t really believe in them. Maybe your company’s goals and yours do not quite match as you would like, and you don’t get a sense of satisfaction in your job. You get the sense that your career is heading in the wrong direction. It’s time to sit down and have a little chat with your boss. If you cannot agree on a direction that works for both of you, then it is time for a change of career!
Scenario: Fulfillment + Purpose - Work-Life Balance:
You are driven in your career towards a goal that both you and your employer are truly passionate about. You have boundless enthusiasm and you can’t wait to tell anybody that will listen about the difference you are making. You feel that nothing can stop you and you are going to change the world – if only you weren’t so damn tired all the time!
You are working every waking moment towards your goal and you can’t stop, you just need to keep pushing through. Maybe you’ll catch up on some sleep next month or the month after. “Sleep is for the weak”, you hear yourself saying, or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. You are working too hard and are driving headlong towards burnout. Divorce is right around the corner!
If you feel that any of these scenarios matches yours, we can help you find greater balance to your career and to your personal life.
Workplace Well-Being: Summary
As we have discovered, workplace well-being is all about personal happiness:
It may seem strange to ask these questions of our employees, because surely these goals will cost money and have a detrimental effect on the company’s bottom line, won’t they?
In fact, we have discovered that poor workplace well-being leads to lost productivity, low levels of innovation and more absences due to sickness and ill health. On the contrary, fostering high levels of workplace well-being is good for the financial health and well-being of the company and to the economy!
When it all comes down to it, there are three factors to workplace well-being, and we have discovered that a healthy workplace well-being requires you to have a healthy work-life balance, a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment in your career.
In the next post we take a look at what work-life balance is, why it’s important, what affects it and how you can diagnose imbalance, and crucially how to improve it, both in the office setting and when working from home.
And now it's your turn.
What's your favourite tip for workplace well-being? Tell me in the comments!