We all know that in today's world the workplace brings about many challenges when it comes to our well-being. Many professions today operate within a global infrastructure which requires a 24/7 workforce which is always ready for action. Surprisingly, despite heavy workloads, long hours, tight deadlines, a lack of control, a lack of meaning, and often unsociable behaviour which negatively impacts our well-being these roles still attract a wealth of candidates. However, given these conditions, it could be safe to say that these employees are not thriving, but merely surviving such daily pressures.
In Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer book 'Dying for a paycheck' he discusses many of the problems we face in the modern workplace and argues that in fact, these issues can actually be life-threatening. He states that the environments in which we work are equally as important as the one we live in, therefore we should hold organisations accountable not just for the impact they have on our physical environment, but also on the individuals who work for them.
In the recent Business in the Comunity (BITC) Mental Health at Work Summary Report 2019, 62% of managers have had to put the interests of their organisation above staff well-being either sometimes, regularly or every day. Furthermore, the report states that the three main causes of work-related poor mental health are too much pressure, workload impacting on ability to take leave (leavism) and lack of support. The report also concluded that mental health is affected also by negative work relationships, and people not feeling able to trust their managers.
As mentioned in my previous article, employees who experience greater well-being at work are more engaged, productive, more creative, more resilient, more loyal and are healthier. However, what are organisations doing to enhance well-being and how are we going about identifying positive characteristics that lead to exceptional individual and organisational performance. We have identified four key components to positive organisational performance and we are not alone in our thinking. Researchers around the globe who are focused on positive psychology also agree that self-efficacy, optimism, hope and resilience are key strengths and interventions needed to be developed that support this learning.
What do you need to ask yourself?
How might your employees/you experience stress at work?List the factors that have the greatest impact on your well-beingImagine how things could be different if everyone in your place of work were thriving?
Leading from the top
Leaders set the tone of almost everything within an organisation, and whilst we have started to talk about mental health and well-being we still have a long way to go. Not only do we have to keep talking, but we also have to recognise that mental health is an area of the 'self' in which we have an enormous influence. The workplace has an amazing opportunity to enable the workplace to thrive from role-modelling healthy positive behaviours to becoming educational enablers so that we can all become more self-aware, this starts with a thriving and educated leader.
Can a positive outlook enhance performance?
The way in which we look at life is often defined by psychologists as 'the emotional lens through which we see the world'. Positive people notice more positive things about life and are able to sustain more positive emotions over time. There is also a wave of evidence which tells us that the more negative the environment the more negative we will be. Furthermore, whilst thinking negatively is one thing, speaking negativity only compounds the learning, and well if you start debating, or discussing too much negativity (yes we have all been in those meetings, or been part of those conversations) that learning and way of thinking can become fixed and only further deepens your own internal negative views. Given that the brain will filter information through our own cognitive bias and narrative it is quite easy to see that understanding this aspect of our brain is an essential learning and development task, given its self sabotaging way of causing us much distress on a daily basis.
But think about it - if we can cause such a storm of negativity, just think what we can do if we do the same with positivity.
There are several benefits of having a positive outlook. Positive people also experience less anxiety, are more hopeful, confident and have lower levels of depression. It is these kinds of benefits that lead individuals to accomplish more through the setting of higher goals and the ability to dedicate more energy and resources to achieve such. Furthermore, positive people when faced with adversity are more proactive, bounce back from setbacks and are more solution-focused when faced with challenges or obstacles. I have spoken about this when talking about perfectionism - this is often seen as the more 'adaptive and healthier' or aspect of striving for excellence, rather than perfection, which of course we all know does not exist.
It also turns out that happier brains are smarter. When we experience positive emotions our brains are flooded by dopamine and serotonin, these neurotransmitters help our brains to process and organise new information, hold that information for longer and enables us to retrieve it faster later on.
When we are in a negative state of mind, we experience tunnel vision. We tend to focus on what is causing our fear or anger. In my previous post, we talked about this threat response, if you have not seen it, you can access it here. This threat response helps us out significantly when we are in imminent danger, however, when this response is activated we tend to ignore everything else. The opposite is experienced when we experience positive emotions - we are more creative and our range of ideas and behaviours are much broader. This leads positive people to be able to make better decisions as they are more aware of what is going on around them and they are more open to seeing solutions rather than problems.
Leaders have huge influence on what people pay attention to - you set the direction and the tone. Given emotions are contagious - they spread like wildfire from one person to another what is the tone you wish to set? How will you make your contribution count?
This article was written by Stacy Thomson, Founder of the Performance Club. She is a coach, speaker, and educator.
The Performance Club is a mental wealth consultancy utilising psychological expertise to enhance organisation and individual mental health, performance, and wellbeing. For more information: www.theperformanceclub.co
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