Expert Opinion by Tali Shlomo FCIPD
Tali Shlomo is the Inclusion and Diversity Consultant Vice President for EMEA at global insurance provider Swiss Re. Here, Tali talks about our changing attitudes to work, and how workplaces can become forces for good.
In March, work came in as the most negative driver of form. Why do you think work is having such a detrimental impact on our wellbeing right now?
I’m seeing several triggers for this. The reality is that it’s been over a year of working in a global pandemic against the backdrop of home schooling, anxiety around catching covid-19, and caring for loved ones. Isolation, bereavement and grief, furlough, or increased workload (plus so much more) have all been outcomes of this moment of history we’re living through.
Then overlay this with many people starting to assess what fulfils them and how their role and work are feeding their purpose. We have seen an increased number of people moving from the city to the country as the beginning of a lifestyle choice, and naturally this is now streaming its way to the workplace. How is my job adding meaning to my life and fulfilling my purpose has become a more open conversation taking place at home and at work.
Finally, new habits have grown organically and weaved into work, and the pendulum has shifted to increased working hours, and increased screen-time. As humans, we’re built for social connection; this feeds our energy.
How can workplaces become drivers for positive mental health and improved wellbeing?
Financial compensation is no longer the driver of workplace happiness; the culture of the workplace has a bigger currency. Work is a place where we share moments in our lives that matter; how the workplace supports us through the day to day moments of life, as well as the big moments, are what we use to assess our connection to the workplace.
The micro behaviours are a great place to start; simply asking “How are you today?” and pausing for a reply. It’s also important to share our vulnerability as senior leaders, and provide space to recuperate, take a break and replenish. The simple steps of human kindness can make all the difference when a colleague is on good FormScore as when they are on low FormScore.
Creating time for people to recuperate, honouring breaks, reducing screen time and prioritising workload are habits we can all honour. Start meetings with a one minute reset booster; this could be as simple as mindfulness, listening to an uplifting soundtrack, or sharing a fun video.
As the habits of our workplace culture evolve, we can move into crafting work that is fulfilling for colleagues — leveraging on learning and development conversations, career conversations, and all the other people practices with a human-centric approach.
My invitation to all people leaders reading this is to ask your team what is important for them at work, and how can work fulfil that.
What can we do to help ourselves if work is bringing us too much stress and not enough fulfillment?
Take the time to recognise what nourishes and replenishes your wellbeing. From that you’ll start to notice what your non negotiables are; whether that’s breaks during the day, boundaries, or the work you’re doing. Making time for self-care is vital on the road to being fulfilled at work. For me, movement is essential for my wellbeing; taking my early morning walk replenishes my energy, and I now decline early morning meetings.
Starting with 10 minutes a day to focus on your wellbeing is a wonderfully simple step to building new habits. A workplace wellbeing buddy is also a great way to hold each other accountable.
Finally, speak with your manager or HR team. If your workload is increasing it’s okay to ask for support with prioritising. If the work itself is not fulfilling your purpose, be clear on what’s missing and then speak with your manager and HR team.
Could a mentor create fulfilment, or could learning a new task or getting involved in a new project fill the gap you have identified?
Do you think the pandemic has changed people’s attitudes to work?
The pandemic has forced us to pause and slow down. Whilst this might sound counterintuitive when so many have been working incredibly long hours, it has been a moment in time to reflect on fulfilment and happiness. The pandemic has amplified that our relationship with work is no longer transactional; it is an emotional connection that fuels our passion and desires.
We have also unleashed the creative skills we all have and noticed how fun contributes to our purpose, which we may not have recognised as having a place at work. We have an amazing opportunity to weave these beautiful new found skills into the way we craft roles at work, and how we deliver these.
An opportunity to create a compassionate, purposeful workplace.