3 things bosses can do to build resilience and wellbeing in the workplace

Perhaps the single most progressive shift to take place in business culture over the last 5 years is the main-steaming of employee wellbeing. 

It’s now almost as normal for workplaces to have a named wellbeing champion as it is to have a named first aider. 

How work impacts health is at last being understood on the basis of whole health; mental as well as physical. 

How work stress and relationships, not to mention a sense of meaning and agency within the job, impacts on our psychological well being… It’s in the picture. It’s now being recognised. 

The myriad things that bosses can do to build resilience and wellbeing in the workplace are in the spotlight and it is a change that hasn’t come a minute too soon.

Like all cultural changes, this didn’t come out of nowhere. There isn’t a single causal factor in this swing towards seeing and treating employees more as whole human beings with a rich emotional life. 

Certainly one factor is the expectations that the new generation of workers are bringing with them into the workplace. Talent is attracted to employers who demonstrate a commitment to investing in the resilience and wellbeing of the team. They expect their psychological health and safety to be considered by those who hire them. 

These new expectations have likely been influenced by changes to ‘parenting culture’ that have taken place since the 80s as well as the technological revolution that has fully erupted on their watch, making them the first natives to a more networked and emotionally expressive world. 

The rapid expansion in research on psychological well-being that has taken place since the late nineties has provided an evidence base upon which a serious interrogation of employee wellbeing can take place.

It’s a cliche but it’s true: people are an organisation’s biggest asset.

In fact an organisation is its people, so it’s logical that attending to the strength and healthy functioning of people is indistinguishable from tending to the health of the business. The business case for investing in employee wellbeing in terms of productivity and cost savings is indeed borne out by the research. 

Still, the concept of employee wellbeing itself though is a huge one, and it begs the question: where to begin? 

So here are 3 suggestions: 3 things bosses can do to build resilience and wellbeing in the workplace.

Gamify it by creating wellbeing challenges. 

Get the team to come up with the challenges for themselves because ownership drives engagement. 

One idea could be a step challenge for the team to walk from Bristol to Berlin in a month.

Or what about going vegetarian for a week by having ‘Come Dine with Me’ lunch hours where sub teams compete to create the best lunch experience. 

Friendly competition and the chance to be creative are going to make well being initiatives feel fun rather than functional. So get those scoreboards up and give out prizes!

Foster Friendships

Lasting friendships are life’s biggest consolation and a healthy workplace is the perfect place for them to be nurtured. 

Friendship is good for retention – the old ‘play together, stay together’ adage comes to mind and it boosts productivity too: an Ohio State University meta-analysis shows us that when it comes to teamwork, groups of friends outperform because they know how to communicate well with one another and they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so naturally allocate tasks and support each other more effectively. 

So here again we see what’s good for employee wellbeing is good for business. 

From a neuro perspective, creating a sociable environment in the workplace will keep the oxytocin flowing, and oxytocin calms fears and regulates emotions among the team, leading to less conflict, broader vision and better decision making, not to mention a sense of belonging. 

So to build resilience and wellbeing in the workplace by making the culture more friendship focused, start by asking yourself:

  • What are the teams’s traditions and rituals?
  • When was the last time you all had an excellent away day?
  • When was the last proper shared meal at lunch? 
  • Where’s the platform for people to share stuff about hobbies, local events and pastimes?

Your answers to these questions will guide you to the right actions.

Be Flexible, Build Trust

Do you have flexibility around work hours and remote working? 

And if not why not?

Because in the face of the mounting evidence that these practises promote trust and wellbeing in the workplace, you need a pretty good reason to not be getting on board with this concept. 

So often, rigid work patterns mean that people have to forego stuff that is really important to them. Stuff that gives life its meaning: hobbies, community, family. 

This stuff promotes psychological well being so limiting employee’s access to it by inflexibility makes little sense if you accept the premise that healthier employees create a healthier organisation. 

Unwillingness to be flexible often signifies a deeper lack of trust in employees. 

Sometimes there’s an implicit assumption that working from home will mean not really working. Or leaving early will mean that work hours will be lost and never made up…

But if deadlines are being met and performance is not affected, are these objections valid? 

Research suggests that if you let people be self-directed (in the context of clear parametres and support) it will boost commitment to the organisation, not diminish it. 

These 3 things bosses can do to build resilience and wellbeing in the workplace are just a starting point. 

Once an organisation embarks on a sincerely felt mission to foster employee wellbeing, all sorts of weird, wonderful and unexpected directions or travel emerge. 

The most important aspect of any journey is simply to begin it, so, if workplace wellbeing is under discussion but not yet a living, breathing part of your workplace culture, we hope these ideas inspire you to do just that.