Talk It Out: 5 Ways to Improve Wellbeing at Work
We all run into those 'pain' points at work, from annual reviews to public speaking - everyone has certain situations they dread.
Here Chris Barez-Brown, founder, Upping Your Elvis, provides some tips can advise on how to take the stress out of them, and make them much more manageable.
Get out in front
Nothing proves the old adage that prevention is better than cure more than issues of stress. Stress, depression or anxiety results in 15.4 million days lost per year. Taken together, the cost to the economy is estimated at £105 billion a year – roughly the cost of the entire NHS.
So, the first step is to make programmes to de-stress your workforce a key priority for your business. These initiatives are as important as any HR programme and arguably, yield a far greater return. It’s important to first recognise that different people will experience stressful events in different ways; so an approach focused on the individual, not a process is vital to have a positive impact on productivity.
Talk It Out
One of the quickest and easiest tools we use to help to remove stress is a simple technique that we call Talk It Out. Such is the power of the technique, we’ve set it up as a free social enterprise tool for anyone to use. You simply spend 20 minutes walking and talking with a partner, taking it in turns to participate in uncensored discussions about issues concerning you.
This can be done anywhere at any time and requires very little training. Creativity has been shown to spike by 60 per cent when we walk and the experience of talking continuously for 20 minutes while walking briskly enables people to process subconscious concerns. And in terms of efficacy, 85 per cent of Talk it Out beta testers reported improved mental wellbeing afterwards and would repeat it, according to new study by Bristol University .
Get Your Energy Right
One of the most effective tools in managing the stresses of the workplace is to help people to become more aware of their own energy and how they use it at work to handle the situations they find themselves in.
We’ve all experienced great days at work and terrible days we’d rather forget. We’re the same person on both days, it’s just that our energy’s different. Our energy is manifests in four broad states – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. By getting clear on how each of these energies affects us and the impact we can have, work becomes more human, more fun and more productive.
The first step towards this is to understand how the four states of energy affect us each individually. For example, simply focusing on what are the big things we needs to achieve each day – the things that if we get done we’ll go home feeling like today was a good day – gives us a stronger spiritual energy for the work we’re doing (as we feel more connected to it with our spiritual energy). As a result, people can create extraordinary results for the individual and the business. It’s about finding the right balance of simple behaviours each day that help staff manage their energy so they are better placed to deal with any stresses that arise, and can stay focused on delivering the stuff that matters to them and the business.
Reframe the rituals
Modern work has a series of familiar, if intimidating rituals, that can deplete energy levels and cause stress. Interviews to secure a job. Weekly meetings, quarterly reviews and annual appraisals. And of course, the ever-present background hum of email and a mobile phone filled with work-related messages. In the face of these it can be all too easy to feel a continuous pressure to perform and be available.
Whilst these rituals were designed to create a supportive dialogue between the workforce and the tasks that need completing, they simply don’t work and need to be reframed. Take the example of annual reviews. They are designed to keep people motivated and aligned to the objectives of a business, yet research shows that they don’t seem to meaningfully improve performance at all, and if anything can be detrimental.
Alternatively, if someone truly wants to grow and manage stress as an individual in the workplace then it’s their responsibility to take ownership for their development and demand feedback, every day.
By focusing on the positives of what has been done well and what could be done better next time, all employees can learn, grow as a person and – critically – remove any of the anxiety that comes with now knowing how they are performing. Regardless of position, when someone takes ownership of finding out how they are performing, they grow as a result.
Up Your Elvis
When U2 lead singer Bono was on his quest to eradicate third world debt, he used to turn up to big organisations and ask the question “so who’s Elvis around here?”
We love this question, as we think what he meant was “who’s the person around here that shakes up the status quo and makes stuff happen?”. The first step in creating such a culture is to enable people to feel in control of themselves, their energy and to not be worried about what others think. If employees spend all their time trying not to get fired, the company will slow down to the speed that doesn’t get anyone fired. And yes, there is a certain lack of stress in such a comfortable organisation; albeit a short lived one.
By comparison, a business full of Elvises embraces change and view challenges as something exciting to run at, not something to hide from and hope you don’t have to get involved with. And as an added bonus, they become far better at handling the daily stresses that come with change.
This all starts with an organisation that understands and values the impact the personal energy of its workforce can have on its people and the businesses productivity.