So that’s the good… Presumably there’s been some bad too?
Job insecurity was already a huge pressure and it’s really amped up now. This affects wellbeing at a foundational level – insecurity is a slow burner that tends to sit with us all day. Work relationships have also taken a massive hit. Losing those little incidental conversations about your weekend or what you’ve been watching can reduce our resilience. Our purposefulness is probably also down this year – anecdotally, a lot of us have been experiencing a sort of fed-up fatigue during the latest lockdown.
I would say one other thing, however. We don’t have the research yet on the pandemic, but in previous disasters or traumas where people have gone through the sort of high stress they’ve experienced this year, most of them recovered well. And they tended to recover quickly too.
You’ve actually got one data point that says the pandemic might not have been that bad for workplace wellbeing…
Well, yes. This is a strange thing for which we have no current explanation, but we are working on understanding it:
In 2016, the average number of Good Days at Work per week in the general population was 3.02.
In 2021, that average number was 4.15.
Both of those numbers are out of five and all completely valid in terms of how we measured them (standardised for part-time workers etc). Maybe it is the WFH culture allowing for work-life balance, but we definitely do not know exactly what this is about yet!
If we do need to recover, what can we do to bounce back fast?
I know I’ve been talking about wellbeing as a cultural issue, but there’s an interesting point here. This is my personal opinion, but it’s also what Robertson Cooper would ultimately recommend: however much an organisation makes things happen around you, you are ultimately in control of your own wellbeing. In the face of having that mortgage to pay, the family to feed and perhaps being in a job you don’t like but can’t just quit, that’s an important thing to remember.
There are things you can do to take charge of your own wellbeing. This year, it seems like a lot of people have been finding it difficult to summon the energy to face the day. We’ve just released a free download for managing your energy that covers the four pillars of wellbeing (physical, mental, financial, social). It’s not a preachy thing; it just asks you to take half an hour to think about whether you’re everything you can to look after yourself at the moment. It looks at little shifts you can make to your sleep, your nutrition and familiar things like that, but also has some points on emotional regulation – how you can deal with little anger spikes and the like so that they’re not draining you. These are all things that are in the control of us as individuals and that make a difference.
If we think of ourselves as computers, getting this stuff right is like ensuring you have enough space on your hard disk to deal with whatever comes at you in the moment. Once that’s in place, you can start to download some apps and explore long-term things like resilience strategies – we’ve done a free report on this too.
Finally, Julie, do you think our resilience has taken a knock over the last year or so?
Perhaps in some ways. Resilience is built partly through experiencing adversity. On the one hand, we’ve all been going through some very high-level adversity. On the other, if you haven’t had to get up at half five in the morning recently and fight your way onto a train, you might have lost some of your resilience to these sorts of everyday adversities and be wondering about whether you could ever do that again. This is why I’m concerned about the impact of the pandemic on children. Eight-year-olds are not worried about the big picture, but they have not been building resilience in terms of navigating friendships, making excuses for not doing work in class and the like. This is critical to their development, and it’s kind of the same for adults going into an office.
It’s going to be interesting seeing the results of the exposure therapy as some of us have to go back to these things we’ve stopped doing. But, as I said before, more than 80% of people are likely to bounce back from all of this very easily.
Every extra Good Day At Work creates:
9% increase in productivity
10% increase in advocacy for the organisation
11% increase in job satisfaction
12% reduction in the intention to leave
5 fewer day of sickness absence per year
16 fewer days of presenteeism per year
Find out more about Robertson Cooper and the Good Day At Work initiative here.