The way we work is changing at an unprecedented pace. As our workplaces become increasingly digital and globalised, they demand complexity and skilled decision-making from employees who can adapt to ever-changing job demands and new ways of working.
This speed of transformation has only increased over the last two years during the coronavirus pandemic. As global industries were shut down and workforces were kept indoors, new forms of hybrid working emerged, bringing with them technical issues, the challenges of staying connected, and an ultimate pressure to keep up a seamless workflow amidst day-to-day changes.
Even though we rose to the challenge, it hasn’t been without sacrifices. 82% of leaders recently reported experiencing exhaustion and 41% of employees have considered leaving their jobs, according to a recent Microsoft Corps survey. Indeed, many did leave their jobs in 2021, causing it to be termed the year of ‘the great resignation’, owing to record highs of job switching.
For those business leaders and employees who remained, there has been increased pressure to keep performance maintained by using overstretched teams, while having to pivot to new ways of working and, in many cases, grow the business. At times, this could be seen as an insurmountable task when employees are juggling a crowded home life with online meetings and deliverables.
A recent McKinsey report expressed the extent to which these working conditions have created a potentially negative human impact. Employed parents have been twice as likely to report symptoms of burnout, which is defined as the experience of individuals not having access to enough recovery between stressors.
While 73% of parents with symptoms of burnout report that the demands of their work interfere with their private and family life, a worrying 90% are more likely to say that senior management at their workplace considers productivity to be more important than mental health.
Across the board, 52% of respondents to a survey conducted by Indeed in 2021 reported experiencing burnout at work.
Clearly, workplace attitudes to the increasingly important issues of wellbeing and mental health are shaped from the top of an organisation. If our leaders are not aware of their own behaviour and approach to work, and if they fail to foster a positive environment where people can take care of their own needs, then it is likely that people will eventually burn out.
While we might be able to sustain high levels of performance over a short period of a few months, the sustained pressures caused by the pandemic have been a tough challenge to deal with. Getting our wellbeing back on track needs to be a number one organisational priority. Indeed, studies have shown the impact that wellbeing has on performance. Most recently, a 2019 LSE research paper surveying 230 independent organisations found there was a strong correlation between better wellbeing at work and higher profitability.
Yet, how can we integrate wellbeing into our day-to-day operations when we are faced with an increasingly complex and uncertain workplace? When we’re busy, it’s just one more thing to think about. The answer lies in fostering consciousness.
Once leaders become aware of the challenges their teams are facing and the ways in which their own behaviour and actions can create a positive workplace culture, they can implement strategies to maintain energy and effective performance. They can also enhance their own lives.
Our progressive and validated Conscious Leadership framework and psychometric assessment allow leaders and managers to pinpoint the areas of wellbeing and performance they need to focus on. We work with five dimensions of consciousness: being awake to self-understanding; realising that learning and growth are consistent; employing resilience to preserve energy and work sustainably; acting with purpose, and creating an environment of togetherness where everyone feels they are safe and that they matter.
Unless leaders take proactive steps to address these five areas and understand their own needs and behaviour patterns, they will limit their ability to create a thriving working environment where employees can feel well and perform well. These environments nurture good mental health, rather than negatively impacting it. Addressing these five areas also has positive impacts on leaders themselves, as increased consciousness can reduce the risk of burnout and increase job satisfaction too. With many leaders questioning their job and careers, it’s an important area for retention efforts to be focused on.
Ultimately, as the way we work continues to change, a healthy workplace that delivers results is one where both employees and leaders are self-aware and practice self-care. Since our lives are increasingly intertwined with work, we must develop a greater awareness of the ways in which we can serve ourselves better and how our teams might also be able to better support us in changing damaging, ingrained practices.
Only then can we work to our full potential and harness the challenges of the past two years as a way of fostering a better future.