Historically, us Brits have always been renowned for having the ‘stiff upper lip’; for being made of sturdy stuff and generally not letting wimpy things like emotions get in the way of doing one’s duty. One glance at today’s litigation culture may suggest otherwise, but generally speaking, the British tend to be less than forthcoming about our feelings - particularly in a professional setting.
It’s no surprise that the average business person doesn’t relish the prospect of breaking down in tears in front of colleagues or employees. But there’s a thriving idea among the business community that actually, taking care of the mental, emotional and physical health of all in your team - including yourself - could be as important a part of your company’s strategy as the right marketing and the most cost-effective processes.
This week I took myself along to the Wellbeing Symposium at the Kent Event Centre, near Maidstone, and heard some very interesting ideas about emotional health in particular. One exhibitor, JW Training, promotes the idea that each company should have an emotional first aider on their staff, in the same way that they have a volunteer to take care of minor physical ailments and accidents. Tending to hurt feelings can of course take significantly longer than patching up a cut finger, but the theory is an intriguing one - that employers should acknowledge and invest in the fact that life’s trials can’t always be kept outside the office door.
During a fascinating talk by JW Training director Barry Lewis, I learned that I possess an emotional reservoir, an emotional health scale and a work/life quadrant. I also learned that, far from the hours of meditation and yoga I’d been picturing, the rather trendy concept of ‘mindfulness’ need only take a minute at a time, up to 10 times per day. It appears to be as simple as turning away from the computer, looking around you and reconnecting with your five senses - just for a minute, to remind yourself that you’re still a complex, amazing human being rather than a machine.
Now if all this sounds like a collection of meaningless buzzwords to you, let’s step back and remember that all the emotional health advocates are really saying is that happy, motivated employees tend to get more work done than miserable, isolated ones. And isn’t that what we all really want?
We’ll be exploring issues surrounding wellbeing at work in the next edition of South East Business, so do let us know your views on how you keep the work/life balance in check - if you manage it!