We Need to Unlearn Some Behaviours To Deliver Great Wellbeing Cultures

Wellbeing is very much in the news at the moment which is fabulous. We all nod along and agree with the principles don’t we but are we changing our behaviours as a result of what we see and hear? We know what good wellbeing looks like and can easily talk about that to other people but are we changing our behaviours in favour of wellbeing or is real change too difficult? I am a child of the 1970s and started my career in banking during the 1980s. Those were the Thatcher years and I did very well out of her ethos of working hard and putting the hours in but the behaviours we adopted then still seem to be embedded in our collective psyche of what it means to be committed to our roles. Do we need to unlearn some behaviours before we can allow ourselves to move forward into great wellbeing? Can you work hard, be committed to your role and stay well? It should be possible shouldn’t it?


Battling the Competition

It used to be seen as a badge of honour, to work way over our contracted hours, to read emails outside of work time, to live and breathe what we do and not give ourselves time to relax and wind down, spend time with our family and friends, and re-charge our batteries. Some people still see those things as a badge of honour and they are the people we’re battling, in building cultures which promote great wellbeing. Because even if you’re focused on what good wellbeing is for you, if your Line Manager doesn’t see it that way, it could well affect your reputation at work. That’s our fear I think. If you’re lucky to have a Line Manager that’s invested in their own wellbeing and yours, that’s great but how are they perceived by their colleagues if they’re not ‘into that stuff’? An interest in wellbeing can make people roll their eyes, as if we’ve suggested that we all should burn incense and chant for 10 minutes before we start the work day. It can feel like a focus on wellbeing is seen as a weakness. Imagine going home on time at least three days a week! What could you be thinking??!! You’re clearly not committed to your role if that’s the sort of behaviour that you think is acceptable!! It just takes one more old-fashioned view of things to undermine our good intentions, so we need to unlearn our bad habits and behaviours and build a more positive momentum for embedding great wellbeing cultures.


Were The ‘Good Old Days’ Good For Our Health?

The good old days weren’t really that great were they? People were working ridiculous hours, fuelled by alcohol, cigarettes and junk food in some cases. Heart disease was probably rife in particular industries and management levels. Family relationships became strained because partners didn’t understand why emailing at 10pm was an acceptable norm. Competition was fierce and people worked above and beyond their contracted hours to prove their commitment and to progress onto better things. If you always went home on time, you were less likely to get promoted. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? It wasn’t though was it, it wasn’t the hey day that we now seem to view through rose tinted glasses? Sure, we worked hard and some people played hard but were we well or are we now paying the price for some of those excesses in terms of our health and wellbeing? We only tend to value our health as we grow older so there will always be the excesses of youth, and sometimes later life too but were our working conditions supportive of our wellbeing in the last thirty years of the last millennium? Are they now?


Change Happens Slowly But It Definitely Can Be Done 

It’s hard work isn’t it, to lead by example and demonstrate role model behaviours? It’s definitely easier not to and a bit like New Year’s resolutions our best of intentions can get thrown out of the window very quickly as momentum and the commitment to change slow. The BBC are showing a series of programmes called Icons at the moment, re-connecting us with some amazing people who achieved amazing things. Did they have an easy time of things? Err, no but if you want to change things then you need to find the energy to nudge a vast amount of people into changing their thinking, when they’re probably fairly happy, thank you very much with how they’re thinking already! Change can be slow but with dogged determination, great support and an easy ask you’ve got a great chance of making great things happen. Wellbeing is that easy ask isn’t it? What is it that we think we’re doing so brilliantly if we’re not keeping ourselves well while we do it?


How’s Your Wellbeing?

What does your day to day wellbeing look like? Are any of these offences against wellbeing familiar to you?

  • Working through your lunch break
  • Not having a lunch break because you’re travelling off site to a meeting and the travel time constitutes your break
  • Engaging with work tasks while you eat your lunch, phone in one hand, half a sandwich in the other
  • Not taking a break from your screen regularly
  • Only ever going for an emergency wee (colleague of mine)
  • Not making sure you go outside during daylight in the Winter months
  • Not getting up regularly and moving away from your immediate workspace
  • Not checking your posture regularly and stretching
  • Not contacting the Health and Safety person even though you’ve been experiencing aches and pains in your neck and upper limbs for a good while now
  • Not getting your eyes tested even though colleagues keep telling you that you’re squinting at the screen
  • Scrolling through emails while you’re watching TV and trying to hold a conversation with a loved one, outside of work time
  • Logging into your emails on the Sunday before you’re due back in work after annual leave, ‘just to see what’s been going on’
  • Not going to work events that interest you because you’re too busy
  • Going to work events that you’re not interested in but think you should, because your boss or someone more senior will be there
  • Expecting your team to do things that you’re not doing, because they’re not as busy as you apparently – oh dear ☹

Are you guilty of some these? I know that I certainly have been. But exactly how much ammunition, information and awareness do we need in order for us to move towards a culture of wellbeing and that being the norm? We all need to unlearn some behaviours and if we can do that, then we can move forward and keep ourselves well, which makes us effective and productive in our work. Win-win ? Thinking of the people around you now, colleagues, family and friends, do you think less of the people who work very hard but generally stick to their working hours? Who take a break at lunchtime, get up and move around regularly and make time to attend work events that they’re interested in? Often, these days we envy those people because they seem so in control of their work and lives. They’re running it and it’s not running them. But if we all take time to challenge our behaviours and unlearn some of things that we once believed to be true, then we can all find our way to good wellbeing. It cannot be the case, in these more enlightened times that we have to make ourselves unwell in order to do well in our jobs.

The only thing that’s constraining us is our learned behaviours so please, please think about those and think about your wellbeing during the day, in and outside of work. ‘Am I well?’ is a great expression for holding ourselves to account before we make decisions and prioritising our wellbeing is a strength, it doesn’t turn us into flaky people who clearly don’t give a stuff about our jobs. If you think that about other people, you might need to unlearn some behaviours before moving yourself and others to a culture of great wellbeing. Something to think about possibly…

Take good care please, focus on your wellbeing and stay well.


Best wishes, Karen
Email: kw.innerstrength@outlook.com