The Covid-19 crisis shifted the tectonic plates on which our personal and working lives sat steady for so long. It dramatically disrupted industries and economies around the world but when we analyse it we can clearly see that its real impact has been on people. It has only really been with us for three months. Yet, in that short space of time, we have had to redesign how we think about the work we do and how we manage ourselves in a rapidly changing and disrupted working environment.
We have all had to reimagine the concept of workspace. For some of us that may have been easier than others. After all, some of us are innovators and thrive in discomfort and uncertainty. But for the majority, Covid 19 has been a time of fear and uncertainty, routines collapsed, concrete norms eroded, this sense of insecurity was compounded further by a sense of powerlessness.
This impacted wellness significantly throughout industry because as much as we talk about economies, which can seem somehow detached from people, it is people we are talking about. In another branch of my non-linear career, I work as a facilitator for the Eleven programme. This is a leadership programme for top executives in Ireland. At the core of this programme is the concept of ‘self’ in leadership.
We have moved away from the traditional notion of ‘Self’ put forward by philosophers like Plato and Kant who suggested that the self or soul, as they saw it, is never-ending, to a more complex understanding that the ‘self’ is a multilevel system not simply reducible to one concept like soul but rather a multifaceted interaction of mechanisms operating at the neural, psychological and social level.
What all this means is that, in modern terms, we believe the ‘self’ is a combination of many factors not least of all, social. And we are mammals, which means the social aspect of our formation is vitally important for our sense of wellness. I always look for silver linings in any adverse experience. Our comfort zone is a really nice place but nothing grows there. And COVID 19 has certainly pushed us into discomfort but there have been so many lessons to be learned.
There is no doubt about it; this crisis has catapulted us into the future in relation to imaging work and talent acquisition. But it has also, and more importantly brought us back into contact with something we had become estranged from; the importance of community and shared responsibility. We overcame our fears and anxieties because, as the phrase read, ‘we are in this together’. It was this sense of solidarity that helped us endure.
A key attribute in business is the idea of resilience. But what does this mean and how can a firm or corporation promote a sense of wellness in its organisation?
In the family sense, developing your child’s resilience is all about equipping them with the tools necessary to manage obstacles that will inevitably come their way. I often write about how parents can inadvertently bankrupt their child’s reservoir of skills by removing all obstacles from them. I like to utilise an analogy for parents when I am discussing this topic.
I ask them to recall how they taught their child to cross the road. I explain that they wouldn’t dream of telling their child not to bother looking at the cars because they will always be there to help them cross the road. In fact, we do the opposite, because we are preparing them for when we are not there and they have to face the danger of crossing the road on their own.
Developing resilience is the same. And in a corporate sense developing your colleague’s resilience is about finally understanding that we all have responsibility in each other’s wellness. For too long the notion of corporate wellness was an alien and risible concept, one that leaders believed had no place in the working environment. To talk about wellness could be seen a weakness. Or at the very least, leaders really felt at a loss as to what to do about the mental health of their colleagues and hoped that by not talking about the topic it might simply go away.
Thankfully Covid-19 has not only disrupted business but also some anachronistic entrenched ideas held in business. And this is the silver lining for me out of all of this chaos and disruption. We now know that we cannot compartmentalise ourselves like that. Wellness is not something we only think about in our private space. There is corporate wellness and it is vitally important for the successful running of a firm or company.
Corporate wellness is now on the lips of leaders. We know that our colleague’s wellness is our wellness because we are all connected to each other. We must strive further to remove any stigma attached to asking for help when it comes to our mental health. We all have moments of doubt, fear and anxiety. But when we look around and observe that we are in an environment surrounded by people who experience and feel the same as we do and are not frightened to express those feelings, true corporate wellness is achieved.