Workplace wellbeing is broken

There, I said it! The way that we address wellbeing in the workplace is failing so many people, in so many ways! We seek simple solutions to complex problems and we are breaking people by pushing forward with initiatives that have failed in the past, or are easy to do, simply because we lack the courage to try to be different.

“Insanity is doing things the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”

Is your organisation one that actively promotes wellness in every sense, or one that simply provides “mindfulness training”, “yoga”, some fruit or even better prides itself on having “an EAP and a chaplain!

While I know this is going to be controversial, I wish to propose a better way of doing business in this space. What if, for a change, we truly made our workplaces places where wellness can thrive, independent of the myriad of “wellness gurus” out there who seem to just create noise and in many ways dilute the positive messages and great initiatives underway elsewhere. 

Anyone in this space will tell people that to be better mentally, they need to do a few things:

  • Tell someone – what if its a 60 year old man who simply doesn’t want to talk? What if the person they are supposed to talk to has simply no idea what it is that they do for a job (eg a 21 yr old psychologist who is trying to talk to a group of firefighters just back from their latest critical event). Surely its their fault if they don’t want to talk…toxic masculinity and all that!
  • Get some exercise – what if your work requires people to work 60 hour weeks? What if its a young mum (yes its still normally a mum unfortunately!) who drops their child at school, scrambles to work to get their time in, eats lunch at their desk and then scrambles off at 245 to pick their kids up … when do they fit in exercise??? What if its someone who is obese and trying to get started … how do they do that without support?
  • Eat better – what if you are a shiftworker (say a paramedic or a police officer) and looking for food on the road at 2 in the morning? Where do they get this food from? What if people genuinely can’t make sense of the multitude of information coming their way every day about proper nutrition??
  • Prioritise family time – With rising costs of living, is yours an organisation who prides itself on never delivering workplace agreements on time? I know a fire service who hasn’t had an agreement for over 3 years now! These people now work excessive hours in overtime simply to pay the bills. How do they prioritise family time? Or just as badly, is yours an organisation with managers who are happy to contact staff at all hours?

I fully believe that the answer to improving wellness lies not in doing what we have always done, but taking a multi-disciplinary approach that encompasses all aspects of a persons wellbeing. This will require some hard conversations around the way that we structure our work. It will take genuine, courageous leaders to push back against “the way we’ve always done it.” 

Our managers need to be trained to be leaders in this area so that they become change agents rather than simply perpetuating a broken system, particularly those who think that simply celebrating RuOK day once a year is enough.

For any organisation looking to change the way that they address wellbeing of their staff, I would love to help! We can work with you to create better work for everyone by better training your leaders in how to properly address workplace wellness, and while there is no “one size fits all model” I offer you this as a potential way to start the conversation.

Contact me to start the conversation.

Dr Anthony Walker

Dr Anthony Walker

I'm a human performance specialise, using cutting edge research and science to optimise the performance of workers in high pressure environments.

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