In today’s workplace, resilience is a skill employees cannot do without. Even after the pandemic ends, the world will remain in a constant state of change and uncertainty. Employers who equip their workforce with techniques that can help them better manage stress and anxiety in today’s fast-paced, distraction-heavy world will reap rewards in productivity, retention and overall resilience. To do this, employers must develop a company culture of mental and emotional wellbeing.
This is important for so many reasons. Research
Recognize that change will be constant.
The end of the pandemic will not mean a return to “business as usual.” The nature of work is changing. With the shift to more project-based roles at many companies, employees no longer have one “job.” Many have 10 or 12 projects to manage over the course of a year. This constant change is a source of stress.
Whil, A Rethink Division has researched the effects of career-specific micro-stressors that contribute to feelings of overwhelm. For example, sales staff who hear “no” all day long are prone to stress, as this leads to worry about commission-based pay. Healthcare workers can feel overwhelmed by the flood of emotions they experience as they care for patients.
On top of what is going on at work, every employee carries the hidden stressors that come from their home lives and their roles as parents and caregivers. These can include anxiety, grief, loneliness or worry over things like healthcare or home schooling.
These stressors have a direct impact on companies’ performance. Studies have shown that highly stressed employees use 130% more sick days, are 60% less productive and account for 46% more in medical claims on average than employees with a lower level of stress.
Make sure your solutions fit today’s lifestyles.
Remember the old days of 30- and 60-day self-improvement programs? These don’t match the way employees learn and consume information today. This is why Whil has developed programs that teach employees tips and techniques that they can learn in 1, 3 or 5 minutes and immediately put to use in their daily lives.
Much of this rests on helping individuals take control of the cycle of thoughts, feelings, actions and results (TFAR). All of us are either in a negative or a positive cycle of thought at any given point in time. Our thoughts impact our feelings, which impact our actions, which drive results. Statistics show that too many employees get caught in a negative cycle, where they are not in control of their thoughts or feelings but are actually controlled by them.
One example of how to take control of this cycle is a two-minute exercise in attention training. To do this, simply sit comfortably and take five normal breaths. As thoughts intrude, give them a one-word description, such as “family” or “job”, and dismiss them. Next, take five very deep breaths, holding for a few seconds after you inhale. Notice the sensation of breathing, and maintain complete focus on your breath.
With this two-minute exercise, you begin to train yourself to focus attention on something as simple as breath, building capacity for focus in all areas of life. You learn to notice distractions, to give them a label and set them aside. And the simple act of deep breathing fights stress physiologically, by bringing extra oxygen to the entire body.
A good practice is to encourage employees to take at least one break like this per day. Regular attention training can help build these skills over the course of time. Whil, A Rethink Division has developed a broad offering of lessons that can be taken on these short breaks that can help individuals increase focus and memory, reduce stress and anxiety, expand creativity, strengthen immunity, sleep better and more.
We get better at the things we practice most. Unfortunately, too many of us are practicing distraction by mindlessly picking up our mobile devices hundreds of times throughout the day. Building the habit of being comfortable sitting with our own thoughts opens us up to greater focus, greater productivity and better emotional wellbeing.
A 2016 study found that the human attention span had shrunk to about eight to 12 seconds—about as much as a goldfish. This a direct result of our increased dependence on mobile devices creating distraction and a constant access to information we no longer commit to memory.
The majority of people aren’t willing to take five to 10 minutes a day to focus on wellbeing, but we are at a juncture in the world where it is critical that we do this. We must create a culture within our companies to take better care of our employees.
This post is adapted from Burton’s presentation at HERO Health’s 2021 Forum, Bouncing Back: Boosting Mental Resilience and Building Organizational Immunity, in October 2021.
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