Workplace Well-Being and All I Know So Far
By Loretta Oleksy, Mindful Life and Work Coach, Thought Kitchen LLC
July 1, 2022
It’s heartening to see more people recognizing that workplace culture is tied to employee well-being, and that promoting employee well-being is not only the right thing to do but also positively correlated with improved productivity. If your organizational leadership has figured this out and integrated it into the culture, you know what an impact proactive leadership can make.
For those whose organizations are either still figuring it out or are in the midst of slow change, it can be frustrating. I know; I’ve been there. If it seems like your choices are either stay and be miserable or jump at the first opportunity to leave, don’t despair; there is a middle way.
Employers Should Go Beyond Encouraging Self-Care
To be clear, I’m not letting employers off the hook. For employees to thrive in a sustainable way, leaders must take responsibility for creating a work environment that promotes growth and development (which is IWIL’s July 2022 well-being theme) and generally build healthy workplace cultures. Providing opportunities for self-care practices like yoga and exercise are important, but they aren’t enough. Employee self-care cannot overcome the impact of a toxic work culture. If you’re in a leadership position and want to learn more, there are some great resources listed elsewhere in IWIL’s July Resources Guide.
What To Do While Waiting For Change
For those of you who are not in leadership positions and wondering how to survive in a workplace that isn’t prioritizing employee needs, I see you. My answer isn’t grounded in research, but rather in my own experience and the experiences of others who graciously shared them with me. I invite you to take what seems helpful and leave the rest. Inspired by the modern-day philosopher and poet P!nk, here’s all I know so far.
1. You’re Not Alone
You’re not alone. It may feel like it because it isn’t safe to talk about it, but you aren’t the only one. I don’t say this in a “misery loves company” way but in a sense of shared experience and common humanity. Somehow knowing you aren’t alone can create a sense of connectedness and relatedness.
It isn’t your responsibility to fix the workplace – and also, you can take back some of your power and find ways to survive and maybe even help support others. Doing that can create some sense of autonomy and competence.
2. Be The Leader You Want To See
For those of you looking for leadership in your organization, I offer a gentle reminder that there’s a leader in every seat. Maybe the only person your leadership will impact is you, maybe it will affect someone in a way you’ll never know.
For me, one day I just decided to act like I had the power to effect change until someone stopped me. I was miserable and felt like I had nothing to lose, so I started finding ways to create micro-moments of relatedness, competence, and autonomy (basic psychological needs that are a focus of IWIL’s July Resources Guide).
3. Reframe Everyday Experiences To Feel More Empowered
I found small ways to reframe. When I felt I had no autonomy, I would find small choices. For example, “I choose to come to the office every day,” or “I choose how or whether I will react to a person who is treating me badly.” I created moments of connectedness by scheduling time with my coworkers away from the office – we would grab a coffee or lunch. Not only did I feel more connected, so did they, and we started checking in on each other. Another person shared with me that they had intentionally asked about what colleagues did outside of work – hobbies, pets, family – in order to create relatedness.
4. Integrate Your Interests & Passions into Your Work
Another tactic others shared with me is to find passion projects. If you have an area of interest that is related to your job, find out if there is a way to incorporate it.
5. Clarify Your Strengths & Values
Get clear about your strengths and values. I’m a huge fan of assessments like StrengthsFinder, VIA Character Strengths, and similar assessments. Knowing your strengths and showing your guiding values can help you find areas where your work is aligned with them, and where it isn’t. Finding those areas of alignment creates moments of autonomy and authenticity. Only you know that tipping point where your values and the organization’s values are so out of line that it’s time to go. Until that time, finding ways to align your strengths and values helps feed those needs for autonomy and competence. You can find worksheets to help you identify your strengths and gain alignment with your values here, here, here, and here.
6. Find a Mentor
Finally, seek out a mentor. If possible, find someone inside your organization and outside. Both have been instrumental in saving my sanity on the hard days, finding the path to flourishing, and celebrating the big and small wins. As a younger attorney I hesitated to reach out to more seasoned attorneys because I perceived it as bothering them. Now that I am in the category of “more seasoned” I know what a joy it is to be sought out and how much both sides gain from the relationship. I know my mentors and my mentees helped me survive when I wasn’t sure I could and are cheering me on as I thrive today.
I don’t have all the answers; maybe I don’t have any. What I do know is we all deserve to thrive, and sometimes that starts with finding small ways to survive with others who are trying to do the same. That’s all I know so far.
The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute for Well-Being in Law. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.