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Reflections on Wellbeing as We Look to the Year Ahead

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In June 2021, ChapmanCG and Development Beyond Learning partnered to deliver a World Wellbeing Week roundtable, looking at how to promote talent wellbeing in the hybrid future of work. Matthew Chapman and Josh Mackenzie, Founders of ChapmanCG and DBL respectively, reflect on what they have learned about wellbeing since; both as individuals, and as leaders committed to supporting their people’s wellbeing.

Wellbeing has exploded as an area of concern for much of the world, especially in the context of “work.” We have seen an expansion of the employer’s responsibility for employees to one which extends much further than merely time spent in the office. We now have an expanded view of an employee’s whole life and how this plays into performing at their best.

Wellness has always been of great interest to me. As an ultra-marathoner, who crossed some of the world’s harshest deserts by foot, I learned the importance of staying in equilibrium with the right formula of nutrition, water, and pace. Similarly, as we juggle the same ultra-marathon “of life,” I have found the same philosophies of being conscious of the finite bounds of body and mind just as important.

As a leader, the focus of the wellbeing of people in the ecosystem in which I operate has always been of importance, including that of employees, clients, and other stakeholders. The greatest challenge is the overall wellbeing of a collective group, and then there is individual wellbeing at a personal level. Both require different responses and levels of perceptiveness.

Looking across the global HR community and the HR philosophies at play, we see an exciting era dawning where we appreciate that focusing on wellness as individuals, leaders and companies is not an afterthought or negotiable; rather, it sits at the core. In the future, we will use wellness as our baseline to build even more compelling and resilient cultures that will enhance creativity, ingenuity, and effectiveness in organisations. Organisations that demonstrate support for employee wellbeing and employ innovative programmes to do so have experienced gains in employee engagement, performance, and job satisfaction. Looking at the current landscape of talent wellbeing, and with the disruption caused by COVID variants continuing to wield disruption over the year ahead, we can see that there has never been a more pertinent time to support the wellbeing of the global workforce.

Employee wellbeing has gained increased organisational focus and prioritisation over the last decade. At the same time, there has been a reported decrease in the lived experience of wellbeing globally. Indeed, global wellbeing levels have been on a downward trajectory for the last decade, while in the UK depression rates have more than doubled during the pandemic.

With the impact of COVID-19, successive lockdowns and global restrictions to freedom detrimentally affecting societal wellbeing, our behavioural scientists at DBL have been closely tracking the impact of the pandemic on the wellbeing levels of the global workforce.

Leveraging research methodology utilised by the UK government under the guidance of LSE Professor Baron Richard Layard, we commissioned research surveying over one thousand senior executives, talent, HR and L&D leaders, early career employees, students and established talent across our core markets in the UK, Australia and Southeast Asia.

We discovered that wellbeing is the number one concern due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, for both business leaders and employees. Our research also demonstrated that the impact of COVID-19 on wellbeing in the workplace has not been democratic, with certain groups particularly vulnerable to depleted wellbeing, specifically:

Myriad factors play into these wellbeing gaps, including levels of autonomy, resource, and confidence, as well as opportunities for connection—all of which employers will need to navigate as we transition to the hybrid future of work.

There are clear commercial and human benefits to supporting wellbeing, thereby improving overall business performance, and amounting to a compelling case for any business. And with many commentators predicting the current situation is likely to become increasingly urgent, combined with the projected impact of future hybrid working on this negative wellbeing trajectory for employees, the onus will be on employers to mitigate the wellbeing gap and support their people through this crucial next phase.

To this end, DBL commissioned a rigorous literature review and meta-analysis, which have informed our recommendations for supporting employee and organisational wellbeing. These are outlined in a model we have named C-A-L-M.

In a snapshot, the tenets of C-A-L-M are:

Confidence: Essential to success in life, and a key is component of our mental health and wellbeing.

Adaptability: As humans, we are hardwired to dislike uncertainty, so learning how to adapt and to adopt positive mindsets and habits is essential to thrive and sustain our wellbeing in the long-term.

Links: Feeling connected is one of our core psychological needs and feeling that we belong is one of the most direct correlates to the lived experience of positive wellbeing.

Motivation: The catalyst, compass, and fuel for goal-oriented behaviours, motivation has a direct impact on performance. Understanding what drives our motivation—when to use different types of motivation and how to motivate ourselves—helps move us towards experiencing a happier, healthier, more rewarding, and successful life.

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Personally, my sense of purpose—and being able to lead a purpose-driven organisation—has been instrumental in supporting my own wellbeing. Amidst the constantly changing circumstances and ambiguity that continued throughout 2021 and into 2022, I have valued being able to draw energy, motivation, vision, and focus from the stability of purpose. And I have also had the privilege of bringing this to our team and our clients.

As a business leader navigating through the uncertain context of 2021 and into 2022 with my management team, the data uncovered around the wellbeing gap for ‘the led vs leaders’ has been particularly illuminating and, being mindful of this, we have put our people’s wellbeing at the core of our response to the pandemic, leveraging the C-A-L-M model. From providing training for our global team in areas such as Confidence, Purpose, Adaptable Mindset, Promoting Belonging, to providing a training budget and access to training platforms so that employees can build their own capability and confidence.

We have removed or reduced uncertainty for our people wherever possible, providing regular communications from our management team, and highlighting areas of and opportunities for autonomy, for everyone. We have created new moments for connections across teams, and successfully built a sense of community and inclusivity throughout our multiple regions, with a team that is larger and more diverse than ever before.

2021 was an exceptional year, in many ways and for several reasons. Despite the uncertainty that lies ahead for all of us this year, as a leader and as an individual I am grateful to feel confident about the year to come and equipped to support my own and my people’s wellbeing as the world navigates its way through 2022 and into the future of work.

This article has been abridged and updated from DBL’s ‘Keep C-A-L-M and Build Wellbeing’ paper. If you would like to read the full white paper, you can access it here.

 

About ChapmanCG

ChapmanCG is the world’s only retained executive search firm dedicated to the Human Resources profession with a presence in all major regions. We have teams operating in most of the world’s key regions and locations around the world.

We work with the world’s leading companies to develop and execute HR search strategy and we partner with CHROs and CEOs in every industry to appoint their global, regional and country HR teams.

ChapmanCG was founded by Matthew Chapman in 2008.

For more information and assistance on your search for your HR Leadership team please contact us.

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