We are well into November, and the holidays and end of the year are fast approaching. While we can look forward to the pretty lights and family traditions, there’s also a lot of pressure surrounding this time of year— from end-of-year work deadlines to gloomy weather. These stressors can get to us, and cause a lot of anxiety.
And when you add work stress into the mix, the results can be harmful to our health. For leaders, this presents a huge opportunity to make a positive difference by providing relief valves for their teams, improving connection in the workplace, and embracing conversations about well-being at work.
The Consequences of Poor Well-Being in the Workplace
The statistics for workforce health are not awesome:
- Roughly half the U.S. workforce struggles with burnout.
- 76% of the U.S. workforce see workplace stress negatively impacting their personal relationships.
- Excessive stress at work accounts for $190 billion in healthcare costs each year.
- In Sweden, the average amount of used sick days per employee increased one whole day per year from 2021 to 2022.
- The U.S. is currently seeing its highest absentee rate in the last decade.
- Poor mental health was responsible for 20% of sick days used in France in 2022 — a 5% increase from 2020.
Certainly, the threat of poor well-being is real, and very serious. So what is a leader’s role in their team’s well-being?
Just as emotional intelligence has become a sought-after leadership skill, MIT Sloan Management Review proposes the same for well-being intelligence — the ability to identify core mental health challenges, acknowledge their root causes, and design approaches to address them at the individual, team, and organizational levels.
These experts suggest leaders view well-being intelligence as overlapping circles, as shown here:
Well-being intelligence begins with the self. We cannot have a positive impact on the well-being of others if we are not aware of our own. Once we assess our own health and identify what we need to work on, we must make changes in our own work practices. For example, if you notice you are feeling more stressed at work than usual, ask yourself, Am I putting too much on my plate? Maybe I should start using more discretion when deciding what projects to take on.
Self-awareness and the change of individual work practices foster your ability to nourish the well-being of your team. You can use that self-awareness to make astute observations about your team’s health and work together to improve work and management practices. For example, if you noticed that your well-being improved when you started saying “yes” to fewer projects, perhaps your reports’ would too.
Finally, once your team’s well-being begins to improve, they serve as an example of how other departments in your organization can improve their own, and the positive change has a ripple effect that can improve health company-wide and lead to an uptick in engagement and productivity. Soon, well-being can become embedded within the entire culture of the organization.
The Role of Psychological Safety in Workplace Well-Being
As with emotional intelligence, psychological safety is required to have productive, collaborative discussions surrounding well-being at work. It’s key for leaders to take this seriously and understand that most people don’t like to complain and avoid it at all costs, especially when they worry it could threaten their career. But establishing a safe space for employees to express concerns, to be human, creates opportunities to improve team environments, making way for better productivity and engagement.
Putting Well-Being Intelligence Into Practice
You can practice well-being intelligence by doing the following:
- Talk about it! Lead by example. Open up to your team about your own well-being and how it affects your work. Of course, use your discretion to ensure the timing is appropriate and that you leave space for others to share their experience afterward.
- Look for behavioral cues from team members that may indicate poor well-being, such as struggling to maintain their workload, self-isolating, or arriving late. Consider reaching out privately via email, expressing authentic concern for your team member’s health rather than commenting on negative impacts to their work—feeling like they’re in trouble will only worsen their mental health.
- Dedicate space for well-being check-ins. You can incorporate check-ins into your regular meeting agendas. It may also be smart to administer more formal, confidential well-being surveys, both to make space for employees who don’t wish to speak up about their mental health in meetings and to keep an organized record of how your team is doing.
To discuss how I can help your team communicate more effectively, book a discovery call here.