Wellbeing and the importance of choice

I’m drafting this blog post on a Sunday evening. I’ve just spent an hour or so responding to emails that came in on Friday when I was on leave. I’ve also spent a little time getting myself organised for the day ahead tomorrow.

There is much being talked and written about on the subject of wellbeing right now. About mental health.  About stress in the workplaces.  About the scourge of emails and the impact that always on technology is having upon us. It is the subject of many a conference, many a blog post.  There is plenty too about what we should do about it.  There’s even been a suggestion in France that out of hours emailing be entirely banned.  Then there are other countries experimenting with shorter working days to assess the impact on productivity.

Here’s my take on it. When it comes to my own wellbeing, a big part of it is about having choice.

It is about doing what is right for me, working when it is right for me. That is what true flexibility means.  Working how it works for me to be best effective.  I don’t do well when I am told what to do and when to do it.  That is what causes me to be stressed and unhappy at work.

There is nothing wrong with email; it is how we use it that can cause a problem. There is nothing wrong too with having a notification pinging constantly on your watch – if you like that and find it helpful for you. (I do.  I want to see ALL of the tweets).  There is something wrong with making people undertake commute to an office when they don’t need to and work in an office environment that doesn’t cause them to be well, or to be effective.  There is something wrong with requiring everyone to work a standard set of hours because that is the default in the contract of employment. There is something wrong with people using technology in ways that could cause stress without evening being aware of it.

There is no one size fits all advice. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen a recommendation to turn off your email notifications.  Have a few hours per day when you are not checking them.  There are even Apps that will manage your notifications, silencing them for a period.  If this helps you, then fill your boots.  But for every person that finds this an effective way of working there is someone else that doesn’t want to, can’t comprehend working that way. It wouldn’t work for me. I want to see what is in my in-box.  I want to respond as quickly as possible to the easy things, delete the unnecessary things.  That is the right thing for my wellbeing.

I might be one of the few people that quite like the 9-5. I like it because it fits really well around my exercise regime. I also like being in the office rather than being at home, as I need the stimulation of the team environment.  I think best, create best, out loud.  As my team would no doubt attest.

Here’s the thing. I’m not here, sitting on my sofa, working on a Sunday evening because I am an awesome employee.  I’m not doing it because I am over worked.  I am not doing it because I am trying to prove to someone else how hard I’m working. I’m doing it because I want to and it will help me have an effective day tomorrow.  And TBH, there’s nothing on the TV and I’ve already been to the gym.

What can organisations and HR professionals do around wellbeing at work? Plenty.  But for me, it starts with recognising each employee as an individual with their own needs, their own ways of working personal to them.

Help people find what that is.  Help leaders understand this very simple concept.


2 thoughts on “Wellbeing and the importance of choice

  1. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS! Such a good post, Gem! I agree, I have to say, I don’t like that some managers email me at 10pm at night, however, that is when they choose to work or to get work done and that is what they choose to do. I am in a position to see/notice/speak with managers around people who we believe to be over working, however, a lot of parents choose to leave work around 3ish to pick up there kids, do all the kids things and then tune back into work around 8pm once the kids have gone to bed to finish off the rest of their day. That doesn’t mean they’ve worked “over” their hours, it just means they are working at a different time of the day in order to have flexibility at a time that works for them (after school). I see that a lot with higher up positions these days, which I think is great that they are controlling their own flexibility. I also agree with truly channeling flexibility. An organisation can’t say that they are flexible and want to promote flexibility but frown upon people working from home, or leaving early to go to the gym but then logging into work later. I am the same as you, I like my 8.30am – 5pm day with my lunch break. That gives me time to go to the gym in the morning and/or go for a run after work.

  2. This resonates so much with me Gem – thanks. I think our approaches are similar. Being in the social media space I’m more than happy to deal with stuff at all hours providing people don’t judge me for being visible (to them) once I’ve taken my boys to school. It’s the choice I make. It’s how I manage my wellbeing and make the most for me, my family and my employer (& our customers)

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