The wellbeing framework: a useful tool to support leaders and their teams in difficult times?
In this time of national crisis, wellbeing isn’t a ‘nice to have’ – it’s an essential. Here, Sally Tanski, managing consultant, and Andrew Limb, client partner, at PSI Talent Management explain how leadership teams can help employees navigate the crisis by placing wellbeing front and centre.
Even at the best of times it can be tricky to balance the external demands placed on us with the inner resources we have to cope. Now, in these very difficult times, many of us are struggling. We are anxious about our own health, our loved ones, our finances and the strain on healthcare services. Simultaneously, we are torn between the need to balance changing work demands with increased family pressures – all while facing an extended period of social distancing. It’s a lot to contend with.
While we are not in control of what life throws at us, we are in control of how we respond – our emotional reaction or feelings.
Recent research shows that nearly three quarters of UK adults are concerned about family members getting seriously sick from Coronavirus, with nearly a third of people saying they fear their own mental health worsening. At the same time, some people are exercising less, eating less healthy foods and not sleeping as much or as well as they normally would. This is depleting our wellbeing, and therefore our ability to cope, at a time when it is most needed.
Wellbeing dips when the challenges we face outweigh the resources we have to cope with them. It’s about more than just an absence of mental or physical health. While we can’t change the external demands placed on us as a result of this global pandemic, we can take steps to manage our inner resources and as a result, our own wellbeing, as well as supporting our colleagues to do the same.
A wellbeing framework
It’s useful to look at both halves of life – professional and personal – when trying to balance our internal assets with the external liabilities we face. Where do our strengths lie? Where are our blind spots? How can we develop strategies and tools to address these gaps?
The following framework helps to break this analysis down, so that individuals and organisations can identify what they most need to focus on.
Picture credit: Global Leadership Wellbeing Survey Framework © EEK & SENSE Partners.
- Relationships – with family, friends, colleagues and community.
- Meaning, purpose and direction – whether we are leading a good and full life.
- Resilience and equanimity – our inner strength and emotional evenness.
- Vitality and energy – our physical health, nutrition exercise and sleep.
- Balance and boundaries – our success in balancing the demands placed on us.
- Intellectual engagement and flow – our intrinsic interest and engagement in our work.
Typically, people focus their coping strategies in the vitality and energy dimension of this framework. While this is important, wellbeing is the combination of all of these factors, and some will be more important at certain times than others. For example, many business leaders we speak to are finding the area of balance and boundaries to be their biggest challenge at the moment.
To support this, we need to look at the classic work/life balance conundrum – the tensions that may exist between our work and non-work identities. Then, we need to understand how we are running our lives in ways that might be draining our energy, balance, and sustainability.
The importance of EI
An awareness and management of our personal and interpersonal attitudes and feelings is important in order to manage these tensions, and deliver the behaviours that will lead to enhanced wellbeing – this is emotional intelligence (EI). It is possible to improve our EI, with all of the wellbeing and performance benefits this brings. For leaders, this is about ensuring you place enough importance on your own wellbeing. It’s the equivalent of fitting your own oxygen mask first.
While we are not in control of what life throws at us, we are in control of how we respond – our emotional reaction or feelings. After an initial hormone and chemical fuelled reaction to events, our emotional state is largely a matter of choice. Whether we realise it or not, we often choose to stay in a particular emotional state.
The first step towards changing this, and developing a sense of empowerment and influence over your circumstances, is to recognise the emotional state you are in and where your energy currently lies.
Think about your feelings, are you:
- Stressed, tense and anxious?
- Burnt out and feeling tired, or even depressed?
- Energised, excited and feeling optimistic?
- Or in a state of renewal, feeling relaxed and calm?
It’s perfectly normal to move around these four different zones. Spending too long in a stressed or burnt out state can become problematic, however. The key is to notice, and spot the red flags that show you’re moving out of a positive place into a less healthy one.
This relates closely to the attitudes we hold about ourselves (self-regard) and about others (regard for others). Self-regard is the primary attitude underpinning EI, and the EI attribute most closely connected with wellbeing. It helps you to value yourself, and accept your weaknesses without being overly self-critical.
Developing self-regard in balance with regard for others will help you to meet your own needs as well as those of others, prioritising the things that you need to stay well. This helps you to keep challenges in perspective, stay calm, and provide leadership that supports wellbeing for you and your team.
Take a minute to consider, in recent weeks, how long you have spent in each of the four emotional zones. Where are you at your best? What are your optimal patterns of movement over a day or week? What causes you to move to a different zone? Then consider what action you can take to make any changes. It’s important to realise that you have much more choice about this than you might think.
Identifying the changes you want to make is one thing – making them and sticking to them is another. Doing that requires you to value yourself enough to make time and check-in with how you are feeling.
Leading for wellbeing
It’s important to stress that investing in wellbeing at work is worth doing at all times. What’s more, wellbeing is a key leadership capability for the agile and digital age, not just during the Coronavirus pandemic. The attitudes, skills and behaviours encompassed in this important leadership capability are essential, and they can all be developed.
To access a series of free EI tools to support you and your team, including the EI Zone app, a series of 10-minute EI videos and a series of Leadership Lounge webinars – go to www.psionline.com/PracticalEI.
Interested in this topic? Read How to help employees take care of their own wellbeing during a crisis.