Wellbeing Week 2015We live in ever changing times. Whether we look at the world of politics, technology or business, change appears to be both inevitable and relentless. Yet, despite this unavoidable trend, we remain reluctant and almost fearful of uncertainty; in particular when it’s a product of external circumstances and not through personal choice.

We can spot our own reactive tendencies by looking at the simple decisions in life. As an example, when you were last forced to deviate from your expected plan, perhaps defaulting to a friend’s favourite restaurant over your own, how did you react?

Can you honestly say you embraced the thought with wholehearted optimism and excitement? Or did you hold onto a residual feeling of grumpiness or reluctance?

The agile myth

Applying these inclinations to the business world makes things even more interesting. Despite the accelerated ‘culture of continuous change’ employees are becoming increasingly exhausted and fatigued by the prospect of doing things differently.

There remains an inherent contradiction whereby employees are trained in dynamic ways of working and agile methodologies, yet their in-built emotional and mental responses to such circumstances remains limited. They appear frozen and unenthusiastic, in the same vein as our restaurant example.

As employee wellbeing organisation Robertson Cooper (2015) describes, people’s emotional response demonstrates a susceptibility for falling into a ‘valley of despair’ that can either be followed by a long, difficult period of integration or a complete ‘opt out’ mentality. Such tendencies are costly and not only extend the period of turbulence or transition, but also increase the probability of attrition figures during this flux.

Harbouring an energy for change

What can be done to shift such ingrained mindsets that repel uncertainty and protect over-cautious cultures that can’t be challenged?

As Socrates said, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new.” This is supported by research from social researcher Dr. Brené Brown, who states we need to start cultivating mindsets of courage rather than comfort.

Fortunately, in both the HR industry and the research sphere, there is an increasing movement that talks of a new way of managing change. One that harbours employee positivity and energy by placing wellbeing at the heart. This is something that Harvard Business Review (2000) reiterates by confirming that understanding and motivating people in the context of being well is the key to cracking the modern code of change.

Pioneering companies are beginning to experiment with wellbeing as a tool to accelerate change. By authentically and proactively building people’s mental and emotional journey into wellbeing strategies, businesses are discovering that the initial negative period of anxiety is minimised and that the optimal positive end-state of change is reached faster, according to Robertson Cooper.

A new skillset for change

So, how do we get there and what does it mean to put wellbeing first? Innovative leaders, such as the technology entrepreneur Sanjiv Sidhu, are calling for a new era of people, skills and development; one that moves away from external knowledge alone towards encompassing inner awareness and understanding. Sidhu’s philosophy advocates the idea that we should be focusing on cultivating mindsets whereby we can remain ‘empowered despite circumstance.’

Our work at Yoke Consultancy also promotes this theory and we are delighted to be witnessing a growth in businesses wanting to proactively, rather than reactively, support the development of wellbeing skills for their employees. In particular, we are supporting a new wave of transformative change programmes that:

  • Embed a process of wellbeing into new ways of working
  • Establish credible and flexible wellbeing training programmes
  • Instil a language of resilience, awareness and wellbeing in cross hierarchy conversations
  • Measure and value organisational wellbeing

As Robertson Cooper helpfully concludes, “when people are energised, feel good psychologically and resilience levels are high, their response to change improves significantly.” The result is that, if you want to stay ahead of the game and create a culture that attracts employees that embrace change as an opportunity, it’s time to be proactive and use wellbeing as the tool for turbulent times.