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Wellbeing IS Performance

2nd Feb 2020: by Maria Paviour - founder of Cari - connect with me on LinkedIn

I started my journey into the wonderful world of employee mental health back in 1980’s, when the new buzz word was ‘stress’!

And our relationship to that ‘stress’ word has shaped a lot of our current thinking on employee wellbeing. And I’m about to explode a few myths around that. Are you ready?

Myth 1 – Wellbeing is a state of calm and relaxation

Our bodies are designed for variation in our levels of energy. There are times when we need to be active and energised and times when we need to be relaxed and restorative. When these are in balance we can achieve great levels of wellbeing.

But a state of relaxation as such is not a great place to be when you’re at work. It may seem lovely to have your entire team zenned out, but is this going to ensure that the organisation thrives, as well as the people.

Wellbeing is not about relaxation – it is about balance – energy, action, performance and restoration and rest.

This kind of environment, which I call an “Angel Culture” – which used to be called “Country Club Management” – is wonderful to work within…for a short amount of time…but, not surprisingly, is terrible for the effectiveness of the business.

Everyone is relaxed and happily taking their time with all their tasks. Hmm, the problem is clear…and this is one reason why wellbeing doesn’t always sit comfortably with Heads of Service – not because they are cruel task masters – no! but because they instinctively know that being zenned out is perhaps not good at work.

Myth 2 – The Fight or Flight response is not good for you

This is just not true. I like to rebrand the idea of fight or flight, and call it ‘positively energised’.

Maybe you are thinking – just changing the name doesn’t make any difference… are you thinking that? Because I would have been myself, only I now realise that the name is important.

The way we respond to our bodies is as vital as the stimuli causing the reaction in the first place. Research has shown that our attitude to ‘stress’, affects our mortality rate – yes, if you experience a very stressful life event, but believe that stress is dangerous to you, you increase your mortality by 40% in a given year – but if you experience that stressful event and don’t think that it was dangerous – well, you have the lowest mortality rate of all groups measured!

So stress is not the killer – it is the belief that stress is dangerous that really does you in! [ref The Upside of Stress – Kelly McGonigal]

So, instead of fight or flight, let’s say positively energised – because what is actually happening is that your body is preparing itself for the task in hand.

Your body is rising to the challenge – and you will become sharper or mind, clearer of sight, keener of hearing and your brain ensures that the energy is being delivered to all the bits that need it – arms and legs to get you moving, moving! Now, short term this is fabulous – your amazing body turns on superdrive and off you go.

The key here is that all engines need to turn off at some stage, or they run out of juice. So restorative time is essential, as is a good night’s sleep. Being able to switch off the ‘high drive’ is vital – but being able to switch it on is also vital!

#Myth 3 – Too much work is bad for you

Doing what you love enables you to work at peak levels of performance, and when you do, you achieve a level of happiness known as ‘flow’ [Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi] If you are loving your work, then you will get a lot of energy from this.

There is a big difference between being a workaholic and being a passionate worker.

A workaholic does not derive any pleasure from work – they are driven, from the outside, and feel out of control a lot of the time, they often have very little energy and everything is an uphill struggle; these people are often boring about their work as they talk of nothing else [Changing Vampires into Angels – Maria Paviour]

Working with loads of energy and passion is good for you.

Whereas a passionate worker, may talk a lot about work, but they are more likely to be inspiring and energised when they do, because it is the best thing in their lives, these people are full of energy and have lots of fun; strangely, they also seem to have an active life outside work – where to they get the time and the energy?

Being energised is good for you! It is good for you psychologically, physically and spiritually. And it is self-sustaining. Providing you maintain balance, you will always have access to your passion.

#Myth 4 – Happiness is a luxury

There are three key forms of Happiness, on being flow as mentioned, another being pleasant life happiness, which we may experience when we meet up with our work mates, or have a nice meal; the third and most enduring is ‘Service’ [Authentic happiness – Martin Seligman].

And this last form of happiness is one that the happiest and most productive staff experience every day. This is why work matters – and why we need to have a reason.

Happiness is a key indicator of performance.

So here are the numbers: you are 35% more productive if you are happy. Happy sales people sell 39% more and happy doctors diagnose 18% more rapidly and accurately than their unhappy counterparts [The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor].

So, when you are thinking about how you can sell the idea of wellbeing into your organisation, remember that wellbeing is NOT about laying on the floor doing mindful meditation – it’s wonderful, but you can, and should, do that at home!

It’s about creating the environment in which we can fluidly move between high drive and full-on energy to lower levels of energy, from time to time. As the CIPD research proved, wellbeing and performance inextricably linked – you just can’t have one without the other.

Find out more about Maria and Cari – a compassionate wellbeing super assistant that gives wellbeing consultations, personalised wellbeing plans and connects your people to humans for specific support when required!

Cari is now being offered free to organisations to help them manage the huge wellbeing task presented by COVID-19.

2nd Feb 2020: by Maria Paviour - founder of Cari - connect with me on LinkedIn

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