Wellbeing Above Work

February 21, 2022 |

A few weeks ago, I experienced a few days where I literally felt stuck in mud. This paralysis had me wondering if my vitamin D was low, was it depression or had I become anemic?  My worst fear – I was burning out. The Great Resignation has everyone wondering what is going on?  As people reprioritize and search for meaning after two years of collective trauma, there is undoubtedly a shift happening. Leaders are in a unique position to ensure well-being comes before work. No longer is well-being and self-care a “weekend activity”.  Well-being must be embedded in our days and accepted as a high-level need. Cultures that try and continue to control their employees and expect a seamless return to normal are at risk of losing their great employees.


As leaders, we must address this head on.  Do you yourself take vacation only to recover from burnout? When someone asks for unplanned time-off is your first instinct to judge them or are you checking in with compassion to see how they are doing? Do you give employees a chance to anonymously evaluate your culture with questions like “I feel I have enough time and flexibility to meet my personal, family and work commitments”?  If the message you send as a leader is that well-being is an “out of work activity” you may be missing the reality of our current state.  People are burned out, dealing with mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and worried about themselves and their families. This is post trauma behavior.  Additionally, the trauma is layered for many when you factor in the trauma surrounding racial injustice.  The collective trauma we’ve experienced is coming to roost nearly 2 years into this pandemic and it’s not going away.  


Trauma is best addressed by acknowledging it and giving people space to deal with it in the ways they need to. If it’s taking a longer lunch break, restructuring their workday or delegating certain tasks, as leaders we must pay attention and model that behavior.  People will be retained where they feel appreciated, understood and supported.  Well-being supports can be embedded into conversations, meetings, and offerings by an employer- if in fact you are committed to put your people first.  Organizations have been talking about Workplace Culture for years. Now it is time to create a culture of wellbeing supports.  We can’t look the other way and just hope it passes.  It requires listening, vulnerability, courage, and empathy on the part of leaders.  Leaders must model the way and ensure we are embedding well-being into the fabric of our cultures.