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Free Guide: The 4R's Framework to Workplace Wellbeing

Are you an HR, People, or Workplace Leader looking to start or deepen your knowledge and tools for workplace wellbeing?

It’s not uncommon to see HR and workplace leaders primarily focus on prevention and wellness:

  • Gym memberships
  • Mindfulness apps
  • Yoga sessions
  • Resilience training

 

Leaving everything else to EAPs and that employees will figure out how to take care of themselves with chronically stressful workplace conditions, whether intentionally or not.

That’s why so many of us learned quickly during the pandemic lockdown why self-care and “sleeping it off” wasn't enough, and how many of us are still exhausted after a vacation.

How much has your organization invested on workplace wellness only to feel like some one-time employee experience event?  

Are you wondering how to take wellbeing and turn that into a culture of performance? That both of them can co-exist?

Prevention is how to avoid mental and emotional health challenges like burnout, anxiety and depression, just like wearing masks, washing our hands and social distancing is to minimize exposure to COVID-19.

When you have it, recovering is a completely different process.  

Would you like to amplify your talent retention?  Stop burnout related turnover and optimize performance in your workplace to 10X your results, revenue and impact?

Then gaining the capability to be responsive across the entire mental health spectrum in your workplace and how it relates to performance is key.

Our mental health and wellbeing is not an on or off.  We aren’t not burned out or burned out.

It operates on a spectrum.

Mental Health Spectrum for Burnout

The easiest way to understand a spectrum or range is as simply as asking how we feel on a frequency scale: never, rarely, sometimes, often, very often, always

As you ask questions like:

Thriving states: 

  • How often do you feel like you're in the flow?
  • How often are you centered and calm?
  • How often do you feel passionate with your work?
  • How often do you feel happy?
  • How often do you feel rested?
  • How often do you have a positive outlook in life?

 

Surviving states:

  • How often do you feel distracted?
  • How often do you feel anxious?
  • How often do you feel tired?
  • How often are you pessimistic?
  • How often do you feel withdrawn?

 

You will begin to get a grasp of individual trends. When collected together, it can give a realistic snapshot of your workplace culture.

Here are some categories that relate to frequency:

Excelling and Thriving

When it comes to wellbeing and performance in the workplace, this is how we want to operate outside and in the workplace.

Being happy, creative, productive, clear and congruent will enable us to achieve our potential and add value to our customers and internal stakeholders that we come to work for.

Survival 

For some of us, we naturally recover or rebound back to being healthy through a combination of rest, general healthy habits and a lifestyle of wellbeing.

I like to use the Parento Principle or 80/20 rule.  If we’re excelling and thriving 80% of the time, and fall into survival 20% of the time, I’d consider that a healthy and optimal life especially in urban type environments.

The opposite is also true, if we are in survival mode 80% of the time, and thriving and excelling 20% of the time, life can get pretty miserable.

When we’re in survival mode we begin to experience these types of symptoms, particularly with burnout:

  • Fatigue and Exhaustion
  • Chronic worry and anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Cynicism and naysaying
  • Judgement and critical
  • Loss of executive function
  • Loss of passion and creativity
  • Disengaged
  • Crisis of identity
  • Depresssion
  • Helplessness

The problem we fall into with survival mode is when we begin to permanently adopt coping strategies; in other words, we accept our poor mental health conditions as normal in life and learn how to numb and live with them.

This can include checking out with Netflix binges, pornography, and even social media as dopamine-driven behaviors.  We can also see an increased intake of caffeine, sugar, alcohol and even medication as a long-term solution.

From a workplace lens, we will observe disengagement and passive aggressive behaviors like “quiet quitting” as a coping mechanism to enforce boundaries.

Struggling

The fine line between survival and struggle comes down to momentum and trajectory.

We cope with our mental health conditions as it steadily gets worse and more and more unbearable.  It’s like taking two steps forward and three steps back. 

Overall, it’s going backwards.

It can be very difficult and frustrating, coupled with workplace and life expectations to keep up when you no longer have the willpower to cope.

A cautionary tale for most leaders is when you take the objective approach of performance action plans. It ignores the fact that the degradation of performance is coming from a mental health challenge that requires outside help. This will further worsen the problem and can turn into a traumatic experience.

For those who are more self-aware, quiet quitting will turn into a flight risk problem and potential turnover problem.  Performance is minimal and there is little to no appetite and motivation for growth, let alone improvement.

As a workplace leader, your priority is to support and amplify the recovery process.  Getting well-being back on track is the primary goal, and motivation, trust and performance is a natural side effect.

Don’t want to turn into a therapist? Seek a professional workplace wellbeing and recovery support partner.

Crisis

This is where bad happens for both the individual and workplace.

For the workplace this could mean:

  • Unwarranted toxic behaviors on surrounding environment (out of survival crying for help, usually not malice)
  • Short/Long-term disability claims 
  • Legal battles if it’s culturally influenced or instigated by management
  • Quitting for mental health reasons

 

For the individual it compounds by bleeding into others areas of life, from added stress on relationships and family to physical chronic stress health ailments like hypertension, inflammation to degradation of immune function leading to viral and bacterial infections.

Ultimately this is when work and life blows up and starting the recovery process from this point is often traumatic and painful.

Addressing Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace

Let’s highlight the biggest hurdle to successfully managing wellbeing and amplifying our performance in the workplace: Our default state of wellbeing isn’t thriving or excelling - as much as we want to be optimistic about our state of wellbeing.

Trends in our environment and culture, both inside and outside the workplace generally support scarcity, so we tend to live in a mode of survival.  

Three big factors contribute to our growing systemic burnout problems:

  1. Hustle Culture
  2. Technology
  3. Pandemic

 

This includes the media and entertainment we watch, technology, how we are educated and our economic well being.

By acknowledging that the spectrum exists, we’re able to determine why and how we are productive, perform and creative in our day to day, and ultimately manage our expectations accordingly.

Remember, it’s not good or bad and right or wrong, it’s just a causal relationship between how we maintain stability and manage levels of stress in different situations and environments.

It’s like a mode of operation, no different than how our computers have a performance mode, night time mode and a battery saving mode.

We might not be in the position to control the mental health culture around us, but we definitely can take responsibility for our own mental health and influence those directly around us.

Now that you have a clear picture of how the spectrum of our mental health and well-being affects our emotions, and as a result our performance and results, what can we do about it?

Here is a simple device to help you I call the 4Rs Framework to Workplace Wellbeing:

  • Resilience 
  • Recovery 
  • Relief
  • Rescue

Resilience

For those who are thriving and excelling is where you want to deepen wellness practices.

When you are strong, you can develop resilience, grit and take on deeper challenges centered on growth and performance.

Entering flow states and practice in managing performance states will enable your teams to increase their skills and challenges they can take on, and overall improve the overall competencies of your organization.

These are some examples of how you can support the wellness of your People in the workplace:

  • Optimizing of diet and nutrition (i.e. access to healthy food and snack options at work)
  • Supporting exercise regimens (i.e. gym memberships and wellness spending accounts)
  • Mindfulness, meditation and breathwork (i.e. mindfulness apps, yoga classes, mental health check ins)
  • Workplace Mental Health Trainings (i.e. Resilience, Psychological Safety, Mental Health First Aid)
  • Expanded EAPs (i.e dental, eye care, complementary health therapies, smoking cessation programs)
  • Promoting vacations, rest and recovery periods
  • Values alignment and designing for meaningful work
  • Family support programs (i.e subsidized day care, parental leave)
  • Financial literacy programs

 

Prevention practices and workplace wellbeing programs are important to integrate as part of an overall cultural development, L&D, and talent management plan.

You will feel alive, nurtured and satisfied with a rewarding and fulfilling career.

Recovery

Identifying people in search of recovery is as simple as running engagement and wellbeing surveys, or a lunch n’ learn to address anyone feeling the effects of burnout.

Those expressing signs of fatigue and exhaustion, anxiety, cynicism, loss of motivation and executive function and feelings of apathy are a good place to start specifically with recovery skill building efforts.

I recommend conducting individual energy audits and teaching specific skills to support self-regulation, including boundary setting, emotional state management, stopping unhealthy habits and aligning values.

Here is an example of a workplace burnout recovery challenge we host that can turn an employee experience into an exercise with positive therapeutic outcomes.

Recovery is an active process and be aware that just resting, taking a vacation or sleeping it off won’t be a successful approach under conditions of chronic stress, whether inside or outside the workplace.

Relief

Many who struggle with their mental health and burnout have little remaining willpower and capacity to self-direct themselves.  It’s not then surprising that we seek quick relief to get us out of our pain.

While quick short term fixes are soothing, very often they turn into our crutches as our symptoms begin to quietly escalate.

That's why it’s important to ensure those that are approaching or beyond the point of no return seek professional support to help with self-regulation is crucial.

This could be with a qualified therapist or a recovery program.  Being able to quickly self-regulate and de-stress the mind and body, release suppressed emotions and resolve inner conflicts at the root cause is the path to returning back to optimal mental and emotional health.

As workplace leaders, we need to set an example that wellbeing is a foundation for performance, instead of stating failed performance objectives and expect employees to just figure it out themselves or push themselves even harder.

Rescue 

Hitting a down spiral into a crisis situation is usually the last thing we want. Consequently, it’s what we tend towards, driven by our unconscious unhealthy habits and poor lifestyle choices.

It’s usually these situations that make us better aware that change is needed; our wake up call, but at a steep cost that manifests as our worst fears.

It’s not just poor workplace performance and putting your job on the line, usually it has compounding impacts on other areas of life:

  • High tension, unresolved conflicts and neglecting family and relationships 
  • A significant health scare that forces you to make changes 
  • Financial challenges and burdens that can get unbearable 
  • A crisis of identity that can lead to despair, loneliness and apathy
  • A traumatic moment or accident

 

We carry these challenges into our work and often our work stresses into our life outside working hours. While it may all sound extreme, it’s these moments that help us seriously reevaluate our priorities and life choices.

Left alone, acts of desperation can often lead to disastrous consequences that are preventable.

While it’s not ultimately our responsibility as HR and workplace leaders, we can make our efforts to have the support resources in place, management support and compassion to give the time and space for your people to rehabilitate themselves.

Having a trusted and good recovery and rehabilitation partner in place, in addition to your EAP will help your people overcome their crisis.

Most importantly, creating a psychologically safe environment to identify and respond early when someone is in crisis will create an organizational capability to effectively respond and prevent burnout related turnover.

As a HR, People and Workplace leader, you are now armed to ask the right questions, whether as a survey or through one-on-one conversations and suggest more optimized courses of action on how you spend your budgets, focus and energy on workplace wellbeing, performance and recovery.


Whenever you’re ready, there are three ways I can support you:

  1. Starting the Burnout Recovery Process for Your Teams, here.
  2. Training Your Managers to Be Responsive to Wellbeing, Performance and Recovery in the Workplace, here.
  3. Getting rapid relief and out of a burnout crisis with a breakthrough retreat, here.
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