As part of World Mental Health day, Julie Rice, Partner at WeWork, explores how tapping into your community can improve workplace wellness
So much importance is given to achieving the work/life balance. I don’t think it can always be easily prescribed, though: I know people who achieve it with a 5am start and scheduled hours right up until midnight. If, like me, yours isn’t as structured as that, though (maybe you need an average person’s amount of sleep, for one), then you’ll know if you’re achieving it with a general sense of wellbeing. Walking into the office on a Monday feeling ready for the week ahead.
What’s more evident is when you’re not getting the right work/life balance, though. When everything feels like it’s getting a bit much. Even if you know what steps you should be taking – getting more sleep, exercising, making extra time to get ahead with emails – sometimes it feels easier to drink your way through ten coffees in the hope you’ll find the strength to login to your computer (that bad, huh?). So what’s the fix?
The biggest takeaway from my career to date is how important community and purpose are, and how – no matter how strung out you feel – the collective can help the individual change their course for the better.
Community is key
Community, for a start, is an obvious one; it’s no secret that we’re stronger together. In a world that increasingly demands so much from us: where we feel the need to be constantly switched on and responsive in all areas of our lives, there’s a creeping change brewing. Cut-throat corporate culture can’t easily survive the scrutiny of the internet, and workers can’t thrive in a toxic workplace, especially one that is increasingly encroaching on our lives: and so, the collective workforce are slowly but surely making their voices heard. And it shows: those companies that prioritise the wellbeing of their staff are thriving.
According to a recent survey, 60 percent of organisations reported that it improves employee retention, and 61 percent said that it improves employee productivity and bottom-line business results. The reverse of this is how costly lack of support and a stressful environment is to companies: low morale, low productivity, sick days and resignations through stress don’t make sound business sense. Annually this costs the UK economy £70 billion.
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A lot has been said about intention and, when it comes down to it, I think it’s true: community can’t be superficial; it needs to be backed by integrity, an understanding support network, listening and, being generous with your time. We don’t always feel we have time, and our own roles in the rat race can feel stifling, but – and I don’t suggest I’m reinventing the wheel here – give and you receive. We need to remind ourselves every day that the pressures that come with an increasingly digital life have to be supplemented with offline connection to the people around us: and other people besides.
Don’t be afraid to reach out
People talk about finding their tribe, and whilst this is great — I have an incredible group of friends, business networks and a whole host of supportive global colleagues besides — it’s important not to stay put: move forward, meet more people, be open to all people, ask more from them, whether you know them or not. In my experience, people, when approached and in the right way, do find the time and the energy to muster up the greatest superpower of all time: help.
Purpose can grow in the unlikeliest of places. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a vocation, but sometimes the smallest interaction within your community can boost your drive and help you get up in the morning. Whether you have a brief but rewarding chat in the pantry area, a coffee with someone outside of your network, are introduced to an interesting person – being inspired in your own goals, and finding your purpose with it, can come from a gentle drip-feed of inspiration and dynamism from those around you.
I’m not necessarily talking about a seismic individual change here, but that, if the collective makes an incremental move towards bettering its working environment, from the top down, then it can have a huge and positive impact on the individual.