Written by Volker Ballueder
With the pandemic, at least in the UK, seemingly coming to an end this summer, we need to think how we incorporate mental wellbeing into our daily lives. Pre-pandemic, the words of ‘mental wellbeing’ sounded a bit foreign to a lot of people, there isn’t one person on this planet now that hasn’t thought about their mental health. Or at least there shouldn’t be.
I am very pleased that this focus has shifted. And it has shifted for individuals but also for corporations. There should now not be any excuse for not having a mental health ambassador at work, or a programme promoting mental wellbeing. Besides me offering meditation and mindfulness classes for the workplace, I expanded during the pandemic to teach leadership principles based on mindfulness. This is a demand that is steadily increasing.
But is it here to stay?
Firstly, we must consider the possibility of another wave, and more disruption in the workplace. We worked from home as much as we could, but there are also people that couldn’t work from home. Then, there are companies that announced the support of working from home, and now withdrawing this support as a blanket cover. In other words, there is a shift back to our ‘old normal’. Going back a step is easy, adopting change and taking a different approach is brave.
I am against going back. I believe we learned that we need to accelerate our thinking of how we incorporate a more family friendly lifestyle. And yes, it comes with challenges to coordinate days in the office with the right people. But let’s be honest, are we born to work or born to live? Should our main focus be work, or should it be a means to an end? That’s a question everyone needs to answer for themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I personally love working. I always have. However, the lack of commuting helped me to engage more with my family. The days at home help me to balance hobbies with work, and have a less stressful life. There are only benefits I can see, yet the lack of social interaction.
The aforementioned benefit of focus on mental health is just one of many, and we must ensure that this benefit will persist alongside all the other good things that came out of the pandemic. And quite frankly, the better WLB will lead to better mental health. It is all interconnected.
I would even go as far as companies considering a 4 day work week, of which 2 can be spent at home and 2 in the office. The increased efficiency of working from home will make due for ‘lost time’, the 5th day, and finally, we will hopefully move away from measuring time but output instead. Are we ready though?
The way we are working has to change. For over 10 years I am banging on about a more relaxed work style, more regular breaks and a redesign of how we work. The pandemic has shown us that it can be done, and that travel is less essential than we thought. It will also help our planet if we travel less.
Let’s continue the good work, and focus on us, our families and in return be more productive at work without the pressure of ‘doing time’. We can do that, it’s all about the right workplace design and processes. The attitude of trust, and mindful leadership.
The improvements on mental health will be noticeable, not only by measuring happiness but also increased output.