Leaders Set the Tone for Workplace Wellbeing

Did you know that, according to Gallup, less than 50% of U.S. workers believe their organization cares about their wellbeing?

That’s a pretty bleak reality, isn’t it?

It makes you wonder if the sentiments are due to the organization’s stress-inducing actions or lack of response.

So what can leaders to do step up to the challenge? Consider these eight practical ways leaders can create positive working environments in the midst of stressful work and life situations.

1. Normalize Conversations About Stress & Wellbeing

Have you ever heard a leadership message only to think to yourself, “Let’s see if this gets brought up again – that’s how I’ll know they’re serious.” For sensitive topics like stress and wellbeing, leaders need to speak up – and then speak up some more. Until stress becomes a normal part of both individual and group conversations, it’ll get swept under the rug.

2. Pay Attention to Signs of Burnout (Individually and Collectively)

How adept are leaders at recognizing signs of stress and burnout? Despite the fact that each person reacts to and expresses stress differently, there are tell-tale signs. When verbal, emotional, body language or performance reactions don’t fit normally established patterns, leaders should clue into possible underlying stress factors before reacting themselves.

3. Anticipate Stress Reactions and Mitigate

Workloads will shift and changes will come. How many contingency plans include anticipating, avoiding and addressing stress before it occurs? This may sound progressive, but it should be common practice.

4. Manage for Workload Consistency and Take Breaks!

We’ve all been told that the tortoise beats the hare every time. But many workloads consistently redline the burnout meter. Most people understand the need to flex from time to time, but it’s impossible to stretch further when you’re already maxed out. Steady, consistent work produces higher quality and quantity outcomes than surging does. Consistent breaks payoff as well.

5. Include Wellbeing Interventions for High Production Activities

Did you know that assembly line workers at Toyota production plants have a dedicated exercise program as part of their normal routine? This keeps their bodies healthy so they can stay productive and avoid injury. Many nurse units have a meditation or aromatherapy room for nurses to destress from their shifts. Wellbeing doesn’t happen by accident, interventions are often necessary.

6. Make Wellbeing Part of the Development Planning Process

Great bosses take time to hear and celebrate personal goals alongside the professional ones. Wellbeing goals fit in both categories and could be part of development and goal-setting conversations, with leaders lending their support.

7. Recognize Those Managing Stress Well

Who are the stress champions on your team? I’m not talking about the ones who don’t push themselves. Who has cracked the code on overcoming stress and maintains a productive pace? It’s appropriate to celebrate them – and to learn from them as well.

8. Set a Positive Example

Ultimately, nothing sets the tone like a good example coming from the leader. What does this look like? It could be the leader setting an appointment with an EAP counselor to let everyone know it’s a normal activity, even when they don’t think they need one. A little example coming from the leader goes a long way.

How would you like to work for a leader who demonstrated their commitment to wellbeing like this? How many employees would feel their organization cared for them if their boss took actions like these?

Whether you formally lead people or not, there’s a leadership opportunity for all of us when it comes to organizational stress and wellbeing.

What action can you take this week to demonstrate that you care?

This article is included in the Leadership-in-a-Box® program:

Stress Management

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