8th October 2020

Engagement is at the heart of wellbeing

7th March, 2019

Natasha Wallace

Engagement and wellbeing are intrinsically linked. That’s because the environment we’re working in has a significant impact on our wellbeing and the way that we perform at work. Our external environment is a crucial enabler to our performance.

Building connection
Often the missing link, when it comes to individual wellbeing, is the connection we have to our organisation. And that’s what engagement really is. It’s the connection between us and what it is going on around us. This connection can be found at many levels. 

When we are connected with our managers, they understand us, and we understand them. It’s this partnership, where we work together to solve problems and to support each other, that leads to engagement. Historically, the hierarchy and control and command approach to leadership has got in the way of this. When managers see the people in their team as capable adults, and not as resource needed to deliver, they remove the unnecessary barriers to performance. They also create an environment that positively impacts wellbeing. 

This is because when people feel that they have influence over their circumstances, when they have a voice, and when they are supported, their wellbeing tends to improve. 

It’s not just about the relationships with our managers though. We are social beings which is why feeling connected to the group in which we work is important too. For many, it’s the lifeforce behind their wellbeing at work and it’s often why they stay in their job. Recognising the importance of team connection and creating an environment and space that enables people to work together, to fail together, and to build solutions in collaboration, all correlates to how engaged an individual is and how well they feel. 

And at an organisational level, it is about how connected people feel to the purpose of the organisation and what it’s trying to achieve. And when they know that, it’s the extent to which they can contribute to it. Knowing that we’re making a valuable contribution and seeing our progress towards something bigger than ourselves is motivating and has a positive impact on our psychological wellbeing. 

If we can foster this connection at all levels of the organisation, it not only supports individual wellbeing, but it enables people to perform and thrive. 

Taking personal responsibility 

It’s not just the external environment that matters though. What matters just as much is what is going on inside us as people. We can work in the most supportive and enabling environment, but if our own internal conditions aren’t in balance, we can struggle. It’s this combination of internal and external conditions that impacts our wellbeing.

This means taking care of ourselves and building our self-knowledge is key, so that we know how to maintain our energy levels – to be at our best at work. 

We make decisions every day that undermine our own wellbeing. From working too many hours and forgetting to relax, to not getting enough sleep, to not making enough time to see our friends and family. All of these things impact our wellbeing, and in the long term our health. And it’s not just these physical acts that impact how engaged we can be at work. It’s about our mindset too; the extent to which we can stay in a positive frame of mind and stay focused on what matters at work, despite the pressures that we face. 

Building self-knowledge is all important, as is having that connection to ourselves, so that we can see when we are making decisions that positively and negatively impact wellbeing. Only through greater understanding of what brings out our best, and the best in others, can we make better daily choices. 

Developing a ‘well’ mindset

Imagine the difference between a person who believes that with effort and focus they can achieve any challenge they are faced with. Compared to the person who doubts themself and their ability, and who tends to avoid anything that might stretch them. Or the individual who has little awareness of the way they make the rest of the team feel, but who says and does things that make others feel frustrated or upset. 

All of these daily thoughts and behaviours impact wellbeing – because they impact the way that we feel. And they impact the way that other people feel too. 

This is why as well as people taking personal responsibly, organisations need to consider the internal work that people are enabled to do as part of their wellbeing strategy. By helping people to understand what leads to greater individual wellbeing (beyond the more obvious fruit, reasonable working hours and exercise), and by helping people to understand themselves and others better, employees are empowered to make better decisions to support their own wellbeing. This is engaging. 

No amount of self care and self knowledge will protect an individual’s wellbeing in an environment that expects people to work long hours, gives them little control over their work, and provides little support. However, when leaders work on creating supportive environments whilst at the same time giving people the space to take care of their own needs and build their self-knowledge, they go some way to creating a culture of wellbeing. 

Helping employers

We’ve recently relaunched The Engage for Success (EfS) Wellbeing Thought and Action Group to help employers with wellbeing so that they can build truly effective strategies. There’s a lot of great work being done out there to give employees better access to wellbeing benefits and to improve culture. We want to build on this work and helps employers to make even more progress – using approaches that have a positive impact on individual wellbeing and on organisational performance – both of which are important. 

We’re currently looking at how we can best support employers and are looking a number of possible projects. We’ve already had some feedback from employers but could do with more. This is why we’re asking for your feedback. Please take a moment to complete the Mad World Engagement and Wellbeing survey. What in your eyes would make the biggest difference to you and your organisation? Once we’ve gathered all of the feedback, we will get to work. 

Natasha Wallace

Natasha Wallace is chair of the EfS Thought and Action Group and founder and chief coach of Conscious Works, a leadership and personal development business specialising in wellbeing. As a former HR Director and with significant experience of developing leaders, Natasha recognised that there were two fundamental things missing from the modern workplace: self-care and self-knowledge. It is a lack of these ‘conscious skills’ that are getting in the way of us feeling at our best and is what is leading to increased levels of stress and burnout in the workplace. Natasha believes that becoming more conscious, of who we are as people and our needs, we can create happier and healthier cultures that lead to greater connection, resilience and sustained growth. Natasha’s book, The Conscious Effect: 50 lessons in better organisational wellbeing, is out in the UK in June 2019 and is available now on pre order.

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