I looked in the mirror and, seeing the increasing number of silver I strands, asked myself, “Is the digital age, where everyone is connected 24/7 at work, causing stress?” To my surprise, my reflection started to speak, and very soon, I was having a conversation with my alter ego. I argued that stress is inevitable, and that it is even more exasperating for employees to bring their authentic selves to work every day. My alter ego (let’s call him “Hope” for now) had an absolutely contrary view. Here is how the debate unfolded.
A Dialogue with a Difference
Hope (Laughing loudly enough to shatter the mirror before making his point): Stress is only felt by those who want it. You are comfortable calling yourself stressed so that you can justify your laziness!
Me: Today’s world is all about VUCA; we are increasingly feeling the pressure of growing expectations at work and at home. These high expectations lead to stress, anxiety and depression that can pull us down both personally and professionally.
Hope: So, that’s what you think. But don’t you see how organizations are dealing with it? It’s common these days to be part of employee wellness programs at work. Have you forgotten that you registered for a Walkathon? If that is not for de-stressing you, what do you think it is for? You don’t get out and practice. Whose fault is that?
Me: It’s always a challenge to argue with you, Hope! You have seen that I hardly get any time. All activities at the office are time wasters.
Hope: There you go again on your favourite trip: being defensive. But I shall play my part diligently to get you back on track. Just look at how organizations are now designing holistic wellness programs that work on your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Gone are the days when annual medical health camps were the only way. You have bright office spaces with more natural light. Comfortable seating has replaced traditional ones. And have you forgotten flexi-time? Doesn’t this take the burden off your mind to avoid “late marks”? This is how the new-age workplaces are committed to nurturing an inclusive environment where people can realize their full potential, work productively, and deal with the day-to-day stresses of life.
Me: I am not really convinced. While all other factors of employee wellness programs like physical, social, and mental wellbeing are critical, I truly believe that the key lies in the intrinsic factor and that is the “happiness” of our people. Are people happy at work? Do they jump out of bed every morning and say, “Get out of my way, I’ve got to rush to—you know where— my workplace because that is what makes me the happiest; it is where I belong”. I am not sure!
Hope: Well, look around. Don’t you remember what happened last Friday? You were unwinding over drinks with your friend. You were surprised at how he was so energetic even after a gruelling workweek. He shared a secret mantra, didn’t he? He efficiently prioritized work and home and managed a perfect balance. He was able to do justice in both places, and this made him happy.
Me: Yes, that’s true. This recent unplanned encounter with him helped me gain a fresh perspective on how being truly happy is helping him lead a fulfilling life both personally and professionally. But this is easier said than done. Happiness could mean different things for different people. Some may derive happiness from coming home early, playing with their children for a while, feeding them, putting them to sleep, and then logging back on to complete the pending work, while others may look towards spirituality. Some might look for adventure, while others seek a hobby or even a social cause. But, with workloads ever on the rise, it is not possible to find the time, even just to be happy!
Hope: There you go again on your complaint trip. Organizations are coming up with creative initiatives and drives that appeal to the happiness of their employees and finally result in improved engagement. Workspaces and work hours are being made flexible to give everyone the opportunity to accommodate a hobby or a passion. Being happy is a personal choice. If you want to, you will!
Me: There is still so much uncertainty at work. We are witness to so many instances of depression and even suicide. Mental wellness and wellbeing are still untouched areas. For instance, who even bothers to inquire into my mindset and find out why I am low today, or why my performance is not my best when I have immense potential?
Hope: That’s why organizations are helping people pivot to these new challenges by sensitizing them to their physical and mental wellbeing through various camps, and also by providing employee assistance programs through which people can take advantage of counselling services, not only for themselves but for their families as well. This helps in building resilience, support to ride through rough times, and also the necessary skills to build a risk appetite. This is something that goes a long way into building a personality with a healthy mind.
Me: Yes, I do recollect how such sessions helped my colleague in taking smarter risks during tough situations. During these conversations, he realized that somewhere along his professional journey, he had become more riskaverse and less willing to pivot readily to navigate professional and industry changes. And as he strives to strike a balance between his personal and professional lives, he continuously reminds his daughter and himself to be fierce and unafraid.
Hope: Now you are getting there. With organizations busting bureaucracy and adopting agile working, teams support each other towards a common goal resulting in better self-management to achieve harmony in professional and personal life. When the family at home and the family at work support you seamlessly, wellness comes without saying. But as I said, it all starts with you!
Me: As always, you win, Hope! Like I always do, when I wish to look for solutions, I call “Hope” and let him win over “me”. For a sense of wellbeing to prevail, it’s good to live with Hope and let him win, isn’t it?
Does your organisation support you in maintaining work-life boundaries?
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