Everyone now is looking for more wellness, recovery, and balance to make work more manageable and to recover from the last few years. It’s likely you and your company have implemented all kinds of laudable measures to help people regroup and feel more resilient in the new world of work, especially as we’re slammed with the relentless stress of economic uncertainty, talent shortages, supply chain gaps, and demanding customers.
However, these wellness tools—from meditation apps to extra days off to gym memberships—can easily fall toward “California Solutions,” that is, green juice stands, yoga classes, and fitness-tracking gadgets. This approach tends to focus on fine-tuning the four elements of the machine that is you: exercise, nutrition, psychology, and occasionally, some aspect of spirituality. We, as employees, are high-end vehicles being overhauled.
Lose the doughnuts and add some kale chips, and you’ve switched from regular to high octane. Use the company-provided sleep app on your Fitbit, and the tires inflate. Attend an online mindfulness class for a mental oil change? It’s all good stuff. And if we hone our minds and bodies, it’s as if the engine was getting a delicate tune-up from the best mechanics. Off we go—engine purring and ready for action.
But what about the road? What if the road is shrouded in fog, covered with potholes, and strewn with boulders? What if flashing yellow detour signs are challenging our attentiveness? What if the route to our destination is laid out in a complex and circuitous way? In all these situations, the high-performance machine may fare better than a beat-up Ford Pinto, but it will still absolutely underperform, and it might not ever get where it’s going.
In our organisations, culture is the road, protocol is the road, the norms of behavior are the road, and these subtle, squishy, and challenging aspects of work are the last things leaders fix. In fact, sometimes the “optimise the human” approach can serve as a specific excuse not to invest in the broader state of things (we already gave them Pilates!).
Read more: The Netflix Success Story - Built on Culture Reinvention
Therein blossoms a subtle implication: if we as individuals could just be tougher, better, faster, and fitter, we could handle it all. Once again it is, sadly, seemingly the employees’ fault that work feels hard and overwhelming. A tinge of guilt springs up among the troops. They eat a high-protein breakfast, do a few push-ups, and try again.
Talented folks need both a healthy personal regimen and an environment that sets them up for success. They need permitted and guilt-free time to think, and to recuperate, reflect, and respond. Critical elements such as boundaries around technology, simplified processes, and shared work protocols can’t be by-passed. With roads that are well thought-out, well-marked, and easier to navigate, the ride can feel smoother.
You might like this: How to Create Healthy Work Boundaries
Yes—improve the car, but don’t forget the road.
This article was also published on Juliet Funt's LinkedIn.