The art and science of well-being at work
People have been griping about the accelerating pace of working life and its effects on attention and well-being for 150 years, basically since industrialization, and probably before. Why this intensifying focus now on how best to cope in the workplace?
1 - With new technology there are fewer moments in the day where we take a break, have some self-reflection, and take it easy.
When I ask people in my workshops where their phone is at night, 80 percent say it’s in their bedroom. Over half of them check their email in bed.
2 - We’re also much more aware of what the effect is of a healthy lifestyle so that in general we know we should eat more healthily and spend more time exercising.
3- Mindfulness and sleep are the next things to focus on. Companies are starting to realize that they have these highly educated employees who are very capable, but that that’s not enough. You need to make sure that they are engaged, happy, and healthy.
4 - There are statistically robust studies that show that when you are sleep deprived it affects your cognitive functioning and your emotional resilience. There are studies, across the board, that show that, effectively, what you’re doing is depriving the part of your brain that is more sophisticated —you’re making it very difficult for it to do its job fully. For data-driven, evidence-hungry, senior people who need to know that there’s a real reason for shifting behavior, the scientific evidence really helps.
5 - Wellness and well-being are often used interchangeably. But what we are talking about here is more along the lines of well-being. Wellness often tends to focus more on the physical aspects of health and lifestyle, which are also important.
Just like health is important to personal effectiveness from the standpoint of lifestyle and retaining longevity—people are realizing that your mind is the other asset that you have to continue to invest in.
So meditation has found a very interesting audience in the professional world, where it has a lot of other side benefits, which are a value to the time-strapped executive—whether it’s stress levels, managing attention, speed of decision making, resilience, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t have to be an executive, any high-intensity professional—can focus on these effectiveness habits, or different tools, to make their mind a more healthy asset.
There are a lot of closeted meditators out there in the corporate world who feel some sense of uneasiness about being open about it.
Talking about this in the workforce is not something that enhances professional stature. This leads to a question about pockets of resistance, both at the individual level and at the institutional level, to promoting this kind of well-being effort.
There’s a mind-set shift that happens when people start to take this seriously, which is to go from seeing the investment of time in sleep, exercise, and mindfulness as a cost to thinking of it as an investment. In fact, it’s not just an investment that pays back long term, it’s an investment that pays back, all the evidence suggests, rather immediately. The idea of that shift—that this is not down time, it’s simply investing in your ability to have more up time—is something at the heart of everybody who makes a difference in the way that they’re living their lives, and also in the way that their teams around them are living their lives.
Two perceived barriers are lack of time and lack of belief. The lack of time is a little bit of chicken and egg. The return on investment on that time is really high. But you don’t know that yet because you’re lacking the second thing, which is belief. So just like you talk to people who exercise regularly, they couldn’t go without it for a long period of time without feeling something was missing.
The same is true for when you invest in these activities that enhance your personal effectiveness, whether it’s through meditation, exercise, or sleep management. But the science is there. Role models are a big factor in overcoming skepticism because if they see a relevant person, or a senior person, speak more openly about this, people tend to pay attention.
Source: McKinsey and Company --Manish Chopra is a principal in McKinsey’s New York office and the author of The Equanimous Mind (Amazon Digital Services, May 2011); Els van der Helm is a specialist in the Amsterdam office. Caroline Webb is a senior adviser to McKinsey, an alumna of the London office, and the author of How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life. Lucia Rahilly is a member of McKinsey Publishing and is based in the New York office.