Wellbeing - why it really matters in change

In today’s world, it’s very unlikely that we’ll be rid of negative stress. We’re relying more and more on devices (which means we can joyously be ‘always on’ for work as much as in our personal lives) and trying to fit too much in without giving ourselves a break. On top of all this, there’s an increasing number of societal issues causing real anxiety – just think of climate and ecological emergency, the UK’s role in Europe and the increasing role of AI amongst many others.

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And then there’s work. The unprecedented speed at which the world of work is transforming, people – and businesses – have a huge amount to contend with. This pace will not be slowing any time soon. In recent research, Gartner highlights that 70% of organisations expect to increase the number of major change initiatives they will undertake in the next three years. And that’s probably not including anything that comes from left field – like environmental changes that organisations will need to address for example.

I’m no mental health expert, but in the last fifteen years, I’ve been involved in a range of change projects that have shown me that, on top of all these things we’re dealing with day-to-day, there’s an even bigger watch-out for wellbeing when there’s some sort of change in the workplace. It could be a restructure, the introduction of new technology, software upgrades, someone new joining or leaving a team, or a promotion. The list goes on. For many of us, this adds another layer to an already packed – and stressed – life and these work-related changes are having an impact. Organisation change is one of the six factors highlighted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that can affect stress levels in the workplace and, in the recent CIPD report, ‘Health and Wellbeing at Work’, change was cited twice in the top 10 causes of stress at work (p35).

So, with all this in mind, what can leaders of change and individuals on the receiving end of it do to help themselves and others with their own wellbeing?  From my own experience, research and anecdotes, here’s three things that can make a difference, especially when you’re getting ready for change:

Look after yourself – and others – so, considering the physical, mental and emotional aspects of what’s happening and how this might affect you and others. Straightforward things like asking people how they are – today – where it’s appropriate, can make a big difference as can taking some time away from the situation you’re in to give you a different perspective. Building a support network can also be really helpful. Colleagues, family, friends – they can really help us feel connected and can give us support – and we can do the same for them.  And being open to asking for help can make a big, positive difference.

Think early enough about the people side of the change, how to communicate it and prepare – this sounds like a no-brainer but if you think early enough about how you deliver a message as much as what you are saying, it will make a difference. For leaders and communicators, think carefully about how you are delivering messages about change – your body language, the words you use and how you respond to questions. Don’t spend hours finessing words to the extent that you lose the real meaning (and the humanity) behind the message.

And think about your role in the change and what potential impact this might have on you if you are leading through it. This is where coaching can really help those leading change, giving an opportunity to work through the impact of the change for themselves as well as helping others through it. And internal comms teams can really help with focusing on the right messages and advice on the best way to deliver them.

Another word on this – there are some situations where a process must be followed.  Whatever that process, remember that you are dealing with human beings – just like you. Don’t make it any less personal than it needs to be and ask for help from your HR colleagues with this if you need it.

Try to look at things from the perspective of others from the outset – what might seem like a minor change to one person, such as a software upgrade, can be stressful to someone else. They may not be hugely tech savvy or they are so pushed for time that losing a few hours out of their day to get their laptop upgraded may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. And don’t forget everything else that might be happening outside work that could be part of their overall picture.  Remember, change is always personal.

I’ve found that considering the human aspects of change front and centre from the outset with good communication in place can make a big difference to the success of change programs – and in turn, individual wellbeing.

What have you found that’s worked well to improve wellbeing in change in your world?

 I use coaching, communications and wellbeing tools to help deliver effective, people-focused, change. If you’d like to find out how I might be able to help your organisation, get in touch. I’d love to chat. Check out our new wellbeing workshops.