Working With Awareness

When deciding on the most appropriate space -- including physical and virtual 'places' -- in which to carry out a work activity, a variety of factors must be taken into account but it all starts with awareness of what you need to do and how you feel.
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Businesswoman smelling a flower
Businesswoman smelling a flower

As the new working year starts many of us are highly energized by our well-being focused New Year resolutions , typically involving less eating, more and frequent exercise and greater spiritual engagement and awareness. The corporate world has been slow to recognize that employee well-being accelerates productivity as well as benefitting the bottom line and whilst engagement and well-being are increasingly important to organizations, our current work practices engage our head only but typically ignore the mind/ body connection. We often still see well-being as an escapist idea; in order to feel well you need to get away from the office and everyday life and escape to a retreat or spa. So can we create a culture of well-being at work?

In a recent report on Wellbeing in the Workplace by the British Council of Offices more than a third (35 percent) of participants accuse their employer of not valuing their well-being at all. The report comes up with three starting points to help employers create a culture of wellbeing: care; control and collaboration:

Nine out of ten (94 percent) employees feel a greater sense of well-being if they believe their job has meaning. From showing employees the impact their work has on customers or colleagues to proving their company is at the cutting edge in an exciting field, it has never been more important for companies to help employees understand what they do and why.

The study found that nine out of ten (87 percent) workers feel their well-being diminishes if they don't have control over their day-to-day activities. In addition, they want the flexibility and control to mix collaboration with colleagues with quiet moments of concentration to help them get 'in the zone'. Nine out of ten (92 percent) workers claim that working 'in the zone' helps them perform better as well as feel better. However, currently over three quarters (77 percent) of people feel they are hampered by a noisy open-plan environment and a further quarter (27 percent) are frustrated by a lack of privacy, while more than two thirds (69 percent) would like to see relaxation areas in their workplace. Companies can meet this need for control by offering employees flexibility and choice in how and where they work and trusting them to decide their own working patterns.

Nine out of ten employees believe that support from colleagues enhances their wellbeing and makes them more productive. But building a collaborative environment as remote working grows means companies need to embrace connectivity to ensure that employees have the tools to work, discuss and innovate together no matter where they are. Contrary to many schools of thought, the survey reveals that virtual connectivity actually contributes to wellbeing according to more than half (58 percent) of workers surveyed.

The office environment can play a key role to support our wellbeing goals by mediating the way we undertake the day to day required tasks and activities. People undertake a variety of tasks and activities throughout their working day so having awareness and choice is paramount to effectiveness and wellbeing. People work best when they can move freely between quiet and more social spaces and have choices.

When deciding on the most appropriate space -- including physical and virtual 'places' -- in which to carry out a work activity, a variety of factors must be taken into account but it all starts with awareness of what you need to do and how you feel.

Awareness, Choice and Behavior is a dynamic relationship.

Working with awareness and intentions to engender certain workplace attitudes and behaviors, will in turn engender greater awareness. For example, at the start of the day asking the question 'what is it that I want to do today? And in what manner do I want to do it?' Starting the day with supportive intentions for the task at hand and avoiding the autopilot of going straight for email will impact the quality of what you do as well as improve the experience.

Having awareness of what spaces can best support the activities / tasks to be undertaken and determine the appropriate boundary, acoustic and visual control to support those activities is paramount.
Process Tasks: can sit anywhere, cranking stuff out, fine to chat; open work area
Focus / Concentrate: minimize interruptions, disruption; enclosure and quiet
Contemplation: cocoon or sense of space, views, greenery and outdoor options
Collaboration: face-to-face or virtual -- size, formal or informal to determine type of space, level of enclosure and necessary collaboration tools
Social: ad hoc or planned and necessary amenities, catering etc

A practice of mindfulness can significantly improve our awareness and there are now simple and accessible tools to help us take a few minutes to step back, clear our head and decide who we want to be, what we want to do and where and how we want to work. I personally like the simplicity of the Headspace app but any practice where we consciously take control and choose to be in the moment, will enable us to work with greater awareness and create a culture of wellness at work.

Awareness of who we are being, what we are doing, where we are doing it and how we are doing it at every moment is the key to workplace engagement and effectiveness