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Change: The new normal

Posted by on in Change Management

The changing world 

With a divisive President in the White House, the UK about to leave the EU and the recent global financial crisis still hanging over us, it’s clear that this period of political and economic uncertainty is set to continue. This kind of massive global change understandably causes anxiety and unease for us all, when we’re watching the news, picking up a paper or scrolling through our newsfeeds; but on a more subtle level these feelings of disruption trickle down into our day to day lives, leaving us feeling worried and more likely to build barriers to change at home and in the workplace.

There is no way to avoid it, in the world we live in today, change has become the new normal. When we’re constantly exposed to negative news stories it’s easy to feel like we’ve lost control as a society and these feelings soon filter into our days at work. So, while Donald Trump may continue signing off executive orders and interest rates may stay at an all time low, employers must manage how this uncertainty affects their workforce and the success of their business. But how?

Building up people's resilience may seem like an obvious choice. It’s something that’s often at the top of the list for employers who believe toughening up their workforce is the answer to handling change. However, with our ‘What is a Good Day at Work’ research finding that a worrying 27 per cent of people say work brings them down and 10 per cent of people don’t even have one good day at work a week, it’s clear that simply getting people to toughen up is a far too black and white approach. 

A positive wellbeing culture can be an anchor in the murky waters of change. When wellbeing at work is high, people are able to be more resilient and adaptable, allowing them to thrive despite uncertainty and respond more positively to change. And surely that’s what every engaged employer wants; a team that’s has the energy and motivation  to learn new skills, take on new ideas and challenges and continue to deliver business results despite change.

 

The changing world of work

On top of all the disruptive global events, the world of work is becoming more and more challenging. The recent financial crisis has left us all with more responsibilities in our day to day roles and globalisation means many people are working across different times zones, creating an ‘always on’ culture that is blurring the boundaries between work and home. Employers need to make sure their people are armed with the right skills and permission to handle this. One of the things they can do is focus on wellbeing. Happy employees who have more good days at work thrive because they have the energy and emotional connection to the business to want to work hard and deliver results; they are motivated and informed enough to manage the changing demands of work.

Wellbeing is certainly a hot topic, but to really pack a punch it needs to stop being an afterthought. Organisations can’t just react to change once its impact on health, engagement and productivity starts to show, it’s not sustainable. Wellbeing needs to run through an organisation’s veins, as an established culture that allows employees to remain engaged and flourish during periods of change.

Once leaders recognise that workplace wellbeing needs to be an authentic, top business priority  - because of the business opportunities and opportunity to boost performance it unlocks - they need to understand that a one size fits all approach may not work for their people. Expectations of work vary so much from person to person and employers need to work out each employee’s individual ‘mode’- their expectations, ambitions and motivations - before they can build a solid culture of wellbeing that will allow their team to handle changes across the business.

We developed these modes as part of our ‘What is a Good Day At Work’ research; identifying four different categories based on the expectations, ambitions and motivations of different people in the workplace. For example, you might have a team member who fits into the ‘Sustainably Engaged’ camp, who will already have the skills to handle big changes within the business. But other employees could fall into the ‘corporate citizen’ group, people who feel negative about work when faced with obstacles or barriers, or the ‘get in get out’ group, people who try to avoid pressure or challenge. It’s all about understanding your people and knowing how to approach wellbeing to fit their needs. Once you understand everyone’s personal expectations, you’ll be in the right position to improve how they all deal with periods of uncertainty.

Following our previous research in the Resilience to Change Paper and the changing society and workplace we are all navigating, we are conducting further research into change and how wellbeing can be used to drive change, enabled by both the employer and employee. 

The research will look into the pace in which change is taking place in organisations, how much information employees are getting about changes in their business and what influences the number of good days at work people have.

Support from managers, opportunities to discuss feelings and improvements in technology are all vital parts of allowing people to feel more supported and able to handle change. When we asked people what made them have a good day at work, 91 per cent of people said receiving support and 86 per cent said feeling appreciated by their colleagues and managers, proving the impact of workplace wellbeing culture on employee outlooks.

Laying the foundations for more good days at work starts with a psychological contract between employer and employee where people understand their own role in creating good days for themselves, giving them the skills to deal with changes they can influence and the skills to manage the emotional impact of changes they can’t; invaluable tools in a world where change has become the new normal. 

To continue the conversation about change and what the future of wellbeing will look like for us all, join me at the GDAW Conversation on 28th March at The Royal College of Physicians, London.

Connect with Paula Brockwell comment below or tweet @pauladunc

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Guest Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Cary CooperGood Day at Work™

The new wellbeing resources hub founded by @profcarycooper and Roberston Cooper. Join for FREE and access blogs, videos, downloads, podcasts and more.

Ben MossBen on Twitter

MD of Cary Cooper's business psychology firm, Robertson Cooper - for all things wellbeing, engagement and resilience at work.

Cary CooperCary on Twitter

Professor Cary Cooper, Director and Founder of Robertson Cooper Ltd, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School.

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