Well-Being is Good Business
My first job out of college was at a public accounting firm. I started in the summer, and all I could hear about for my first few months on the job were the horror stories of past “busy seasons” (the period from January 1 to April 15th).
Long hours, tight deadlines, very little sleep – that was the litany that I heard most often. What struck me was how “matter of fact” this ordeal was portrayed – it “just had to be done that way”.
Needless to say I wasn’t looking forward to my first “busy season” experience, and sure enough, I was sucked into it with everyone else. It was brutal, exhausting, and very unhealthy (I existed on a lot of fast food and strong coffee).
I could only imagine the toll it was taking on my married colleagues, especially the ones with children.
I participated in this annual cycle for 5 years, and then left the accounting business to became a cable television executive. But not before I saw a lot of fine people get burned out, have relationships crumble, let their health deteriorate, and make the kind of mistakes that result from extreme fatigue and high stress, costing the firm time and money.
In hindsight, this experience really made me question how I was going to handle these kinds of situations as I advanced in my career. Where was I going to put the health and well-being of my staff on my priority list?
It didn’t take long for me to come to this conclusion: A teammate who lives a healthy and “balanced” life, with adequate rest and time for friends, family, and recreation, will ultimately be a better performing teammate – and that’s good business.
So there’s more to it than making sure everyone has adequate health insurance, or decent chairs, or organic food alternatives at the cafeteria. “Well-being” should be a major priority in every workplace, and it has to be “sold-in” to the entire organization.
And, managers need to be held accountable to keeping it a priority. Period. I’ll give you one example. Vacations are very important to a teammates well-being, and I’ve seen instances where managers work their staffs so hard, that when the year is over, a lot of the vacation goes unused.
If a company is serious about its well-being strategy, they will discipline and/or coach any manager who lets this happen. Sadly, I’ve seen my share of workplaces that let this kind of thing slide right on by.
Another key indicator is overtime. Some of it is inevitable, of course, but it needs to be tightly controlled and monitored, by department, management area, and for each individual. It’s in those reports you can actually “see” burnout happening.
The most important element of a well-being strategy is to eliminate the “it just has to be that way”, or the “we’ve always done it that way” mind-sets. Just because you’ve gone through your brutal “busy seasons” and lived to tell about it, doesn’t mean you should repeat it for the next generation (yes, a business is not like a fraternity or sorority).
Well-Being is good business. Make the effort necessary to take care of your team, and watch great things happen.