As the world of politics approaches fever pitch this month and – in response – tensions rise within the UK business community, it’s more important than ever to stop and take stock from time to time.
On the approach to World Values Day on 17th October, IoD member and Inclusive Business champion Neil Tomalin takes some time to consider the critical importance of ‘taking a break’ and how its positive effect can help you to prioritise mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
It’s been a busy week, culminating in taking my daughter to begin her first term at university. As the bags and boxes were unloaded, lugged and heaved up the stairs, I was simply struck by the amount of stuff everyone had! As I exchanged a number of sympathetic glances with some of the other Dads, it caused me to reflect upon the balance of needs for all those young people, now beginning a new and exciting phase of their lives.
For as much as the toasters, kettles and all the other paraphernalia are important, so too is the planning and preparation that goes into supporting their well-being now and in the future. As parents, part of this are the values that we teach our children, but I suspect that a final examination of this did not make it onto many of the lists that were made. Why should this be when values play such an important part in our personal and working lives?
Part of the answer is the nebulous quality of values, but that doesn’t really explain why values never made it onto the list. In an age where levels of anxiety in younger people are shown to be increasing, an understanding of what you stand for can be genuinely useful. It can make people feel more grounded and that’s why it has been a pleasure to be able to get involved with World Values Day this year.
World Values Day is on Thursday 17th October. It is not a new event, but one that has been growing every year through social media. It doesn’t cost anything to participate (although donations are accepted), other than the time it takes to use the day to reflect, get conversations about values going, identify a value that is personal to you and one that you would like to focus upon.
For 2019, the specific theme to the day is about ‘taking a break’ – something that the evidence suggests we are increasingly bad at doing, particularly in the workplace. Research published by Totaljobs in 2017, for example, showed that an increasing number of UK workers were skipping lunch, with workers over 55 being the worst offenders, where less than 40% were taking their full allocation.
Yet, taking a break at work helps. A further U.S. study in 2018 demonstrated a correlation between employee engagement and the lost lunchbreak, that inspired an annual campaign called, ‘Take back the lunchbreak day’ has been run ever since.
Outwardly, it may seem that the appearance of being chained to your desk is a recipe for success, but this is fools gold. As the evidence suggests, it is a recipe for disaster potentially leading to employees becoming overworked through job burnout. To get in that situation your health will have suffered, as well as your mental well-being, notwithstanding your productivity that will also have dipped. The context being: -
- It is well known that human beings have limited powers of concentration, under even further pressure today from the habitual use of mobile phones. You can’t continually override those situations where your natural pattern of concentration has been spent and expect your levels of productivity to remain even;
Stress and anxiety levels are increasing, so it makes sense to regulate your working hours by taking regular breaks, particularly if exercise can be built into your normal routine;
Breaks have been known to inspire creativity and produce those ‘Eureka’ moments!
Allied to the theme of taking a break, the value I am focussing upon this year is ‘kindness’ and I think I have come up with an effective method of combining the two. On World Values Day, as well as before and hopefully afterwards I am going to use a break from work to provide positive feedback to work colleagues to thank them for work done in the last year as well as their support in general. Ideally, I am hoping to do as much of this as possible face-to-face.
Imagine the impact this might have if everyone within a large business were to take a short break and do this through the day to their work colleagues?
I have previously written about the use of unorthodox language in business. A word or value like ‘kindness’ is a very good example of this. Because it is so underused it has the potential to make a considerable impact, not just to spearhead a campaign thanking work colleagues as part of World Values Day, but in additional areas like the planning process. I have lost track over the years of the number of awaydays and strategy meetings I have attended and frequently – because of the use of conventional business language – you either end up going around and around in circles, or end up at a destination that is far too familiar. This does not inspire creativity, but asking what a ‘kind’ business process looks like just might. How would this differ from what happens now?
Inspired by values it seems that this may well be an untapped resource of applying a different lens that not only may inspire more creative business solutions, but also contribute to the well-being of your employees by providing them with more positive feedback, that hitherto has not been examined fully or put into practise.
Further information about World Values Day can be found via their website. http://www.worldvaluesday.com/
Neil Tomalin is the managing partner of the Saintclair Partnership and a member of the IoD’s Inclusive Business Advisory Board.
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