Organizational Wellbeing from the Boardroom to the Shop Floor ... and back?
Wellbeing has been defined as a subjective experience of comfort, happiness and prosperity. When we refer to organizational wellbeing, we mean how contented and satisfied each individual employee feels. If you have watched ‘The Bold Type’ or any other show or film portraying a corporate workplace, you will know just how often conflicts arise between those in suits on chairs making decisions about how a company should run and those who are actually expected to run around to run it. The former group of people form the boardroom of an organization, while the latter make up the shop floor. As citizens of a democratic country, where there are two parallel realities coexisting for wealthy decision-makers and citizens at the grassroot level respectively, we may have a hint of where exactly the problem lies. It is about differences in perspective.
All those WhatsApp group forwards with the 'boss' as the subject of the joke, makes one thing very clear - people have a preconceived notion that those who control them, can never think of their wellbeing. After all, who likes to be controlled? Remember all those times we threw tantrums as teenagers, trying to claim the independence that we thought was rightfully ours, but was being withheld by our caregivers? Well, as we grew up, most of us did admit, at least to ourselves, that they knew better after all, didn’t we?
This brings us to the flip side of the coin. Are we ever happy with those who make decisions that impact us, no matter how considerate and sensible they are? In fact, do we even give them a fair chance to prove themselves? Most importantly, when we make our own decisions, do they always work, when there are so many opinions to accommodate? Can human beings truly ever be completely selfless or objective? Highly doubtful. This is exactly why trying to deliberate upon a common solution to a problem among the workers themselves may lead to more chaos than consensus, because everyone would probably be trying to maximise their benefit, even at the expense of others. In fact, there is a theory in place which says that human beings have an unconscious need and desire to be controlled. This is why we have a schedule and explicit rules to abide by in educational and occupational institutions, or norms existing in the society we are part of. In fact, feeling overwhelmed without a daily routine or structure because of the pandemic and lockdown might actually be another case in point.
Look at the Work-from-Home situation - for example ... prior to 2020, what would we have not given in the world to acquire permission to WfH? And now, we would trade anything to go back and work at the office! This is just like, when as kids, we were clearly allotted a responsibility and given adequate flexibility to do it our way and submit it in our own time, or, we were ordered to do the same task by the end of the week. Some of us feel comfortable knowing exactly what to do and the only way to motivate us is to have a fixed deadline. For others however, flexibility and creative space can do wonders. What works better for you?
Now, as far as wellbeing is concerned, as mentioned previously, it is subjective. No feeling is invalid, and nobody else can tell you how to feel. We know what we are feeling better than anyone, at least most of the time. However, we do need a little external aid from time to time. For example, there are times when we deny to ourselves that there is something troubling us, but those who see us daily can figure it out easily. Just like shop floor workers depend on the boardroom members to curate fair policies such as reasonable work hours to be able to maintain a work-life balance keeping in mind their wellbeing, boardroom members in turn depend on their employees to do the groundwork and take the company forward as well. After all, boardroom members too, have immense responsibility on their shoulders. In order to spontaneously yet calmly make the most fruitful and appropriate choices for everyone, they too deserve to feel motivated and satisfied.
We look at the biggest companies and office spaces in the world and feel envious of their culture. For example, having a couch to take naps in between work for employees at the Google Headquarters in California? I mean, who came up with this crazy idea? Why would companies dig their own graves? After all, as Indians, all we know is that to ensure discipline and dedication, we have to be as strict and stringent as possible, right? Turns out, research does not support this. Taking breaks can actually boost our productivity. So, you may either take the whole day to finish a task, or you may notice early that you need a break, take it, and then finish the same task in half the time. Which option sounds more economical? Yes, it is often the unconventional one.
Wellbeing has been seen to boost productivity, work performance and outcomes, job satisfaction, social interaction with co-workers and basically most of the job factors that we can bring to mind. The most common reason for employees resigning, which is at an all-time high currently, seems to be a feeling of dissatisfaction, not with the salary or incentives, but with the management. If an employee does not feel respected or heard in the organization, or if they think that the job is not contributing to their growth and wellbeing, they are inevitably going to quit sooner or later.
When we feel confident, happy, motivated, we give our best, and what else do organizations want from us? Luckily, many companies have started not only acknowledging this but also acting on it, even in developing nations such as India. They have realised the fact that talent is a company’s most valuable asset and one that cannot be done without. If they invest in this precious resource, it enhances their chances at success and their reputation, and facilitates attainment of any long-term goal they aspire to achieve.
As a result, slowly and steadily, there are corporate wellness programs and employee wellness programs in place to look after the wellbeing of employees on the shop floor, and guess what? they are often opted for by the members of the boardroom. This probably means that the goals of both these parties are not always contradictory, but complementary, and can be aligned for mutual benefit. Thus, the aim is not to determine whether the process of wellbeing starts at the boardroom level or is demanded by the shop floor workers. Instead, the focus can be on how they can work not successively but simultaneously, how both these groups of people who run the business, can walk hand in hand ...