Draw up your plan for work-life balance

8 September 2016

The uncertainties of Brexit have increased the stress for construction managers. Now it is even more vital to improve strategies for mental and physical wellbeing, says Mary Sisson.

Mary Sisson

Wellbeing in the workplace is important for a variety of reasons, in particular reducing employee absence, increasing employee engagement and motivation, and ultimately improving organisational performance. Recent research from the CIPD shows that fewer than one in ten (8%) of UK organisations currently have a standalone wellbeing strategy that supports the wider organisational strategy.

Almost two-fifths of employees (38%) are under excessive pressure at work at least once a week, while 43% say that working long hours is the norm (to a great or moderate extent) for their organisation.

While awareness of the importance of employee wellbeing has increased, organisations are at varying stages of developing and implementing a strategy. But unhappiness and stress in the workplace can lead to anxiety or depression, which can progress to cause physical problems such as stomach ulcers and an increased risk of heart attack.

Reflecting on Awbery Management Centre’s experience working with construction businesses, we have identified common challenges for wellbeing – primarily communication, motivation and morale.

These can be brought about by a number of factors. Leaders may be promoted without employers establishing that they have the necessary leadership skills – or providing the opportunities to develop these – which can lead to stress for the individual and impact on their wellbeing.

Communication across multiple sites can carry remote management challenges. It is important to make a conscious effort to give and receive feedback to ensure remote workers are okay, particularly to ensure that their workloads are manageable.

The pressure of deadlines from clients and projects can affect motivation and morale. Managers need to be given the skills to understand the core drivers of their team, so that they can lead and guide accordingly.

Five steps to increase wellbeing in the workplace

  1. Work hard. Recover VERY hard. Repeat. Ensure you spend weekends and holidays doing hobbies and activities away from work, to allow an effective recovery from the stresses of work in order to be more effective during working hours.
  2. Take lunchbreaks away from your desk – eat lunch away from your desk, ideally go for a walk outside or take some exercise.
  3. Don’t accept work from others if it doesn’t meet expected quality standards – if you accept low quality work the burden is on you to amend it.
  4. Set boundaries around your availability and communicate them – for example, only be contactable by phone or email between 8am and 6pm.
  5. Practice mindfulness – a great way to reduce stress levels. Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose. It encourages a response to experiences rather than a reaction to thoughts, and can help to reduce stress levels, improve the quality and amount of sleep, and allow greater clarity to help with decision-making.

There may be a lack of opportunity or outlet for leaders and teams to share concerns, stresses or pressures. All too often these taboos are seen as a weakness and inability to cope.

Integral to a company’s wellbeing strategy is knowing how to spot the signs of burnout and stress.

Corporate burnout is a unique condition that can result in a complete inability to function. Awbery’s research has found that 20% of high-performing middle and senior leaders are affected by it, but that a change in corporate cultures, to better understand the importance of employee health and wellbeing, will reduce it.

The signs to look out for are:

Leadership wellbeing, in physical, emotional and personal development capacities, has a huge impact on individual performance and corporate culture.

Consistent messages from senior leaders and role modelling great practice are key to understanding the “how” and “why”. With knowledge and skills, leaders are better placed to accelerate their own performance and that of their people. Small changes can make a big difference and can have a significant, lasting, positive effect.

In response to these challenges, Awbery has developed its “Fit to Lead” programme. This has been designed to help the minds and bodies of construction sector leaders remain in the best of health for enduring and successful leadership by informing how resilience, stress management and sleep effect mental wellbeing, as well as promoting the importance of nutrition, exercise and sleep, and the role of coaching, performance and motivation. 

Mary Sisson is business development director at the Awbery Management Centre, which designs and delivers leadership and management, HR and coaching solutions

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