I came upon an interesting book last week, Wellbeing at Work, by the Gallup Research authors, Jim Clifton & Jim Harter. They summarize a ton of data that Gallup has amassed over their years of national and international polls, and what they offer is well worth attending to.
We spend a LOT of our lifetime at work.
If you imagine that we have roughly 80 years or so on the planet, (insurance actuaries say the average American life expectancy for women is 81 years and for men 77 years) and, over a lifetime many of us will work for 50 of those 80 years, that’s more than a third of our lives spent working.
If you have a full-time job, you work about 260 days of every year. Multiply that by 50 years on the job and you discover you will have spent 13,000 days at work out of roughly 30,000 days of life. That’s a very big investment!
I pay a lot of attention to the workplace as a vehicle for employees to either feel either well or ill. Work plays a very important role in our lives, for years on end. And not all jobs (or workplaces) are created equal. Some jobs are harder, more demanding, and definitely more dangerous.
In recent years we’ve learned to value those essential employees who can only do their work in-person, on-sight and very personally. They can’t be remote and accomplish the work they’re hired to do, people like surgeons, nurses, grocery clerks, police officers and first responders.
The Gallup writers tell us that their research reveals five essential elements for Wellbeing at Work:
- Career Wellbeing– liking what you do every day.
- Social Wellbeing– having meaningful friendships in your life.
- Financial Wellbeing– managing your money well.
- Physical Wellbeing– having the health & energy to get things done.
- Community Wellbeing– liking where you live.
While their book is a plea to employers to attend to these essential elements and make Wellbeing at Work a key component of the organization’s brand and business, it struck me as I read the book that each of us, as workers, has an opportunity to examine the cost-benefit-ratio of work’s impact on our own wellbeing.
In an effort to advocate for self-care, the authors offer these strategies for attending to the essential elements of wellbeing by. . .
- Engaging in a job where your strengths are put to use every day. This improves your interest and enjoyment and reduces stress.
- Spend time with close friends. They don’t prescribe a particular amount of time but focusing on the enjoyment and happiness this contributes to your life overall.
- Automate bill-paying responsibilities.This reduces the recurrent worries over finances and helps you budget and live within your means.
- Capitalize on endorphins from exercise. Given all the benefits of exercise, incorporating it into your daily activities can only improve your energy, mood, and immune functioning.
- Contribute to your community. Investing in the social fabric of your community increases your sense of meaning and impact, it also builds relationships and understanding.
Whether you’re experiencing great joy at work or deep levels of exhaustion and discouragement, there are things YOU can do to improve your lot, and your wellbeing overall.
Clifton & Harter put employees into three categories:
- Thriving – feeling good about your life today and positive about your future.
- Struggling– feeling uncertain about life today and negative or worried about the future.
- Suffering– feeling miserable about life today with little hope for improvement.
Sometimes, especially if you find yourself struggling, it is worth considering whether the time you’re spending on the job is adequately replenishing your life and spirit in ways that support and sustain your wellbeing – these can be hard questions to ask, and even harder questions to answer.
Making change, especially in the arena of employment can be stressful but sometimes, doing so in order to find a more supportive, nurturing and positively influencing work culture or community can make outcome worth the effort.