Well at Work

…and working on wellness

By Maria Kostelac

Hey you! Yes… YOU! Get your nose up off the grindstone, grab a cuppa-J and pull up a couch. We need to talk about how work is working out for you.

If COVID-19's contagion hasn't vapourised your industry/career/job, it’s likely that ‘working from home’ rudely switched to ‘living from work’ overnight. And if this is ‘the new abnormal’, how do we operate beyond knee-jerk habits sprung from crisis control toward engaging practices that build clarity and calm amid the incoming fog waves of pandemic pandemonium?

First, let's breathe. Take a moment to remember the trends preceding corona's theft of the spotlight on 'pending global catastrophe'. Consider that the world's urban economies have steadily drifted from being multiple production economies of the industrial era to being a globalised identity economy in the age of mass digitisation and personalisation. 

What that means is that ‘work’, as we urbanites know it, has shifted from being what we do to who we are. This would have been tricky enough to negotiate in combination with mankind's inherent egoism, but the exponential effect of the internet raises the stakes even more. 

In the production economy (circa 1950 - 1990), the signature experience associated with work was boredom. Today, it's anxiety. Studies show that the effects of this prolonged sense of urgency on our nervous systems constrict the higher functioning processes of the brain, like motivation, decision making, planning, social behaviour, language and speech production.

My point? We were being called to these crossroads of reconsidering the development of corporate cultures and the criteria for success long before the pandemic became the catch-all culprit of contemporary existential angst. It's clear we can no longer afford to offer anxiety the space of normalcy it's occupied in business since 1995, when the first step of Kotter's 8-Step Change Model (creating a sense of urgency) was first institutionalised as the initiating mechanism for driving traction behind organisational transitions. The pace of change has quickened to such a tempo that we're fated to physical fallout from the persistent release of cortisol. 

But now, hear this! Among the seven trends Forbes Magazine identifies as defining the future of work, perhaps the most gratifying is that "Neurodiversity and Mental Health Support Will Be Destigmatized". They further elaborate on the future skills demanded of us in the new world of work. These being: the mastery of resilience, openness, curiosity, empathy and entrepreneurship, optimism and imagination, rapport and relationships, activism, and being able to engage continual ambiguity with relative ease. 

This is all good news coupled with the fourth industrial revolution's demand that human capacity for self-awareness, mental clarity, applied mind and compassion expand. The unimagined tech-density and complexity of robotics, artificial intelligence, data analytics and the internet-of-things demand much greater social, emotional, relational and communal awareness and intelligence from humans than any prior era of economic advancement.

Wait a minute! Are we saying that personally prioritising our wellness at work is a primer for professional distinction and economic prosperity

Yes. In effect. As we respond to the cascade of crises and opportunities (now barely distinguishable from each other) beating a path to our collective doors, that's proving undeniable. Quick wits, clear thinking, compassionate and courageous action, curiosity, emotional acuity and empathetic opportunism are not qualities born of climates typified by fear, back-biting, politicking, belittling and shame. We need all our faculties in tiptop shape to meet the future head-on. 

So, what now? 

Some basic strategies for those seeking a more fulfilling, healing and meaningful experience of work are offered by David Allen in the Getting Things Done methodology and Tim Ferris in The Four-Hour Work Week. Alisa Vitti and John Gray's respective reviews of hormonal differences affecting the genders' distinct rhythms of work liberate us from the 9 - 5 agenda and gender roles, honouring endocrine rhythms via our respective ways of work at each stage of life. Esther Perel offers immutable insight and guidance to heightening the quality of our work relationships. Terry Real's look into our mistaken pursuit for 'belonging' explores the development of empathy and deep listening skills as a game-changer to diversity goals. Cultivation of life-altering micro habits, time-optimisation habits, self-compassion, self-inquiry, life visioning, meta-learning, grounding, coactive coaching and mentoring, digital essentialism and even entrepreneurship - within your personal mastery plan - all serve to bring about work-life integration, as opposed to striving for work-life balance (a misnomer by any definition). Once you lift off, you'll find there's so much more.

By now you've likely finished your brew.

But sit a little longer, just a minute or two…

To listen for what is needed to do, 

Because the future, my dear friend, is relying on you. 

About the Author

Maria Kostelac is the founder and owner of Contrapposto Consulting. IT governance can no longer be considered separate from the world of business governance, and business leaders are challenged to incorporate the requisite people, practices and inputs necessary for informed oversight over IT to be empowered across complex organisations. It is Contrapposto’s mission to provide and grow the means to support and reinforce the necessary corporate thinking and conversations among these accountable role players in exercising good governance over the businesses, supporting environments and communities reliant upon their duty of care. For more information or to get in touch, visit www.contrapposto.co.za or e-mail [email protected]

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