The conversation around mental health is changing
“Work is love made visible”. Those were the words emblazoned on a waiter’s uniform at a restaurant in South Africa many years back. I remember reading that line and thinking, “That’s really beautiful…it’s not true though.” I was fresh out of school and when I thought of work, I thought of school work. No love there. All these years later though, those words still stir me.
To be able to express love through one’s work feels like a romantic ideal. It evokes images of a sculptor or musician infusing their work with heart and soul. It also suggests the ultimate form of work engagement and wellbeing. How then can you find some degree of this ideal as a corporate professional? Is it even possible?
Engagement and Work Wellbeing
The statistics may suggest not. According to Gallup, only 13% of employees working for an organisation are engaged at work globally. To be disengaged suggests you no longer care. This is linked to low work wellbeing, which Gallup’s research also suggests has the greatest impact on our overall wellbeing. It’s clearly important. So how do we come to care more for our work in the corporate environment? How are we able to engage our hearts and minds more than we currently are? There are many components to this answer, but in this post we’ll look at just one – how we treat each other.
Building Better Relationships
Stress makes us self contract. It makes us less likely to want to open up and relate to others. As relatedness is an intrinsic human need, this can create a vicious cycle of increasing emotional and psychological stress, and decreasing interpersonal connection. It can turn ‘work is love made visible’ into ‘work is apathy made visible’. One solution is to manage the stress in our lives so that we can begin to connect more with our colleagues at work. But it works the other way around too. If we intentionally begin to treat each other in ways that promote trust and respect , then we can begin to lessen the amount of distress we feel at work.
Positive work relationships help to create an environment wherein we feel valued and connected. An environment that engages us. Organisations that help to foster healthy work relationships will likely reap the benefits of higher productivity, greater innovation through collaboration and better retention rates. But besides these organisational wins, people will experience greater psychological wellbeing too. Yes, organisational culture plays an important role in helping to facilitate healthier relationships at work, but so do we as individuals. After all, culture is made up of individuals.
So this is the part of the post where I share my ‘Top Tips’ for helping to create healthy relationships at work. I have just one though.
Pay sincere attention to one another.
Legitimising the Other
Listen to one another with sincere interest. Look each other in the eyes. Smile. Don’t interrupt. These simple things (not that easy though) will show the other person you honour them as a fellow human being. This frees the mind and opens the heart, and may just help to edge us all a little closer to Kahlil Gibran’s words that captured my attention nearly twenty years ago.
Humberto Maturana, the renowned Chilean biologist, defines love as ‘allowing the other to be a legitimate other.’ I like that definition. I think it’s one of the ways we can all practically bring a little more love into our work.