Last week, we hosted our World of Work conference exploring the future of work in the light of technological advancements. Common themes among the speakers included disruption, agility, diversity, humanity and well-being, and my talk was no different, as I chose to look at the relationship between adaptability and well-being.
After many years of studying ageing at work and strategies for extending the working life, it has become clear that addressing our career development and continuity only later in life is a little too late. In order to ensure we are fit and relevant to work as long as we desire – if we desire – we need to think about our adaptability today and monitor it every day. This way we ensure that we continue to be adaptable throughout our entire lives.
Maintaining a sustainable level of adaptability includes all the typical things we tend to associate with this idea, such as being open to learning new things, being proactive, carefully considering our choices and options, trusting our ability to get things done and managing our emotions and behaviour. But it also includes looking after our wellness and well-being. Healthy levels of well-being equip people with the strength and personal resources to self-regulate and adapt effectively to changing circumstances. There is a dynamic relationship between these two elements. Thus, just as adaptability has a direct impact on our well-being, the better we feel physically and emotionally the more adaptable we become.
Understanding the relationship between well-being and adaptability is considerably easier than trying to implement it. The demands of work often get the better of us, leaving little room for proactive decisions around adaptability and well-being. At best, most of us manage one or the other – and it is usually well-being that is compromised. It has been suggested that this is partially related to the idea that being ‘busy’ is a good indicator of being productive and should be encouraged. Rest and renewal, on the contrary, are considered to be for people who are not committed or are lazy. In addition to this, many of us are very good at putting the needs of others before our own, overlooking the long-term consequences for our own physical and mental health. Interestingly, there is increasing evidence that rest is an essential factor to achieve high performance and not something that sits at the opposite end of the spectrum.
So, how can we bring more well-being to our day-to-day lives without making this yet another obligation? Coming from the perspective of coaching psychology, I would suggest that this can be achieved by incorporating small lifestyle changes, one small step at a time. However, there are no universal strategies or maps on how to go about this. We are all different; therefore, it is difficult to generalise about what works. So, it takes a bit of knowing ourselves and quite a lot of trial and error to establish what fits with the rest of our lives.
If you are wondering how to start improving your levels of well-being or are in need of a few ideas to get started, some tried and tested strategies include:
1) Mindfulness and meditation
2) Walking breaks (from your desk)
3) Disconnecting from technology.
Whichever strategies or habits you incorporate into your life to improve your well-being, the important thing is to do something that feels right for you. More importantly, it should be something that can be started now rather than at some ideal time in the future.
Are you ready?
By Dr Tatiana Rowson