Wellbeing and coping are featured in the media almost on a daily basis, for reasons both good and bad. Burnout is affecting ever younger people who have not even entered working life yet. I have followed people’s stories of coping and the projects of companies to promote wellbeing at work closely for many years. My interest stems, in part, from the responsibility I feel for the wellbeing of VTT employees as Senior Vice President of Human Resources. Healthy leaders encourage subordinates towards healthy and sustainable working methods by their example, simultaneously coping better at their own jobs. That is why my own coping and wellbeing are also important.
A manager’s example has great power
In 2017, we launched a development programme at VTT to build a new kind of leadership. All leaders and managers have now gone through the programme, working on the basic elements of leadership, such as managing your team, yourself and the company. This has helped us create a common language and management culture. Our leadership principles emphasise cooperation and support at work, as well as trust, empathy and the courage to act. At VTT, they are also social skills that we highlight as part of the activities of every VTT employee.
The work community can have a delicate dynamic where managers, with their own operating models and working methods, can lead their teams in the right direction in terms of wellbeing, or onto rocky side-tracks. In expert organisations, the manager’s operating models and working culture are closely monitored and easily copied.
One of the themes of the development programme has been coping at work. At VTT, both colleagues and leaders set an example in self-regulation and wellbeing. This helps create a culture where we encourage everyone to take the time to take care of themselves and make use of the services we provide for wellbeing at work.
A good work community and joint responsibility for coping help in everyday life
Helsingin Sanomat recently published an article in which Finnish leaders talked about their ways of dealing with stress. The article’s perspective of not leaving leaders out of the challenges of coping delighted me because, in everyday life, those challenges reach every one of us.
At a time when work is changing, working life is placing demands on employees for continuous renewal and learning new things. HR work is also undergoing a transformation with artificial intelligence and robotisation. It is more and more working with people with no chance of hiding behind administrative duties. This kind of work requires presence and interaction between people. If your own wellbeing and coping are faltering, you may not have enough strength to engage others.
My lesson from over the years is that regular exercise, healthy nutrition and adequate sleep are essential parts of stress management. A long walk in the morning or after the working day helps you clarify thoughts and manage stress; hardly anyone disputes the importance of having a good night’s sleep for coping. Lunch and coffee breaks with colleagues also introduce a refreshing hiatus to what is often a busy and fragmented day.
The power of example and the impact of my own wellbeing on work are far-reaching, and the results are also reflected around me in a positive way. But even managers cannot do everything. As an organisation, we can provide the framework and tools for self-regulation and emphasise the importance of wellbeing. We also train managers on a long-term basis to support and guide teams with both objectives and coping. After that, it becomes a matter of the individual’s own responsibility. Wellbeing cannot be given to anyone; instead, it is realised for each person through practical actions. What is your stress management model?