The underlying relevance of wellbeing to the workplace seems to be about enabling high performance by removing distractions such as ill health or undue stress – there was no sign of Spicer-style “competitive wellness” or quantifiable metrics.
As an example of how wellness can be applied to work, Jarden had us write a description of our previous day in the office from the perspective of positive emotions – I chose “serenity” and got surprisingly far – before helping us to identify our personal strengths and values.
Another session with Jarden offered advice about relationship-building in the workplace. “Active constructive responding” roughly translates to “enthusiastic and practical support.” Responding to statements like this is apparently the best way to build high-quality connections with staff and colleagues. The worst way to communicate is through “passive destructive responses” or as Jarden put it, “Meh.”
He shared an acronym used by the police – DEAR. It stands for: Describe the situation; Express emotion; request an Action; Reinforce the consequences of that action.
There’s no such thing as “a job for life” anymore, so we should all take the time to figure out what we want out of our careers, where our strengths are and how we’d like to move through the job market before we’re forced into making fast decisions.
Jarden says humans are biologically wired to dwell on the negative, and we experience three negative emotions for every positive one. Sina Wendt-Moore, chief executive of Leadership NZ, encouraged us to brainstorm the benefits of being a “positive leader,” but in the course’s second day, life coach and holistic wellbeing expert Karen McCallum produced a long list of graphic consequences awaiting those who don’t keep their chins up and look after themselves.
She says she entered her current career path after being diagnosed with a thyroid condition at 30 years of age. Her brother had passed away, and she’d been pushing herself too hard. Now, she says, she thinks of disease as “inviting change.”
McCallum spoke of the damage done by stressing out over stimuli instead of calmly responding. She recommended breathing techniques for bringing the self into physical “coherence” and advised on nutritional issues.
Career consultant Robyn Bailey explained that change awaits all of us. Her message was that careers have changed. There’s no such thing as “a job for life” anymore, so we should all take the time to figure out what we want out of our careers, where our strengths are and how we’d like to move through the job market before we’re forced into making fast decisions.
A career used to be like a rocket, she says – “Point it in the right direction and fire,” – but now it’s a multiterrain 4WD that must be driven carefully. I liked her alternative metaphor best: “Some people’s careers are more like a garage full of stuff.” There’s a lot in these garages, with no pre-determined use, and construction is limited only by their creativity.
AUT’s Professor Bart Frijns and Lance Burdett also spoke, on financial wellbeing and enhanced communication plus building personal resilience, respectively.
The wellbeing retreat is the last public event to be held at Zen Garden. It has been an events centre and wedding venue for some time, but has been turned back into a home for one fortunate family from the start of this month.
And for those who skipped to the end, Jarden’s “cheat sheet” for wellbeing is: happiness, occasional sadness, a sense of meaning and purpose, playfulness, psychological flexibility, autonomy, mastery and belonging.