Why do outdated workplace wellbeing approaches feel like catdog?

Ok, ok I’ve given my age away with this one! For those who are not familiar with CatDog, it’s a cartoon about a cat and a dog joined at the hip but often moving in opposite directions and working towards different goals. To all those members of the workplace wellbeing choir, I see you nodding and smirking is appreciation of my analogy!

All too often the wellbeing strategy and the business strategy are perceived to be both separate and at odds with one another. When this happens, managers are forced to choose.

So, whilst managers may want to prioritise wellbeing and see the merit in doing so, they struggle to see how it aligns with the task in hand, and often feel pressure to do the wrong thing by wellbeing, in order to do the ‘right’ think by task completion. It is a false economy, but one that plagues most organisations.

Classic CatDog-style conundrums:

– Join our lunchtime run club is met with please meet this unrealistic deadline.

– Build relationships with your colleagues is met with ‘are you still on your coffee break?’

– Your family comes first is met with we need you to stay for that call with the US at 8pm.

– We support your career development is met with we need you to keep doing this dull, repetitive work that you’ve outgrown for another 6-months to prove your commitment.

When these things are a rare exception to the usually consistent wellbeing-centric culture, they are an acceptable part of any job with occasional extra demands. But when these contradictions perpetuate week in, week out, they undermine and cancel-out any efforts and investment we make in wellbeing.

You see workplace wellbeing strategies should not be considered an antidote for poorly designed, poorly managed work and unclear cultures (CatDog), rather they should be pushing and pulling in the same direction as your business strategy. A constant high-wellbeing culture, yields a high-performance workforce. Every wellbeing compromise is a performance compromise.

Rather than wasting valuable resources and goodwill playing CatDog, the aim is to become a world class Husky Team.

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