Sam Egerton is General Manager of Impact Singapore. In this article he discusses what he’s been noticing lately.
Recently, we have been having a lot of conversations with clients around wellness needs. In APAC, many organisations are still adjusting to a new reality, as well as dealing with the long-term consequences of two-plus years of isolated working. For all its benefits, we know that virtual working makes it hard to create the psychological safety and conditions needed for human connection, and many teams are now comprised of individuals who have lost, or perhaps never shared, an in-person human connection with each other.
Relearning how to connect
What we are noticing is a fundamental need for reconnection – for relearning how to connect with each other.
If people don’t have human connection, they don’t have psychological safety, and they therefore don’t have the ability to thrive, to set boundaries, to find balance, to trust, to avoid burnout, and to feel belonging.
What these clients need from us is to create the spaces in which human connection can be made. Creating these spaces starts with demonstrating genuine interest and regard for people – by asking them ‘how are you?’ and actually wanting to hear a proper answer. Often, just being shown this level of care and interest has a bigger impact on a person’s wellness than anything else. Listening and being listened to are key skills in supporting wellness.
If some individuals need more support in opening up, story sharing is an effective way to do this. By sharing a story that offers a personal or emotional disclosure at one step beyond the level at which you want to help them share, you stretch what the boundary is in the group. You make it easier for everyone to step into a space of vulnerability.
Fundamentally, wellness programmes or workshops require emergent facilitation. Facilitating in an emergent manner means being guided by the group, not the agenda. It means listening hard, and facilitating what needs to be facilitated at the time. It means being willing to meet participants where they are.
When difficult conversations or disclosures arise, participants need a facilitator who is willing to sit with that discomfort, who can hold the space and help each individual to experience what they are feeling. These situations require open, supportive facilitation that can resist the urge to provide answers or shy away from discomfort. By practicing this, a facilitator role models to the group the art of holding space and helps them understand how and when to do this in team settings.
What does wellness mean to you?
Creating a safe, neutral space in which vulnerability can emerge and difficult conversations can be had supports understanding and relationship-building. It also helps people to process and reflect on what is really going on with them. This is important as a key part of wellness is understanding what one’s own definition of it is. Indeed, one objective of the intervention is to create spaces in which participants can reflect on what they each mean by wellness, and what their unique set of needs are that will allow them to thrive.
The fact that wellness has risen so high up leaders’ priorities – and stayed there – demonstrates that it is now understood to be a core differentiator for sustainable, human-centred business success – not a buzzword. Utilising human skills and the art of emergent facilitation to create safe spaces in which people can connect is a key starting point for this agenda.
Podcast: From personal to workplace wellbeing
Listen to our podcast on workplace wellbeing with Tuuli Tervaskanto.