Three years into a pandemic and with more of us than ever working from home, the boundaries between work/home have become blurred and smart companies are taking a greater interest in overall employee wellbeing. Renuka Patel, founder of the new platform Wellbeing Connection, talks to Capsule about her own experience with a high-stress job and the different ways we can measure how our job is affecting us.
With more than 15 years working in human resources, Renuka Patel is well-versed in what makes for a good employee experience. And after going through her own battle with workplace stress and a demanding job, she knows first-hand how insidious the effects of a stressful role – or a negative workplace – can be on an employee’s mental health.
“I will admit I am a self-professed workaholic,” she says. “But after years of expectations and schedules and trying to meet those needs for everyone, it made me realise I’d had real difficulty in trying to maintain my personal relationships, my physical health, my mental health and my financial health as well.”
“When I stepped back and thought about it, I realised that I had really de-prioritised my own wellbeing. I started to look into ways that I could support my own wellbeing and then that became a real mission on how I could help others, because I knew I wasn’t alone on this journey.”
Those four pillars she mentioned – physical, mental, social and financial health – are key factors that Renuka knew from her HR experience were crucial in measuring overall wellbeing. So when it came to starting up her own wellness education platform – Wellbeing Connection, which launched this month – those pillars provided the initial framework.
“Often in New Zealand, when we talk about wellbeing, we heavily skew towards mental wellbeing – and that completely makes sense, in terms of where we stand as a community and as a group of individuals, with a high rate of mental health issues,” Renuka says. “But I think sometimes we miss the fact that the other three pillars actually impact on your mental health as well.”
The Four Pillars Of Wellbeing
“Financial health is really about feeling safe and secure in your finances… knowing that you can manage your expenses, that you’re in a position to be able to do that without the strain and stress of thinking about the next step.”
“Social wellbeing is really around connectivity; connecting in your relationships, connecting in your community – that’s quite broad, because it can mean different things to different people, but for some people it’s about interacting in your wider community and for some it’s about your friends and loved ones.”
“That’s about being able to undertake physical activity without pain or injury – that can take on different forms for different people but it’s really about making sure that you’re not putting yourself at any risk, or undue injury and illness from that.”
“Maintaining your mental health – knowing that you’re safe and secure and that you have avenues to be able to speak to people if you require further help.”
Whether or not your job is good for you comes down completely to “individual experience”, Renuka says, but there are warning signs to look for. “Whether you get to the end of every single day exhausted, whether the energy you have to actually engage with workplace colleagues, friends, family, is gone; whether you don’t have the opportunity – or don’t want to – go out and do anything physical for yourself,” she says. “Just looking at where you see yourself now and where you see yourself in your best place – and looking at how far you are from there.”
The old belief that work is separate from your home life has disintegrated with Covid-19 and the corresponding lockdowns, Renuka says, and smart employers now know that they have an increased responsibility to look after their employee’s overall wellbeing. “With my HR hat on, I know that when you actually support and look after your employee’s wellbeing, they perform better – not only at work, but in all parts of their life.”
By creating Wellbeing Connection, Renuka wants to help both sides of the equation – employers and their employees – be better equipped with wellbeing tools and resources so that everyone can thrive. “The key is to support employees to lead them on a path where they feel better engaged and valued,” she says. “It’s locally focused – it’s support from Kiwi businesses, for other Kiwi businesses.”
For more information on Wellbeing Connection, click here