Health & Wellness

Creating a Healthier, Happier Workplace

Education and training can make a world of difference
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by Erin Silver

Workplace satisfaction is a major contributor to personal health and wellness, which makes January a natural time to reflect on your career, set goals, and maybe even enhance your career training and education.

“A new year is an excellent time to reflect on how to achieve greater health and happiness in the workplace,” shares Mark Lawrence, Instructor and Workplace Mediator at Stitt Feld Handy Group, which runs courses in Bermuda. He has studied conflict resolution and communication for more than 15 years and understands the common workplace challenges that can make going to work feel like a chore.

In Lawrence’s experience, ineffective communication is at the heart of many work-related issues. “Whether the challenge is how to have a difficult conversation with a boss, colleague, direct report, or external partner, or how to encourage your staff to return to a physical location, effective communication is central to accessing the next level of success.”

Latisha Lister-Burgess is the Executive Director at Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Bermuda. She agrees communication is a big issue, but it’s not the only one that impacts workplace satisfaction. “There has been a shift in work-life balance, or an erosion of it, because of COVID-19. With more people working from home, the boundary has become blurred,” she explains. “People can end up working longer hours and feeling the pressure to prove they are working. A lot of stress comes attached to that.”

All of these workplace issues can easily spill out in other directions. Internally, this can include self-doubt, more sick time, imposter syndrome, and frustration with others. “Over time there can become issues with bullying, quitting or resignation, depending on how long an issue goes on for and whether an employee feels supported when they raise it,” explains Lister-Burgess.

Training and continuing education are great ways to learn how to address these common issues—and for good reason. As Executive Director of Inter Agency Committee for Children, Families and the Community (IAC), Dr Nicola Paugh specifically supports non-profits and social programmes and services, yet her advice applies equally to people in any job. “We know that ongoing learning and growth are vital to employee engagement and satisfaction. The more tools we gain and growth we experience as professionals, the more skills we have to serve clients and the happier and more energized we are in our work.”

Luckily there are organizations that offer education, training, and support for employees and managers across a range of sectors in Bermuda. “Our organization focuses on helping individuals to work more harmoniously by building their capacity to communicate,” states Lawrence. “We believe that although conflict can be a challenge if handled ineffectively, it can also be a powerful catalyst for positive change in an organization. Organizations and teams are often a just few conversations away from their next big win. We help to facilitate those conversations.”

Recognizing the uniqueness of the Bermudian workplace, the programs at Stitt Feld Handy Group focus on increasing trust through communication in the workplace. “For example, our Dealing With Difficult People course focuses on helping people build confidence to have more effective difficult conversations. Our Alternative Dispute Resolution program is for individuals who sometimes find themselves negotiating or facilitating communication between different people within and outside of the organization,” says Lawrence. His company also offers self-paced online negotiation and certification upon completion from some courses.

For her part, Dr Paugh’s organization focuses on the training needs of the social sector. “This is an important service given most non-profits do not have Human Resource Departments with learning and development teams focused on ways to continually provide professional development,” she cites. “We offer a wide range of highly accessible workshops and certifications aimed at up skilling non-profit and human service professionals. Topics include leadership development, organisational development and human service delivery.”

Lister-Burgess takes another approach, addressing all sorts of important relationships through in-person and online coaching models, since they all relate to fostering employee wellness in its totality. In addition to offering Training Thursdays for managers so they can learn to deal with common workplace issues, including bullying and sexual harassment, managing difficult conversations, and development planning; EAP also offers Wellness Wednesday webinars, a free one-hour webinar series to deal with work/life issues, including parenting, nutrition, finances, and mental health.

“We focus on complete wellness so we can support people in their work, home, and families,” highlights Lister-Burgess. “Our goal is to provide employees and managers with the tools to have an effective workplace and create healthy and respectful environments. When it comes together, it gives people a complete picture of wellness.”

The benefits of working with a trained professional, and not just talking to their spouse or best friend, are marked. “It’s okay to talk to family, friends, and co-workers when you want feedback,” reassures Lister-Burgess, “but when you get stuck and need to get somewhere you haven’t been before, it’s important to have a professional.”

Lawrence concurs. “Effective coaching and training can help people to strategically shatter those glass ceilings and achieve greater dimensions of success,” he encourages. “Coaching experts offer an outside perspective and create a confidential space where one can explore and strategize about one’s next steps without the risk of reprisal or mishandling of information. Coaching and training can help us to deepen our emotional intelligence and better connect with ourselves and others.”

Doing so can offer clarity of thought, self-awareness and confidence, which can lead to being happier, healthier and less reactive at work and at home. “We all have blind spots. It can be a great idea to talk to an external professional who understands relationship dynamics, isn’t involved in the conflict and who isn’t influenced by personal opinions, but by research. It gets you somewhere different,” says Lister-Burgess. “When someone is emotionally healthy, all the other things fall into place.”

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