Breaking down binaries; promoting integrated health

Breaking down binaries; promoting integrated health

A holistic leadership view for a covid resilient society.

A holistic leadership view for a covid resilient society

It seems that in different parts of the world, we are beginning to see initial signs for a more nuanced conversation and discerning leadership. The binary proposition from health vs economy must change to health vs health, as economy and health are directly linked:

The impact of lockdown on mental and physical health is huge-, and right now, we are only just seeing the tip of the iceberg. As the CEO of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and as a mental health professional we have enough data to suggest that what is happening behind closed doors (the “safety” of the home) is increased crime – from sexual and physical abuse, domestic violence, internet crime – grooming and paedophilia, social media abuse and bank frauds of all kinds.

These lead to increased mental health issues, especially amongst young people, women, and the elderly, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation.

It has been recognised that schools (and nurseries and universities) need to be open for children and young people’s mental wellbeing. This is true, however, also of adults. A recent report by the International Labour Organisation summarises the detrimental impact of lockdown and ongoing ‘teleworking’ on workers’ mental and physical wellbeing summarised well by a:

  • Techno-stress and technology addiction and overload, which increases fatigue, irritability and the inability to switch off from work and rest properly.
  • Increased consumption of alcohol and other recreational or performance-enhancing drugs, which may increase negative emotions, lower performance and contribute to an increase in aggression and violence.
  • Prolonged sedentary behaviour, working in one position over long periods without moving increases the risk of health problems, including musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), visual fatigue, obesity, heart disease, etc.
  • The ergonomics of home furniture may not be optimal for prolonged teleworking. Employers should therefore inform workers about key ergonomics issues, including via training. These preventive measures support workers to be able to adjust their working arrangements and change them if necessary. The responsibility for the right ergonomics in order to prevent MSD should be shared by employers and workers.
  • Due to the prolonged isolation, there is a risk of burnout and feeling left out, which requires an additional effort from employers, HR professionals, direct supervisors, and colleagues to extend mutual support.
  • Slow or patchy internet and technology tools can also cause frustration and irritability; therefore, proper, well-functioning tools for teleworkers should be ensured.
  • Work-life conflict and the challenges related to managing the boundaries between working time and personal obligations are exacerbated, including an inability to switch off from work and recharge. This is especially the case for those with care responsibilities, such as parents with school-aged children at home.

The discourse must be broadened from speaking only about the economy to seeing it as a part of wider mental and physical health as well as wellbeing issues. Compelling evidence from different countries globally shows that spontaneous (face-to-face) interactions – including micro-interactions occurring at the workplace – and sharing of ideas are extremely important for creativity and innovation. Both are critical for business success in today’s world of rapid and often unforeseen or disruptive economic, technological and ecological transformation. 

The Tavistock Institute was re-opened on 20th July and has managed to remain flexibly open to date. We maintain a covid-secure, safe and healthy environment to all of our employees and clients who need and want to come in. We needn’t be unique in that!

The Tavistock Institute has been supporting work and wellbeing of people at work, and in particular supporting the public service, for 100 years. Institute staff have been the founders of many theories and applications to practice which are at the heart of work, management, leadership and organisational life and wellbeing to date – and continue to disseminate and promote learning through our research and consultancy.

Eliat Aram
CEO, Tavistock Institute of Human Relations

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