It can be assumed that some animals eat hay every day. I am going to go out on a whim and reference the below exchange as our human version of daily H.A.Y. consumption (although I’d argue not resourceful and even more draining):
Employee 1: “How are you?”
Employee 2: “Good, how are you?”
Employee 1: “I’m ok.”
Employee 2: “That’s good”
*exit cubicle left.
In this post, I will focus on our innate human need for interpersonal connection and the benefits both physically and psychologically these interactions can impact on the hot word, “work-life” balance.
For those reading this, when you begin your day tomorrow go about everything as usual. However, keep a working log (phone, notepad, etc.) of how many times you will be a player in the above-scripted dialogue. Albeit, it is shown that this “how are you?” tendency has roots in compassion, I will argue that it is draining our energy as a result of output and missing the key of input.
Compassion is defined “as a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/). I have held my own bit of qualitative research with individuals at my workplace, home, etc. Many responses reflected that compassion comes at a price, a burden of taking on other people’s problems for our own. Others, however, described an experience of intense energy as a result of exchanging compassion towards their peers. According to empirical research (other than my own silly inquiries with colleagues), “connecting with others in a meaningful way helps us enjoy better mental and physical health and speeds up recovery from disease” (House et al., 2003).
I believe we can agree that stress is a factor in every work environment. I read an article recently (http://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/) where they cite that in New York and other large cities there is such a strong relationship between police officer positions and heart attacks that it has become an understood and accepted “work-related injury.” For me, this is shocking but can be a reflection to many work environments without the necessary interventions to provide support in stress triggering moments and practices.
Compassion = Increased Sense of Connection = Increased Longevity + Stronger Immune Systems (Cole et al., 2007)
Want more research? Overall the articles I have read have shown consistently that “compared to healthy employees, unhealthy employees tend to have higher medical expenses, absenteeism, and presenteeism” (e.g., Kowlessar, Goetzel, Calrs, Tabrizi, & Guindon, 2011). As a result, organizations are turning to health and productivity management programs because it is too expensive not to invest in the health of their employees.
There are many reasons for our lack of compassion in today’s work world. Increased deadlines, new project ideas, family, etc. However, I will make the generalization that as a result of our diminishing compassion to our peers and colleagues, all of our deadlines, creativity of innovation and work-life balance are being stripped of necessary and vital energy. I would argue that some of us have become part of a world where compassion is no longer felt and expressed but replaced by a zombie routine of “how are you,” followed by “good.” The H.A.Y. of our daily life is stripping our interpersonal relationships and draining our compassion to reserves unavailable when they are proven to be beneficial for our work-life success.
Have you had enough love and expression drilling today? I challenge you, reach out an intentional helping voice to your colleague. Not only for their improvement in whatever project they are working on in or outside work, but also to increase your own balance and, further pursuits of becoming that “unicorn” within the company.
When you are done counting the number of times you have the classic “H.A.Y.” (how are you) interactions I challenge you to follow up with at least one. Find out why that person is good, or why they are just ok, or if you notice a subtle change in their tone of voice, point it out with the most compassionate of intentions; you may be extremely surprised by what you will find about a person. As research shows you both will become something better individually and collectively through this process.
With so much love for all that you do and have achieved wherever you may be,