It is well accepted now that wellness is a vast and multi-dimensional concept. Wellness of one kind influences another.
In a globalised and heavily digitised world that slogs across time zones, Indians, like working forces elsewhere, spend most of their waking time on work. It is inevitable then that we examine vocational wellness as an important yardstick of being healthy and happy.
When it comes to vocational wellness, the phrase most used to describe it in India would be “job satisfaction”. Harvard University’s David S. Rosenthal Center for Wellness and Health Promotion states: “Vocational wellbeing consists of an occupation that aligns with our skills and values, challenges us, and gives us a sense of fulfilment. Important components consist of goals and ambition, job satisfaction, and a feeling of meaning and purpose.”
Nikhil Steven, executive director at EY and a high-performance career coach in Bengaluru, says that an awareness of one’s own self is the first step in this direction. “Without knowing what we aspire for, how can we know what will bring us satisfaction?” is his argument.
How much time are you spending on work?
There are a few parameters that we can use to assess our vocational wellbeing quotient.
- Time and energy
“What is the total time and energy you spend working? This is not only the stipulated working hours of 9-to-5, or 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in many cases these days; this is the time that you end up thinking about work as well,” Steven explains.
How often are you having breakfast with the family but are thinking about the day’s meetings, emails and the day’s to-do list? “Ask yourself — in a day what is your total time and energy expenditure including ‘on the job’ time and thoughts of work? Make small amends regularly to arrive at a balance,” he suggests.
Working in today’s complex environments comes with several layered challenges. Steven points out that people often become myopic and see their career or growth only in comparison to others. “Comparison is toxic as an individual’s focus is more on how others are doing versus their own selves. A career is built over several years and a one-year performance cycle does not make or break a long-term career.”
In his view, “The lack of deeper human connection is giving rise to discontent, mistrust and overall mental fatigue. Often what is truly needed is developing emotional and cognitive empathy.”
Do what you enjoy at your workplace
Steven suggests that one uses this simple exercise to understand and make changes to increase the time spent doing the activities one enjoys at work.
“Looking back at a week, write down all the activities, meetings, and presentations that you undertook. Stack them up on the enjoyment scale of 1 to 10; 10 being the most enjoyable. The higher the score, the better is your engagement with your profession.”
It should also be understood that not everything one does is always enjoyable. “Even those who love their job have chores they don’t enjoy,” he adds. And by that yardstick, “If you have nothing listed as being enjoyable, you are better off finding some other career or job.”
The priority quadrants
To create your own quadrant, ask yourself “what are some of the experiences I aspire for?” These can be your broad priorities, suggests Steven.
It is about making choices
After seven years of working in the information technology or IT industry, Ashirbani Roy, now 43, took a three-year break. During that time, she started helping a group of widows in rural areas to sell their handmade jewellery. When it was time to return to work, she evaluated her options.
She could either go back to a full-time IT job again, or she could start an enterprise that allowed her the satisfaction of helping the women find a livelihood, (her engagement with them had given her immense joy;) gave her an income, and the flexibility of working from home as a single mother.
The choice was made. Now she operates her online jewellery enterprise, Aashir’s, where she and her team design pieces for an urban market, and the grassroots women’s group makes them.
She explains why she made the dramatic career switch.
“My friends and contemporaries may be earning double than me. But that’s not what drives me. I don’t get happiness from material assets. Yes, I need enough money to take care of any medical emergencies, my child’s and home needs, and to maintain a certain standard of living – those are my priorities. But over and above that, I need peace and happiness. It’s about making choices.”
Roy finds that as an entrepreneur she has advantages over a full-time IT job:
- Being able to do what she likes
- Setting her own time and pace of work and balancing it with family life
- Making her own rules and not having to work within others’ rules
- The comfort of not being under pressure – which is needed for wellbeing
- Not feeling exhausted despite working all days of the week
- Contented and not bored.
Wrong choice = frustration and stagnation
Tejeshwar BR, Bengaluru-based vocational psychologist and career analyst, believes that professionals feel challenged in their career because they lacked guidance as students. Many youngsters enter a professional stream that they do not like later, because they would have made uninformed choices and without assessing their own interests or skills, he observes.
He lists a few challenges that his clients faced, and which can lead to career stagnation, or frustration at the workplace:
- Unable to read one’s own prospects or opportunities and grow further;
- Fear of new tasks, projects, roles, and opportunities;
- Feeling isolated from peers, activities;
- Difficulty or disinterest in fitting into the work environment.“Individuals need regular interventions to keep them psychologically fit so that they can balance their work and personal lives. This is lacking in most workplaces and eventually contributes to the challenges they face,” he underlines.
Update skills, track growth
Tejeshwar says that today, regular upskilling is important for career growth. “Get yourself assessed thoroughly, and often, to keep a track of your growth.”
Psychologists use these psychometric assessment tools or “scales” to analyse a professional’s career:
• Satisfaction with life
• Quality of work life
• Organisational culture
• Emotional intelligence
Professional help is always available. But we can start by examining ourselves and understanding our vocational needs.
Nikhil Steven has these six sutras for ensuring happiness with work:
- Start articulating your aspirations.
- Identify your top three macro goals.
- Assess where you stand today against those aspirations.
- What are the options before you and what are the barriers?
- Plan practical steps that will help you to get there, discuss the strategy with someone you trust.
- Approach a career coach if you are still struggling to navigate these areas.