Engineer your wellbeing the way you would your house

As part of our sustainability development, we’ve been reviewing our practices around wellbeing and the wellbeing of our team. We aspire “to do the right thing and do things right” in all aspects of our business. Looking after our team is a top priority.

I recently attended “Getting Through Together Wellbeing Forum” at Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, facilitated by Ciaran Fox from AllRight? (Mental Health Foundation).

Inspired by the Te Whare Papa Whā model, designed by Sir Mason Durie, and by the recent wellbeing survey we’ve done at Caliber, I’ve distilled the ideas into a format that I thought might appeal to some of my engineering colleagues.

The strength is the sum of the whole

Imagine a basic house structure—four walls, a foundation, an interior. The four walls all meet in the corners. They’re interconnected and interdependent. The strength of the house is determined by the strength of the whole structure. The strength of the overall structure is dependent on the stability of the foundations. What goes on inside the house is dependent on the strength of the whole.

In Durie’s Te Whare Papa Whā model, the walls represent physical, spiritual, mental/emotional and family/social needs. The foundation represents our sense of place or belonging. The interior is our wellbeing.

All aspects of the house need maintenance. Failing to look after one wall impacts the overall strength of the structure … our wellbeing, may suffer.

Essential maintenance

To keep your house strong, there are five “simple yet proven actions you can use every day to help you find balance, build resilience, and boost your wellbeing” (AllRight). They are: Give, Keep Learning, Be Active, Take Notice, Connect.

Supporting wellbeing at work

While everyone has a responsibility to look after their own wellbeing, as employers we can encourage it in the workplace. Like personal habits, it’s about what we do every day rather than grand gestures that make the difference to team wellbeing. Here are some examples of what we’re currently doing at Caliber …

  • GIVE – mentoring opportunities through schools, tertiary institutions, community organisations.
  • KEEP LEARNING – human skills training, CAD exams, personal development.
  • BE ACTIVE – flexible hours so people have time to exercise, active team events.
  • TAKE NOTICE – show gratitude to our teammates and clients, reflect on where we’re at.
  • CONNECT – regular get togethers, phone calls, making an effort to connect with one another.

For Caliber, we have to work extra hard at connecting as a team because our engineers work at our clients’ premises. We don’t share a common place very often. With ongoing lockdowns and the lasting shift of more people working from home, this will be something that many businesses are focusing on.

Changing the way we think about it  

Like it or not, we all have mental health, just like physical health. Both affect our wellbeing. Some people don’t think too much about their health until they get sick or injure themselves. Same goes for mental health. We know that being fit, active, and eating a healthy diet is a proactive way stay physically well. But we’re still going to get sick sometimes, right? But that physical fitness will often help us recover more quickly. We can treat our mental health the same way—ignore it until there’s a crisis or take a proactive approach to building a mental fitness routine into our daily lives (or, to follow our analogy through, do regular housework). So, when something distressing does happen, you’ve got some good habits in place already to help you through.

So our challenge, personally and as employers, is to keep our house in order … develop some feel good habits that slot into our day … especially important in 2020.

There are some great resources from The Mental Health Foundation and Allright.

Thanks to Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce and Ciaran Fox from Allright for a really informative, practical, and inspiring forum.