Creating Cultures That Focus on the Whole Person

Part 4 of our 4-part Burnout Series. If you missed the first articles, you can check them out here, here and here.

The pressures of hustle culture are all around us, leading to record-breaking levels of burnout.  While there is hope, it requires a shift in mentality, away from all-work-all-the-time and into a more attainable pace of life that empowers people to create the life that brings them fulfillment.  It’s called whole-life culture and it works best inside of organizations where the community can help support this mindset.

Whole-life culture starts with leadership, because they must create the permission and modeling for this critical shift. They can drive this change through:

  • Policies and guidelines
  • Rewards and consequences
  • Supporting managers in creating the environment
  • Building trust through their own vulnerability
  • Looking at workloads and capacities through this new lens
  • Keeping an eye toward wellbeing and sustainability
  • And role modeling whole-life culture in their own lives

Organizations can also think about policy design when it comes to creating cultures that allow people to focus on more than just work.

For example, instead of offering unlimited PTO which we know will mostly go unused, try setting mandatory minimum PTO requirements.  This removes the social pressure to avoid taking time off just because you don’t see anyone else around you taking it.  If everyone has to take a minimum, the shame of rest and recovery is mitigated.

Another area to consider are wellness days. While wellness days are well-intentioned, they often put people in a position to force a full week’s worth of work into a shorter time frame and makes them dread coming back to catch up, which increases stress and decreases the effectiveness of having wellness days.  Instead, you might try all-company breaks where everyone is off together so noise doesn’t pile up while you’re off and you can truly focus on resting and recharging.

And helping leaders be their best is another key element to whole-life culture. Managers are the cornerstones of culture because they set the everyday tone and pace for the organization. So organizations MUST support their managers if they want whole-life culture.

This means examining their workloads to make sure they can lead by example.  

It means training them on how to listen and lead their teams with empathy.  And it means putting managers in a position to succeed by never pushing them to deliver results at the expense of culture.

Whole-life isn’t just for organizations, though they clearly play a critical role.  As individuals, we all have a role to play. 

  • It starts by setting standards that are not only attainable but that align to what you actually want out of life. 
  • Rather than setting huge scary goals with future outcomes that just add more anxiety, try focusing on a single small change you can make each week, and repeating that week over week.
  • But more importantly, it means incorporating the practice of pausing into your life.  So instead of mindlessly accepting every invite and request from others, be thoughtful in how you’re spending your time.  Be cognizant of where you’re spreading yourself too thin. And don’t be afraid to set boundaries that keep you from heading back into the hustle.
  • It requires being intentional with your time.  It requires regular self-reflection. And it requires taking the time to celebrate and be grateful for the little wins along the way..
  • This is how we get over the “never enough” mentality that hustle culture brings.

Finally, to make whole-life culture stick, it has to be reinforced.  

This means letting go of old hustle culture habits like bragging about being busy, pitting employees against one another or celebrating work that could only be done by working nights and weekends.

But it also means embracing new, healthier habits inside the workplace.  This includes more discussion about non-work, more human conversations, more meeting-free times and more recognition of what makes us each human.

To learn more about burnout and our research around it, check out our recent webinar, or download the full report for yourself.