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How are you really doing?

Not a day goes by where one doesn’t see, hear or read something about stress, burnout or long-term absence from work. Increasing numbers of people seem to be burdened or even broken under the yoke of life and work. The speed at which the world turns around us is dizzying. There are so many changes, threats and choices to deal with that we don’t know how to begin to give our days the direction and meaning that we would wish.

It’s as though we have a tacit agreement that everyone should function permanently in a vicious cycle of overwhelming pressure. One in which we do our best, day in, day out, to perform optimally only to crash once we have a moment of downtime. And when this strategy no longer works, then, unsurprisingly, our organisms suffer breakdowns for longer periods.

Today, it is clear to everyone that such a work ethos doesn’t do anyone any good. This fact drives companies and organisations to more actively seek sustainable solutions that will once again provide people and the economy with the necessary oxygen. Maybe we need to ask ourselves how we can step out of the at times senseless rat race without actually resigning from our jobs.

There is one guiding principle that offers real new perspectives and palpable relief: the workplace needs to offer space for human feelings and emotions. Throughout the years, we have focused on designing the most rational environments we could, in which everyone endeavours to find and play their role. But where, at the same time, all sorts of underlying convictions and emotions remain unexpressed and/or unfairly projected on to others.

When you ask people how they really feel, or what is really going on in a team, they can give surprising and even disconcerting responses. We don’t feel the same beneath the surface as the person that we present above it. There is a hidden reality that everyone is aware of but which is not broached. This is simply because we no longer know how to do this. We push a lot of tensions under the carpet and thereby create an acute lack of oxygen – with all the attendant results.

Places where employees – from the CEO to the warehouse worker – are given the opportunity to be conscious of their own feelings and to share them are transforming today’s workplaces at great speed. When someone can openly share their frustrations, fears, insecurities and also their hopes and joys at work then they create real connections that reach deeper than the usual superficial exchanges of daily life. This makes a tangible difference. It allows us to express what genuinely drives us and reveals who we really are. Then we can be one person, whether we are at home or at work. In this way, we seek equilibrium and are not forced to choose between life and work. That restores peace, stability and resilience in ourselves, our society and our economy.

It is wonderful to see how more and more people in companies and organisations are using these sorts of levers to create a sustainable shift. There are CEOs with impressive track records who are making the radical decision to innovate in this way simply because it is good for themselves, their employees and their companies. And there is an awareness and a will to take initiative growing in the bellies of many organisations and companies regarding the need to transport oxygen to the exhausted paradigm of the rational through the roots of our feelings.

And that is reason for hope.