As the saying goes, ‘never waste a good crisis’. We have found innovative ways of continuing to be productive but focusing on keeping ourselves out of harm’s way.
As professionals, we pride ourselves on being informed, knowing the facts and being the first to quote the news highlights. Why? It is because our work ethic demands it from us and we have the benefit of being exposed to information hubs, no matter their authenticity, such as social media, email news feeds and push alerts on our smart devices.
However, do we take the same approach towards our holistic wellness? Do we know if our employer is keeping up with new trends and thinking in this space? Are we using the latest information that emerges to our benefit? As a professional in this space, the recent pandemic and the associated pressures have made it apparent to me that health is one’s wealth.
At the Auditor-General South Africa, we are obsessed with how government sets its goals, as it informs the policy position that every organ of state should follow in its strategic planning. Why? Because it allows us to better understand our clients and environment so that we can provide insightful recommendations to improve the audit outcomes of state institutions to the advantage of all South African citizens.
One such instance we will all recall is when President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced the focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) back in February 2019 in his State of the Nation address. Pre-pandemic in an environment yearning for fresh and new opportunities to create economic growth, this made a lot of sense. Government and private sector businesses geared up to become more digitally savvy, putting big budgets towards expanding programmes such as digital transformation and technological advancements.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit us in early 2020, it forced us to reconsider our key success factors. At the heart of our successes are us, human beings, making decisions and implementing strategies. Businesses and government services that had already largely digitalised their services were able to continue to operate under lockdown conditions, but even then we remained concerned with our own health and those around us.
Amidst these conditions, government and business soon realised that the well-being of their staff and families required more attention and focus.
Our decisions as professionals were never easy and at that stage, leaders and heads of finance units faced a dilemma − diverting big budgets to the well-being of staff and those that interacted with them knowing that their sources of income had been dramatically compromised − enduring short-term hardship to reap the return on investment over the long term.
Our ways of working have drastically changed with the use of technological enhancements to having virtual meetings and even processing transactions requiring approvals and signatures from the comfort of our homes.
We have found a sense of holistic wellness in our environments as we continue to work, engage and transact from anywhere and at any time. I for one enjoy the flexibility that this new way of working has afforded us: being present in the lives of my wife and kids but still delivering my work. A win-win situation!
Holistic wellness achieved?
To answer this question, let’s look at what holistic wellness means for you and me as professionals. As human beings, our health consists of three main areas:
- Physical – Overall health and energy
- Mental – Stress levels, anxiety and emotions, etc
- Social health – Relationships; balancing your work and personal life and your social networks
In my own circumstances, I have experienced an improvement in my physical and mental health. I am a firm believer that the pandemic and new ways of working have allowed me to spend time on my physical and mental health, including exercising and spending more time with loved ones.
However, I wonder to what extent I and those around me have neglected our social health. I often find myself having difficulty balancing work and my personal life. It is not a new phenomenon but one that we must continue to pay attention to.
Why do I say this? Remember, we had those boundaries in our work/life balance, such as when at work you were physically at your workplace. Similarly, meetings were held in boardrooms where everyone was sitting physically in the room.
Sounds normal? Well, not so anymore. Our workplace is now anywhere – as long as you have access to your device, meetings are held virtually or even in a hybrid format. In other words, we do not have those concrete boundaries anymore. Our new way of working allows us to do our work or meet our colleagues anywhere at any time. Life/work balance? Well, while most of us may try to set boundaries, we often come across these as ‘dry walls’: easily penetrable and not necessarily soundproof.
My question to you is – is a work/life balance still relevant or should we adjust our attitude in these modern times to something new to adapt to the times we live in? As the lines between work and home are becoming even more blurred, it is bringing into focus what we have known for some time — there is no ‘work you’ and ‘home you’, there is just ‘you’.
As much as ’you’ prioritise work in your busy lives week in and week out, ‘you’ also need to switch off, take time out, and not think or breathe work. Your physical and mental wellness side demands it – we are not getting younger.
Coming back to my original question: do you know how your employer feels about holistic wellness? Do you have a strong view of what this means for you? Now that we know holistic wellness is not just about physical and mental wellness but also consists of social wellness, my advice to you is not to resort to finding a balance but rather to harmonise. Harmonise your priorities, your hobbies, your family and your work. In this way, success isn’t limited to only one part of ‘you’ but rather allocated in harmony to all parts of your well-being – holistic wellness!
Sybrand Struwig CA(SA), RA, MCom Taxation, Senior Manager at the Auditor-General South Africa and a member of the SAICA Northern Region Tax Sub-committee