5 ways to optimize personal energy and promote corporate health

A new Korn Ferry report identifies five pillars to sustain employee well-being and performance.

Alaina Burden

Product Manager, Leadership & Wellbeing, Korn Ferry

Victoria Farrelly

Associate Principal, Business & Wellbeing Psychologist, Instructional Design & Delivery, Korn Ferry

Jordan Daugherty

Consultant, Leader & Professional Development, Leadership Accelerators, Korn Ferry

Amelia Haynes

Associate Researcher, Korn Ferry Institute

The state of burnout affecting employee wellbeing today

These days a lot of professionals can define their jobs using one metaphor: burning the candle at both ends.

After all, the world has been operating in the middle of a global pandemic for nearly two years, forcing everyone to adapt to new, unforeseen circumstances on a daily basis. Many have taken on more projects and more responsibilities, while working with less support and fewer resources. As a result, people are diving into their personal energy reserves, becoming quickly depleted—so much so that, according to a recent Korn Ferry survey, 81% of American professionals feel more burned out now than at the start of the pandemic.

Given today’s challenges and disruption, employee wellbeing has become a focal point for organizations. One recent study, in fact, found that 81% of large companies offered some type of corporate wellness program in 2020—a jump from 70% in 2008. Yet these programs, experts say, often fall short in giving employees the tools they need to build and maintain their personal energy.

“A company’s success depends on healthy, motivated employees,” says Alaina Burden, Product Manager for Korn Ferry’s Leadership & Wellbeing Offering. “But the topic of personal energy is often absent from wellbeing conversations.”

Energy is the fuel for life, essential to health, development, livelihoods, joy and productivity. When companies shape a culture around positive employee wellbeing, Burden says, they feed that energy, enabling and empowering employees, and thus, improving their bottom line.

Focus on the 5 employee pillars of wellbeing to build personal energy

In our new report, Optimizing Personal Energy, Korn Ferry identifies five key pillars, as part of its Personal Energy framework, that help sustain employee wellbeing and optimize performance at work. “By working on the five pillars and making positive and healthy lifestyle choices in those areas, your wellbeing would increase, and so would your energy,” says Burden. Here are 5 ways to harness personal energy:

1. Become mindful instead of habitual

Science shows that mindfulness—active, open attention to the present—reduces biases and automatic habits. In fact, one study found that meditation, a practice of mindfulness, can help people better control their impulses and waste less energy fighting them. Experts say meditating, even for a few minutes a day, encourages people to slow down and pay more attention, thus becoming more in tune with their thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

2. Sit with adversity

Challenges can trigger a whirlwind of emotions. When having negative thoughts, take the time to come up with alternative outcomes to the adverse ones that are expected. Experts suggest finding counter-evidence to support why this negative perception could be wrong and identify the most likely implications rather than assume only a fatalistic conclusion.

3. Practice compassion

Compassion training not only supports unconditional kindness, but also cultivates a deep, heartfelt wish for the happiness and wellbeing of others. And research has found that developing compassion increases positive emotions and improves employee health. Experts say fostering compassion through meditative practices can help decrease stress and anxiety, enhance connections, and increase capacity for forgiveness, among other benefits. By becoming more compassionate, people can improve the quality of their professional and personal relationships.

4. Enact your purpose

People are not passive recipients of their jobs—nor their lives. Employees can reshape their work and working environment to enhance their sense of purpose and ensure their strengths are being used. Experts suggest that in order to improve employee wellbeing, people need to change the way they think about their work, the content of their work, and who they work with. When people find ways to enact their purpose, they can be intentional and live full, meaningful lives.

5. Detach and relax

Research shows employees who detach from work during off-hours report higher levels of life satisfaction, better sleep, less emotional exhaustion and better overall employee health. What’s more, employees who enjoy their leisure time as leisure time are more likely to display proactive work behaviors, such as addressing problems at work. To reduce stress over the long-term, experts say, employees should make relaxation part of their routine: meditate in the morning, write in a daily journal, practice yoga, spend time on hobbies. Taking time to detach and relax will restore personal energy more quickly.

To find out more about the different ways to optimize personal energy and promote employee well-being, read our whitepaper here.

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