Well-being isn’t just for your users
3 minutes read
The last two years have been tough for all of us (I’m writing this in December 2021). I don’t think there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t been significantly affected by the global Covid pandemic. Most of us have experienced prolonged lock downs and restrictions to what we can do, and who we can see. Some of us have experienced Covid related illness, perhaps even had friends or family sadly die from the virus. It has been and continues to be a stressful and unnerving time and we know that this can have a profound affect on our well-being. I know it certainly has on mine.
When friends, family or colleagues ask us if we’re ok it’s all too easy to say that we are even though deep down we know that we’re not. We tell ourselves that we’re feeling tired and run down because there are lots of other viruses going around now that we are not so socially distanced. Now that many of us are predominately working from home we tell ourselves that working in the evening is fine, it’s just a slight change of working hours. We tell ourselves that a colleague is probably not their usual cheerful self because they have spent half the day on Zoom calls. As designers and researchers we are adept at picking up on well-being signals in our users (both positive and negative), but we are all too often oblivious to those same signals in ourselves, or those around us.
As product designers, researchers or managers we spend a lot of time looking out for our users, often being the voice for them in our team and organisation. We think about how we can look after them, how we can improve things for them, make their lives that little bit better. But how often do we step back and do the same for ourselves, or for those around us? When was the last time you checked-in on your own well-being, or asked a friend, family member or colleague how they are really doing?
I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve had my own well-being struggles over the last year. I’ve come to realise that well-being is not something that can be taken for granted. It’s something that needs to be nurtured, protected, and certainly not neglected. Well-being is like a delicate flower. Wonderful, but fragile. Just as a flower cannot grow without sunlight, water and nutrients, someone’s well-being needs nourishment and positive stimulus to grow and thrive.
If you start seeing signs of your own well-being declining, or that of a friend, family member of colleague, don’t just dismiss it. We are often very good at masking our own struggles and often the hardest (but most important) thing is to admit that no, we’re not ok. If a friend, family member or colleague says that they’re ok and you think they’re not, then double check, “Are you sure? Are you really ok?”.
I’m fortunate to have a brilliant support network around me. A loving family, supportive friends and a very understanding employer. I’ve been able to get help improving my own well-being and have started making some positive steps to address some of my own challenges. I’ve started actively tracking my well-being (something I’d encourage you to do) and have been utilising my own skills as a product designer to think about how I can improve things. Most importantly, I’ve learned that just as a flower can be nursed back to health, so can someone’s well-being. However, this takes time, it takes effort, it takes commitment and often it takes help from others.
There is a lot you can do to look after your own well-being, but sometimes you’ll need some outside help. Don’t be afraid to speak to a healthcare professional about getting help with your well-being. I’m sure you wouldn’t hesitate to see a doctor if you had a physical health problem, why should it be any different when it comes to your well-being? I’d also encourage you to be open with your employer. You’ll find that most employers are very understanding and will often have services available so that employees can get some advice and help.
I’ve got two things I’d like you to do having read this post. Firstly, the next time you chat with a colleague, friend or family member, ask them if they are ok. If you have any concerns then don’t just take their first answer, ask them again, “Are you really ok?”. As the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved, but saying that no, I’m really not ok is a conversation very few of us are comfortable having (it was certainly a very hard conversation for me).
Secondly, I want you to carve out 20 mins today, or this week to capture your own well-being. How are you feeling at the moment? You can use a tool such as a mobile app (Mind charity have a useful list of mobile apps for tracking well-being) or simply a notepad. Having done that think about what you could do to improve your own well-being. Perhaps you could schedule in a walk during the day, try some relaxation techniques, start an exercise plan, re-think your bedtime routine (sleep has a big impact on our well-being) or simply reconnect with some old friends. Take a design thinking approach by thinking about what you could try, and of course continue to track your well-being so you can find out what is working for you.
Remember, it’s ok not be ok, but it’s not ok to do nothing about it.