Let’s see if we can predict your future. At some point today, someone is going to ask you a variation of this question: “How are you doing?” – or “how’s your day going?” or perhaps just “how are you?” You’ll be asked some version of this question today, tomorrow and the day after that, whether at work or at play. In fact, you’ll find this is the question you’re asked over and above any other.
Now let’s look at your response. You might have a repertoire of ready-made responses primed and ready to deploy – “good, thanks”, “not bad”, “alright”, “could be worse” or “can’t complain”. It’s likely that you never venture far beyond these stock phrases or invest much conscious thought on the matter. Responses like these in the UK today are little more than a social nicety, they trip off the tongue as absent-mindedly as ordering a cup of coffee. Is it time we started to make this wellbeing enquiry a little more authentic?
So how is your day going?
For a question that’s so ingrained in our daily interaction with fellow humans, we devote surprisingly little attention to it. Why is this? For starters, some of us don’t recognise it as a question at all. It’s viewed as a polite opening to a conversation that will be utterly unconcerned with our wellbeing from the moment it starts. E.g. “Hey, how’s it going?” “Not bad, thanks” “Did you get that email I sent you this morning about [insert work-related item here]. There is a distinctly British tradition of using questions as greetings – the once ubiquitous and still prevalent “how do you do?” being a prime example. The irony of this hardcore Britishism (yup, that’s a word) is that actually responding to this statement would seem downright continental!
The widespread reluctance to answer these questions about our personal wellbeing is in part dependent on where the question is asked, who asks it and when. We tend to be more willing to open up about how we are and how we feel in spaces where we feel comfortable, such as restaurants, pubs, outside spaces or homes of people we know well. The workspace is different. Here, we’re more disposed to clam up like crustaceans and spontaneously raise the defence wall of polite denial. Leisure is a time we feel we own whereas work hours belong to someone else. Ultimately, many of us feel it’s self-indulgent to think about our own situation at work. It’s just not very British.
Ironically, this stoic relationship with our work is not only damaging to our personal wellbeing, but also the companies that employ us. A study recently carried out by the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick showed that employees who do not think about individual wellbeing will be far less productive than those that do. Clearly it’s in everyone’s interest, both employees and employers, to resist the temptation to fall back on clichéd responses and actually consider “how’s my day going?”
My London Works is extremely interested in how your day is going.
My London Works IS extremely interested in how your day is going! Ours is a movement of individuals and organisations that collectively wants employees to start delving deeper into what makes a great working experience – how happy were you today? Was your lunchbreak everything it could have been? Were you physically comfortable while you worked? How did you get on with your colleagues? What could have been done to make your day better, to make you happier? Do you feel good about what you achieved today? The key is going beyond simply asking these questions, and not only answering them frankly but then taking action towards positive change.
Our main aim is to create a ‘culture and community of happiness’ not only in work, but also in wider aspects of life. As one of our previous blogs explored, the line between ‘life’ and ‘work’ is itself somewhat artificial. Help us encourage Londoners to rethink the way we get value and reward from our working day – because we can’t do this without you. Spread the word and share our ideas – let the My London Works philosophy infiltrate your daily life! One of the best and yet simplest ways of doing this is by starting to answer the questions we are routinely asked about personal wellbeing. When you’re asked ‘how’s your day going?’, don’t rush to answer, think about it first.
Take control of your day, every day. Actively reflect on your own mood, happiness and wellbeing, and then why not return the question with an encouraging smile. It’s in these small, quotidian moments that our collective working experience can be transformed – for the better.