How to improve mental health in the workplace
Right now as I write this post, these are the top 5 trending topics on Twitter:
It’s clear that, finally, people are talking about mental health in the workplace. And that today, finally, the government is hosting the first ever global mental health summit with 50 countries around the world attending. And that today, finally, the prime minister is announcing that she will appoint a Suicide Minister to kerb what has become an epidemic in the UK – particularly amongst men.
I, like many men, don’t really express my emotions. My wife jokes that I’m a robot and pauses The Bodyguard to say “you can cry you know, if you want to of course” and whilst I know that I CAN express my emotions if I want to, I just… well… don’t. I don’t really know if it’s because I’m suppressing them, or if it’s because I just don’t need to express them visually. I don’t know.
What I DO know, or at least believe, is that we can explore this whole area of emotion and mental health in the workplace by doing two things:
- Proactively seek knowledge, insight, information and general learning.
- Proactively talk about it, share what I learn, share how I feel and be more open.
So to proactively address point one, I went this morning to a discussion about Wellness + Mental Health in the Workplace hosted at WeWork by a truly inspiring and highly motivating woman, Poppy Jamie – founder of an app I’ve just downloaded: Happy Not Perfect. She is practicing, and influencing, a change in cultural perception and behaviour towards mental health and how it should be treated with as much (or more) attention as we treat our physical health.
She was joined by Suzy Ashworth, a wonderfully charismatic and relatable mentor for mindfulness in business, Anisa Kurti of Hatch Analytics, and Geraldine Calpin, CMO of WeWork for Europe and Australia.
And to proactively address point two, I’m now going to tell you about it by sharing some of the most poignant quotes before sharing some of the key learnings that resonated with me.
“Right the way through education and careers we are taught to perform and achieve, rather than to be and enjoy just being” – Suzy Ashworth
Don’t get me started on this – our schooling, higher education and work environment are not geared for happy joyful lives. We put so much pressure on ourselves and compare ourselves to people on completely different journeys to us. Read The Book Of Joy which I found really helped keep me focussed on my OWN goals and avoid distraction from others – it’s based on conversations between the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu… it. will. transform. your. life. So. GOOD.
“When I was growing up there was just one screen with four TV channels and we all looked at it together. It was just one thing to process” – Geraldine Calpin
She went on to talk about how now we have an infinite number of things to bombard our brains to process and that we’re not built as humans for this. It got me thinking about how a phone screen is singular and solo for that one person to consume whatever it is they’re engrossed in, whereas a TV (or cinema) screen might still be a screen, but it’s for consuming together. It’s a shared experience.
“There’s a fear of being yourself in the corporate world. And that needs to change.” – Anisa Kurti
I have stubbornly battled against this for some time. We have an innate desire to fit in. We want to be liked, and we’ll sacrifice who we are deep inside to show that we are like those around us. Whilst most of my peers go to the gym after work, I go skateboarding with my mate Danny B, and many times at past jobs I brought my skateboard into work – BUT I’d have to battle against demotivating comments like “hey sk8r boi” or “where’s Avril Lavigne” or “lol, you STILL skate” or everyone’s favourite “do a kickflip” as if I would put up with the same commentary holding a 5-a-side football kit. Fortunately now I run my own business I’m in a position to allow myself to be myself when confronted with the corporate world.
“There needs to be a shift in what metrics we consider to be success” – Suzy Ashworth
“How do I feel right now? And how do I want to feel? If you’re feeling a 5/10, what’s the one thing you can do today to push it to a 6/10. You don’t have to live everyday at a 10/10 and you can accept that” – Suzy Ashworth
“Success for me is about self acceptance” – Poppy Jamie
Similarly to Life/Work Balance (purposefully not ordered as Work/Life Balance) this was touching on that perpetual feeling of treading water with your goals, achievements and even our never-ending to do lists and instead trying to reconfigure what you measure as success and how to accept that you are who you are and other’s achievements don’t reflect upon yours.
“When asking ‘How are you?’ to a colleague or friend and they reply with ‘Fine’ remember this acronym to show what they really mean: Fuckedup, Insecure, Neurotic & Emotional” – Anisa Kurti
This got me thinking about a lovely post on Linkedin from George Bell of Sanctus.io about giving someone the space to answer ‘How are you?’ as genuinely, openly and honestly as they wish to help them get things off their chest and help you look out for those around you – or reciprocate.
By this point, if you’ve got this far (well done, leave a comment below or share this so I know people actually read my ramblings), you might also be asking:
Why is an Alcohol Marketing agency blogging about Mental Health?
Good question. With a good answer: Because they go hand in hand.
Alcohol abuse is rife in our country. But alcohol is not necessarily the enemy. In fact at YesMore we believe it’s about us all stepping up to treat the CAUSE of alcohol abuse (poor or neglected mental health), rather than just the EFFECT (drinking away problems, etc) and work together to reduce stress, anxiety, pressure and closed-mindedness. And that’s why we’re an entirely flexible and remote working business, so our teams can work from where and when they are most happy to deliver their very best work for our clients. We do A LOT more than this in our mission to reduce alcohol abuse, but that’s a whole other blog post and you can read (a little) more about this in our post: Why Alcohol Marketing Is Our Niche.
So finally I urge you, yes you reading this, to:
- Proactively seek knowledge, education, insight and learnings about mental health
- Proactively talk about it, share this post if you wish, tell a friend, open up
Hopefully if we all do this we’ll be able to improve mental health in the workplace… and cry watching series two of The Bodyguard.
Thanks to all the panelists, and WeWork, for today’s session and in particular thanks to both Poppy Jamie (download the Happy Not Perfect app here) and also to Lisa Graydon, a fellow spectator and voice over artist who I really enjoyed debating mental health with afterwards. Follow me on Linkedin here or get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to work with us or email@example.com if your brand/bar/service/event/organisation in the drinks industry needs marketing advice.