When spending some time at this year’s MAD World Summit in London (the UK’s biggest mental health event for corporates), it is refreshing to see so many companies and organizations taking the mental health and well-being of their employees seriously and openly. They are also coming up with plans and programs which focus on the individual and see beyond narrow commercial aspects. Attitudes have indeed moved on significantly from the idea of “pull yourself together”, “cheer up, it might never happen” and “have you tried thinking positively?”.
Now, there is much more emphasis on a holistic approach involving a better work/life balance, targeted support and the encouragement of the idea that it is good to talk about worries and concerns in an open way. Showing such a commitment to employee welfare underpins a happier workforce which is more motivated and productive. This, in turn, leads to enhanced efficiency, higher profitability, more loyal employees and a culture built around effective communication. It can also help to break the cycle of high absenteeism.
Even before the pandemic, taking care of everyone on the payroll was a key way to create commercial success. That is no different now as work patterns change with a different mix of home and office working backed up by a greater emphasis on remote communication. However, human relationships retain their dynamism and there remains a fundamental and natural need to have actual contact with our colleagues, customers and clients.
Although international business travel will not be quite so frequent (perhaps something of a relief to those of us used to frequent flying), is there ever going to be a substitute for closing the deal or identifying business opportunities in person?
I was interested, therefore to take a moment to catch up with Simon Berger, founding partner of Make A Difference Events and Media and organizer of the event to hear his take on how work patterns have changed. As he explains: “The pandemic has provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to reinvent ways of working that enhance mental health and well-being and create cultures of trust and belonging, where everyone feels safe to speak up and be actively listened to.”
Joining in our animated conversation was Dr Wolfgang Seidel from Mercer Marsh Benefits and he and Simon set out a range of ways to build sustainable inner happiness. While there are many techniques and approaches to follow, here are just a few of the ideas put together to make you wake ready for the day rather than worrying about the hours that lie ahead. Some have resonance too in a world beyond work:
- Remember that work is good for you and when things get tough, always have something in your “looking forward to” folder.
- Every morning when you follow your daily routine of switching on your computer, stop for a moment, and tell yourself what you are proud of! Then start work.
- Make space for meditation and calm reflection and take “time out” even if only for a few seconds per day.
- For a change of pace and place, keep yourself active and explore different ways of exercising.
- Nature is never too far away even in the city. The benefits are clear from connecting with, escaping to and feeling the natural world.
- Focus on Work and Love – not the tension between Work and Life.
- Laugh, sing, dance and sleep well. Create healthy routines and and enjoy life – regularly.
- Reconnect with your values, shape fresh ones and seek out a sense of purpose. This is an essential element in learning how to understand and respond to stress.
- Take time to look out for others; there is a power and a privilege in volunteering. Find a cause that speaks to you and become absorbed in its program.
- When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.
- Learn from your body and listen to it more often – because the body keeps the score of your stress levels.
- Practice Psychological Distance. Viktor Frankl states, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Use that space and think like a scientist, by asking yourself, “What’s going on? What would I recommend to a friend in a similar situation? What would a scientist recommend in my situation? What do I have to change?” That gives you ‘psychological distance’ to assess the situation and remind yourself that you have a choice.
Of course, happiness and better mental health and well-being do not have an on/off switch. It takes effort and focus to make the long-term changes that we need. It is a process which involves ongoing reflection about ourselves and our surroundings holistically.