Welcome to B³ Monthly’s MindFit edition! With Mental Health Month around the corner in October, we wanted to provide you with mental wellbeing insights and ideas that could be easily integrated in planning your Mental Health Month program and your overall wellbeing strategy. Look out for the tips at the end of each article.
Before we get started, however, we wanted to share some exciting news…
Stanford Brown wins Women in Finance Awards Wellness Program/Initiative of the Year
A group of our dedicated team attended the Women in Finance Awards at the Star a few weeks ago and we were delighted to be honoured with winning both the best Wellness Program/Initiative and SME Employer of the Year for 2019. I was very proud to see two of our star B³ women accepting the award!
Thanks to our wonderful Benefit³ team for their passion and commitment to providing our clients (and their female staff) with stellar service and wellbeing initiatives.
Re imagining Rest
While a common wellness trend today is measuring our sleep patterns, rest is an overlooked part of our daily schedules. Not enough rest leads to a decline in productivity and creativity which ultimately results in a lost connection with our sense of meaning and purpose.
Although employers may believe they are supporting rest with flexible benefits (such as flexible working hours, longer holiday periods, etc), employees can still ‘burn out’ by not resting properly.
A recent study completed in Sweden illustrates that the brain cannot differentiate between work and hobbies such as recreational activities, being on social media and using your smartphone. “A true rest is time out. Doing very little, stopping those head laps and simply being with yourself and your surrounds” says Martine Beaumont, CEO and Founder of Select Wellness.
MH Month Ideas:
Consider what rest means to you and your employees in the workplace. Do you encourage your staff to take genuine time off? Does social pressure influence your staff to always be ‘switched on’?
Consider adding a Meditation and/or Mindfulness session into your Mental Health Month schedule, offering a space for your employees to learn how to turn off their brain for some much needed rest.
Reap the Rewards for Reforming Resilience
Resilient teams are important to the long-term success of your business. Why then, is synergistic sturdiness not championed in the same way as individual adaptability. We all love a story of an athlete who has overcome an injury or a slump to put the team on her back, or the relentless iteration of an entrepreneur who, after hitting a multitude of roadblocks, has a breakthrough. Less consideration is given to the resilience of teams, and even less still, to developing this quality.
Fortunately for us, the Harvard Business Review has done the legwork. They interviewed 2000 NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) coaches and hundreds of team leaders in a wide variety of industries to nail down 4 qualities that resilient teams share:
- Trust in their ability to complete tasks together – they believe that they have the people necessary to overcome any challenge they may be faced with.
A common understanding of what teamwork looks like – they understand their roles, as well as those of others and know how to communicate in a way that is conducive to vanquishing the trial at hand.
- An ability to improvise – their intimate knowledge of each team members abilities allows for the adaptation of existing knowledge for the resolution of novel problems.
- A feeling of safety and trust – all of this is underpinned by what is called ‘psychological safety’. Knowing that no one will be ridiculed for an unconventional suggestion creates a forum for the sharing of a diverse range of perspectives. Unorthodox problems require unorthodox solutions, and an environment that encourages adaptation and a healthy interrogation of normative ideas will facilitate innovation.
Now we know that resilience is good, but how do we cultivate it? This can be done before, during and after moments of adversity. Methods include cross training, reframing adversity as opportunity and encouraging careful reflection and feedback.
MH Month Ideas:
Need to add Resilience training to your Mental Health Month schedule? We can help! Consider adding a keynote presentation to your month, or a more in depth program over several days.
Jumping For Joy at your Job
Joy is essential to productivity and must be made a priority in the workplace. A study by A.T. Kearney found a strong correlation between feelings of joy at work and perceptions of harmony, impact and acknowledgement in the workplace. This suggests that finding meaning in one’s work and feeling “personally committed to achieving the company’s vision and strategy” is the key to a joyful workplace.
The study found a ‘joy gap’ where 90% expected to feel joy at work but only 37% did. A rather salient illustration of the neglect of this measure by organisations. A lack of joy can have detrimental effects on the mental wellbeing of employees, resulting in an increase in burnout.
What can we do to increase joy at the workplace? Here are some quick tips from A.T. Kearney that you can implement now to reduce your joy gap and improve productivity:
Set the agenda – Strengthen your inclusion agenda by making sure efforts are made towards employees feeling heard, recognised and acknowledged.
Set the stage – Staff your new digital/culture programs with true cross-unit, cross-silo teams, where joint teamwork delivers maximum impact, shared success, and fun.
Set the tone – Celebrate efforts and successes made by individual and teams. Express more of your personal joy as joyful people cause others around them to feel joy.
MH Month Ideas:
Lean on your EAP provider for seminars on Collaboration, Teamwork and Communication. Or else, reach out to Stanford Brown to help organise these programs for you!
Consider making this a focus of your monthly communications/town hall
Tools to Tackle the Financial Pinch
Wage growth is currently higher (2.3%) than inflation (1.3%), but most Australians are still feeling the pinch financially (data from March 2018 to March 2019 – Australian Bureau of Statistics).
Australia’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Survey (HILDA) observed households’ disposable income from 2001 to now. Since the 2009 global financial crisis, real disposable has income stalled, putting a major strain on Australians’ financial wellbeing.
Less disposable income can lead families to suffer from high work – family conflict, which in turn makes 50% of parents more likely to separate than others.
Financial ill health, whether perceived or real, has tangible influence over the rest of our wellbeing, especially in our social and mental health. Promoting a holistic benefits program that incorporates financial education and support helps employees make better financial decisions and provides the tools needed to have important financial discussions with their partners.
The PWC 2019 Employee Financial Wellness Survey found that 1 in 3 employees state that personal finances are a distraction at work and 59% of employees cited financial or money matters/challenges as causing them the most stress.
To keep your staff holistically well, financial education is a vital component for financial and mental wellbeing.
MH Month Ideas:
Consider adding a Financials 101 seminar into your wellness strategy, or Stanford Brown can also come onsite to conduct 30 minute one on one general financial advice sessions with your staff to help guide them through any financial issues they may be facing.
Just Say No
The problem with saying ‘yes’ all the time is that it can leave you with unnecessary stress and working many hours overtime to complete tasks, that you agreed to, on time. Saying ‘no’ on the other hand, can reduce your stress levels and allow you to meet deadlines without having to work ridiculous hours. The result, marked improvement in your mental wellbeing.
If you are someone that can never seem to say ‘no’, is there anything you can do to change this habit and relieve some stress? Elizabeth Saunders, a time management coach, provides strategies on how to say ‘no’ in 3 main areas:
- When presented with commitments that are not the best use of your time, you will need to learn to say no. For example, if you are invited to lunch with people you see on a regular basis, but have something else you would like to do, you could say: “Thanks so much for the invite, but I already have some other commitments.”
- A common issue is the scheduling of a number of tasks to complete in a day that is just not possible. To make the number of tasks on your plate manageable, you need to start saying ‘no’ to tasks that are not in your job description.
- Being issued a task without appropriate time to complete it may cause unnecessary stress, even it does fall within your job description. An example of something you can say is: “I would love to help you, but my time is already fully booked with commitments to [my boss, clients, etc.] today. I’ll get this back to you by Friday.
MH Month Ideas:
To help solidify your employees’ commitment to managing workload and stress, why not add a ‘wellbeing walk in check in’ to your Mental Health Month agenda? These are 30 minute one on one chats with a professional counsellor, where employees can bring one issue they would like guidance on. This may be time management, stress management, peer/relationship guidance, anything that is a burning issue. Reach out if you you’d like more information about this valuable service.
How agile is your workplace?
Physical agility is unlikely to be important to the completion of any tasks in your office. However, we can guarantee that emotional agility is integral. Emotional agility, as Susan David defines it in her eponymous book, is “being flexible with your thoughts and feelings so that you can respond optimally to everyday situations.” This creates a feedback loop of our emotions, enabling them to inform outcomes as opposed to dictating them.
The argument she makes is that workplaces, generally, do not foster emotional agility. Instead, outward displays of emotions like anger or sadness are discouraged and muffled by expectations of stoicism and unwavering positivity.
David goes on to provide a 4-point framework to achieving emotional agility:
- Showing up: acknowledging your emotions with curiosity and compassion. All emotions are natural, embrace them.
- Stepping out: detaching yourself from your emotions and observing them impartially. This encourages a thoughtful response to them.
- Walking your why: is identifying the core values that will function as your compass.
- Moving on: using your identified core values to adapt your responses to emotion.
So how does this affect the workplace?
Denying negative emotion is to deny an intrinsic element of the workplace and more importantly, life. Suppressing them not only negatively impacts the mental wellbeing of staff, it robs you of vital feedback too.
Embracing a full range of emotions allows you access to signposts and red flags in your personal life and in the office.
You feel guilty and perhaps a little empty when staying at work prevents you from making it to your daughter’s soccer practice, right? Well that should signal to you that being present in her life is what is most important.
Similarly, someone being irked by a newly introduced process or strategy should be an indication that your planned implementation could already use some improvement. David laments the way that dissenters are dismissed as a nuisance.
As is the theme of being MindFit, nurturing feelings of psychological safety in your workplace is a prerequisite. Only then will “people feel safe to bring their emotional truth to the workplace”. Human beings and their emotions are illimitably complex and different. Treating them like machines will result in malfunction.
Having a committed and engaged EAP service provides a space where your employees can learn more about their emotional needs. Speak to us if you’re interested in implementing a boutique EAP provider into your workplace.
Watch Susan David talk about ‘the gift and power of emotional courage’.
Other MH Month Ideas:
Hold a social event – create opportunity for connectiveness in the workplace, create conversation in a social setting and help foster deeper relationships and communication. Think of events that focus on an activity, such as trivia, lawn bowls or wine tasting which helps the more introvertedly challenged.
Be charitable – it is well proven that acts of charity provide positive mental health outcomes for the person performing the act, why not consider including a charity event in your MH month.
You can also integrate this into a social event
Promote EAP and MH support programs – this is the month to bring all the excellent resources and infrastructure available to your staff to the forefront, promote these in staff communications and Town Halls.
Normalise the MH discussion – ask leaders in the business if they would be willing to share MH challenges and periods of stress that they have experienced. Bring in a speaker with an inspirational story to share.
Purchase inspirational books written by people who have overcome adversity and make these available in common areas to promote conversation.
Think Laterally – Get you best blue sky thinkers together to come up with an idea that suits your workplaces unique culture ( I would love to hear back ideas we can share with the wider community).