Steal These Ideas Re: Workplace Mental Wellness

This is going to be one of those standard-issue “What I Learned From…” type of articles and the reason for that is this: it has never been more important for organizations who want to thrive to take great care of their employees.

What used to be intuitive for many HR professionals or high EQ types in the workplace is now it’s own deeply documented field of study with loads of unambiguous data supporting a central idea: the symbiotic enterprise is the successful enterprise.

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s event, The Business Case For Mental Wellness at Toronto’s Centre For Addiction and Mental Health. Here are my five key learnings from yesterday’s event, plus two ideas I look forward to crediting their authors on and then stealing immediately here at 360insights.

There is no perfect policy, only perfect effort.

Maybe you can relate? I have personally had to learn this lesson the hard way through all types of endeavours in life, but the main analogue has been through my fitness training. Then one day a wise and helpful coach pointed out to me, “there is no perfect movement, only perfect practice.”

One thing that most of us who presented yesterday had in common was that while we were there to share the practices that we believed had the most value and impact at our respective organizations, we all know that the creation of cultural and mental wellness practices are a journey, not some end point that we expect to reach one day and say, “There – that’s all done! Next project, please!”

Building a great workplace culture is about intent and action. If you’ve been working on improving your company’s culture, then I say no matter how little or how much you’ve achieved so far; keep at it! The gains may be incremental but nobody says you can have it all solved by next Tuesday.

Mental health is employee-owned.

How can you empower your team to take ownership of their own mental health? It’s a huge question, no doubt about it. Wars have been fought for millennia as one group attempts to change the beliefs of another; does it strike anyone else as daunting that it might be difficult to change to attempt to change people’s beliefs about themselves?

We as workplaces – HR people, those who work in culture and policy and so on – can ultimately not expect to change anybody’s mind about who is responsible for the wellness of an employee. At the end of the day, people know deep inside that if they don’t have the will for self-care, then they can’t expect to be well and there were Ph.D’s sharing evidence-based findings to that precise effect. What we can do is provide resources and open discussion to help our teams get to this conclusion on their own, and then we can work like heck to support those who support themselves.

Hippie Tree-Hugging Nonsense, Now Evidence-Backed

Speaking of evidence-based findings, (I wish I had some stats to cite here on this one,) but the business case is rapidly also being proven for things like corporate yoga programs, meditation rooms and other practices that may have previously been dismissed out of hand for sounding flaky in the boardroom. This is all quite new and I look forward to seeing where it all goes and what companies do with the information.

Anecdotally, it’s interesting to note that in Tim Ferriss’ most recent book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, nearly every person interviewed for the book from armed forces Generals, to computer hackers to movie stars shared that they have some type of contemplative practice that they believe plays a pivotal role to their ability to produce great work.

We Have A Moral Imperative To Provide A Positive Space

Dialogue about mental health may be uncomfortable, but we must all find a path – it’s simply a human rights issue. We must all work harder to create workplaces where positive dialogue can take place about mental health, de-stigmatizing it to the extent that it’s no different from two colleagues discussing a recent cold or bout of flu.

People And Policy, But People Over Policy

As an adjunct to all of these, it’s important to note that we humans are all different, and while this can alternate between being a blessing and a curse, it’s very important that our policies supporting mental wellness are flexible enough that they can accommodate this truth.

Yes, we must have policies and support mechanisms in place, but this doesn’t give us the freedom to force people through our policy matrixes – we must honour the individual. They are trusting us enough to come and serve the interest of our companies every day and they are further trusting us by sharing their challenges with them – let’s do our best to validate that trust with every encounter, shall we?

Totally Stealing: Total Health

Doctor Bill Howatt is a captivating speaker. The man knows his subject matter, and presents you with the challenge of trying to keep up because his brain and mouth work much faster than one’s pen; at least faster than mine. One central idea that stuck with me is this: we were there to speak about mental health. I was there sharing practices around culture, but I also care very much about promoting physical health in the workplace. Bill used the expression total health and this really resonated with me. First off, it’s a no BS way for each of us to look at holistic health. Additionally, it occurred to me that a lot of what 360 is attempting to do with culture is already meant to honour and empower the whole individual.

Giving voice to this through the specific term total health is giving voice to a compelling and holistic vision for the value we can create in the lives of our team members. In yesterday’s blog post I referred to 360 working at being an empowering agent in people’s lives and I think the idea of total wellness for the team provides a great lens through which we could approach the training, services, clubs and other elements of our workplace culture.

Totally Stealing: Wellness Champions

My biggest surprise of the day personally came when I heard the energized and inspiring presentation of Chris MacDonald, AVP, Absence & Disability Solutions – GB Wellness, Disability & Life at Manulife Financial. Chris’ enthusiasm for team wellness was evident in the way she presented her company’s practices, but the idea that I found myself thinking could be most quickly adopted would be the idea of having a team of wellness champions.

Consider the personas you have as your colleagues – you must have some fitness enthusiasts, some clean eaters, cyclists, yogis, meditators and other wellness-focused folks amongst you. What would it take to assemble a joint task force on company wellness? What would it take to then have a wellness champion on each floor, or for each division or department or whatever makes the most sense for your organization?

Feel free to email me: jking@360insights.com and share your plans or let me know what ideas have got you most excited about Team Wellness.