There’s no such thing as having a work life and home life balance anymore. We have one life, and it must balance on its own. Just like having a healthy mind at home, we also must build healthy minds at work to have a healthy and fulfilling life. Our mental health doesn’t stay at home.
Mental health is the ultimate lifelong balancing act. It doesn’t discriminate whether you are at home or on the job. Workplaces must recognize this and provide an environment that is safe and non-judgemental. While the attitude towards mental health has changed in recent years, there are still many things we can do at work to make it a safe place in which to heal.
At Dovico, we talk a lot about giving time meaning, but when any of us is battling with our thoughts on a regular basis, it is tough to give time anything, let alone meaning. When we are feeling our worse, time is an enemy, and the meaning of it becomes irrelevant. As a mature company, we’ve seen first hand how poor mental health can affect everyone -even if someone isn’t directly afflicted. This is why promoting good mental health is the centrepiece of our company’s culture.
Here are some examples of how you can help build healthy minds at work in a safe and inclusive environment:
1. Provide mind-building food
At the office, we love to snack throughout the day. Instead of providing candy and chips, have a vegetable tray with a healthy dip available at all times. Our CEO’s wife kindly brings our team a fresh vegetable tray just about every day, and within an hour, it’s all gobbled up. Staff quickly adapts to the healthier food option when it’s the only option available.
Always be mindful of the snacks that are available within the office, and choose only those that promote good mental health. We all know excess sugar and salt are bad for us, read the labels and steer clear from those. Protein-rich foods are fantastic for energy boosts as are those with proper amounts of fibre. You can’t build healthy minds at work on a foundation of junk food.
2. Give time for exercise
Movement is the most critical thing we can do to alleviate mental stress. As our CEO at Dovico likes to say: “We need to give cortisol (the stress hormone) a job.” For a lot of us, finding time to get to the gym is almost impossible. It can be hard to get there with all of life’s other distractions. While providing an allowance for staff to purchase gym memberships is excellent, giving them time to go is the bomb! Being flexible with work time and encouraging staff to get out to the gym or even a good walk or run every day is central to building healthy minds at work.
3. Provide free knowledge
Learning tough subjects is a great start to bridging the neurons in our brains. Having books available for anyone to read and allowing staff to expense books that interest them is a great way to remove the barriers to learning. You can also break down more barriers by encouraging staff to read during working hours. Self-discovery often comes from learning of others’ experiences. And knowing that we are not alone through reading goes a long way to healing past emotional pain that affects our mental wellbeing.
4. Encourage conversation
Create a central place in the office that’s comfortable, clean and inviting for all staff members to engage in conversation. Make sure to have that fresh vegetable tray on display here. Encourage staff to eat lunch here, or spark up a mid-morning discussion on any topic. When we connect through face-to-face communication, our brains light up and often festering bad moods fizzle away with help from the voice of another human being.
5. Help build employee safe zones
Giving staff space where they feel comfortable and creative is crucial to building healthy minds at work. If they are fortunate to have their own enclosed offices, give staff the freedom to paint, decorate and furnish their office as they see fit. Provide them with a budget and let them buy what they need. As staff members build their creative fortresses, they will share ideas on how to organize a den of productivity. Eventually, the entire office will be an example of vibrant self-expression. Being physically comfortable at work goes a long way in helping deal with the uncomfortable mental changes that we all experience.
6. Provide judgement free personal days
So many people call in sick when they are physically okay. Then, as they take their self-imposed “mental health” day, they confine themselves to their houses in fear of being caught playing hooky.
A personal day is a personal day.
Ensure that the staff doesn’t need an explanation for taking a personal day. Personal days should be encouraged to not only recover from physical illness but to help recover from the stresses of everyday life. If a walk in the woods is needed, then take a personal day. When a day at the spa is what helps, then take a personal day. If mindlessly walking around a shopping mall is what calms you, take a personal day. It really shouldn’t matter.
We all have personal reasons to take a day off from the routine, if it means helping your mind regroup, take them without fear. What’s the point of a personal day if it causes mental distress?
7. Free your staff from the clutches of the clock
Unless there are business requirements for specific work times, allow staff to set their hours, break and lunchtimes. Nothing places more stress on mental health than the confines of a clock. Remember, we no longer have work and home lives, we only have one life. We should all be able to work at times when we are at our best. Reducing the demands of time encourages staff to follow their circadian rhythm; having a better understanding of this opens the door to self-discovery and improved mental health.
8. Invest in the person
So many companies look at their staff as “resources.” What a terrible way to think of the people who make the magic happen. In order to keep their resources in top productive form, companies often invest solely on skills that best serve the company, but not the employee.
Give staff an allowance to take courses that suit their needs, it allows them to grow into stronger and more productive people; not resources. And strong people end up being more skillful and experienced employees. Skills are helpful, but what use are they if that staff member is suffering from confidence or anxiety issues?
Giving staff the freedom to grow any way they choose, helps build strong mental health and in turn builds incredible loyalty and trust between everyone. Building healthy minds at work requires investment in the people and not solely what they bring to the table.
9. Reward self-discovery
In society, we gravitate towards rewarding only those who achieve great feats. Discovering who we are is the first step to any of these achievements. Celebrating and rewarding those who work hard on discovering their talents, health and personal life is beautiful way to cultivate healthy minds at work.
For example, you can celebrate a staff member who has changed their diet and is immediately feeling better. With their permission, have lunch catered to everyone at the office that’s inspired by the new foods this person is now enjoying. If someone has written a book or released a new musical piece, have a healthy catered lunch celebrating the work that offers free copies to anyone who wishes to check it out. Open the discussion on how these examples of self-discovery changed them for the better.
Self-discovery can be a very trying time in our life, having a boost of confidence from your peers can be an energizing lifeline.
10. Focus on intent
When conflicts arise, we often focus on the result. We place blame and try to deflect our involvement. Over time, this endless cycle of blame poisons our minds with, cortisol. When enough cortisol builds up in our bodies, we become physically toxic and mentally ill.
Many mental health issues stem from consistently placing blame and not accepting our part. We give away our power and become hopeless, believing that we are a product of our environment. It is when we focus on the intent of why others do the things they do, then we put the power back on us to discover how we can help.
Nobody wins in a toxic and blaming environment. We must all take ownership and understand the intent of others. The intention is the mother of all dispute, and when we learn from the intent, a solution is never far at hand.
Give time meaning by focusing on mental health.
These are just some of the things you can think about and implement to help build healthy minds at work. Understanding that mental health is not just a personal matter, but a team matter is crucial to having a productive and kindness driven work environment.
Giving time meaning sometimes means giving our time to those who don’t believe they have meaning. Above all else, share only love towards your teammates, you may never know the impact you have on someone until its too late.
Here is a list of mental health resources for both Canada and United States: