What would your workplace mental wellness program look like?
It’s 9 am Monday morning. We’re huddled by our desks while our Communications Director gives us information on this weeks Communications to our Members. She says, it’s Mental Health Awareness week, and so we will be doing different posts on Social for our Members.
I start thinking about how someone who has a mental illness, and how for them it’s always mental health awareness week. Not a single week looks different to them, because a mental illness is still stigmatized, especially in the work place.
At one brief period of my life I became immersed in the Tech Start Up Industry. After visiting several workplaces, I found myself curious about the balance of mental health in their work places as they seemed to really promote environments that weren’t your standard work environments. They were hip, fun, there was beer in the fridge, conversational after work events, and you had access to the lounge 24/7, so you could take a break and hang out with a co-worker, maybe play a video game together, before heading back to your desk to get work done.
While they seemed to promote a culture of well being, I wondered if that concept and idea of well being in the workplace, actually succeeded. And how did individuals who didn’t want to consume alcoholic beverages feel about having them easily accessible in the work place?
I remember reading several articles in the past that talked explicitly about this, raising the concern about facing addiction and the work place.
It becomes hard to pinpoint what you want to see in a work place when it comes to mental health, especially your own. Conversations are all abound with ideas of what mental health and well being should look like, but no one really has any clear concept of it because, well frankly, it’s a new concept with a large stigma still attached.
Start Up industry has a culture, and by default a toxic mental wellness culture, for individuals working with, or through an addiction. Their culture includes the imbibement of alcoholic beverages, often at a high consumption level, and is known to be far from inclusive of individuals who choose not to par-take. Yet, that isn’t just exclusive to Start Up’s.
My own workplace does something called “Wicked Wednesdays”, where once a month after work we get together and have a drink. Some of us don’t drink, and we don’t pressure them, it’s a relaxed environment and usually a small get together, but it’s always around the idea of alcohol.
I previously worked in a place that was so toxic, the only way to get away from the feelings that the place brought on was to go and have a drink after work. Working previously in the restaurant industry, I can tell you that a knock of drink is a pretty standard routine.
What about other forms of health and wellness that are good for mental health as well?
Some workplaces believe that mental health and wellness in the workplace happens when you have the whole office involved in a lunch time Yoga and Meditation workshop/event.
Yet, I personally find that concept more of a pigeon hole effect.
I myself don’t feel comfortable doing yoga. I’m a bigger girl, and I have some mobility issues. I work with my personal trainer two days a week, and while I am becoming more confident, that doesn’t mean that doing Yoga would make me feel mentally healthy at my work place.
But let’s go back a second, we have ideas abound without the ability to pin point what works, and what is economical to a work place. Let’s say the rec room may be beneficial, but in promoting health and wellness in the work place, it may be more economical to do Yoga and Meditation Lunch events and after work gaming sessions. Yet, what about the other 20 percent of the office who aren’t interested in either?
It’s hard to tailor these events to individuals while keeping it economical to the workplace. It’s also hard to find events that might truly be beneficial in promoting health and wellness in the workplace.
As the conversation about Mental Health in the work place continues to grow, and the stigma continues to be challenged, we need to start trying to understand what shape we want to see mental health and wellness take in our offices and places of work. We need to start having those discussions, because we know very well that one size fits all just doesn’t work when we talk about mental health.
But, the first step of course, is breaking that stigma and getting into the heart of the matter by helping people understand the problems of a mental illness, and sometimes all that needs is a safe and healthy place for someone to express themselves. Now that’s economical for the workplace, isn’t it?
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