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Taking Care of Business is Taking Care of Each Other

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As leaders, many of us learned more than we expected to about epidemiology, contact tracing, and vaccinations as we faced two years of a pandemic.

But there’s another facet of employee well-being that has always been present but was certainly magnified and elevated during that challenging time, and that’s mental health. The ability for our team members to manage stress and anxiety, control emotions and cope with personal challenges is just as important as their physical health. And since the month of May is Mental Health Awareness month, we thought we’d share a few things we’ve done to encourage positive mental health practices in our workplace, as well as list a couple of our favorite tips from leading experts on this topic.

Take Your Dog to Work Days – Whether it’s one of our canine companions making an appearance on a Zoom screen or a visit to the office from an employee’s dog after an afternoon “puppy salon” appointment, we have experienced first-hand the power of pets to light up a room, reduce stress and activate positive feelings all around. We highly recommend you consider some dog days of summer coming up and invite some pups to be a part of your workplace.

Breath of Fresh Air – In a review of the research, Gregory Bratman, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, and colleagues shared evidence that contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress (Science Advances, Vol. 5, No. 7, 2019). In fact, according to Kirsten Weir, a researcher with the American Psychological Association, “Spending time in nature can act as a balm for our busy brains. Both correlational and experimental research have shown that interacting with nature has cognitive and emotional benefits.”

Practice Positivity – Our staff meetings consist of sharing three things: one success from the previous week, one thank-you to a colleague for a way they helped or supported you, and one priority you’re looking forward to tackling that week. This simple practice focuses on positivity and starts the week off with people feeling appreciated and also accomplished for something they made progress on or completed the week before. According to Lisa Yanek, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins, boosting your bright side leads to better mental health and has shown ties to longevity and better physical health as well.

Make Time to Connect – All of us – even introverts – were impacted by a lack of social connections when we had to be more cautious during Covid. But psychologists emphasize that we all need social connections and workplace relationships play a big role in mental health and job satisfaction. Small things like eating lunch together or organizing a happy hour can lift your mood and give you that dose of social sharing that our brains actually crave.

Be Kind – Our team just recently helped a local nonprofit in its resale shop with inventory intake and organization so they can fulfill a mission of helping families in need. It was five hours of our time but the positive impact was not only on this nonprofit, but on our team. The lift we all get from helping others is rooted in brain science. Mayo Clinic researchers have found that volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. “By spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect,” says Mayo on its healthcare blog.

Taking care of business means taking care of each other, and that includes mental health. Being aware of the ways we can improve our mental health at work – and putting these things into practice – is an important step on the journey of employee well-being.