Is workplace Mental Fitness fluffy HR speak or business imperative?

It’s International Stress Awareness Week. To raise awareness of the negative impact stress can have on mental health, we’re shining a light on the importance of incorporating mental fitness onto business agendas.

At MullenLowe salt, we’ve identified protecting and nurturing mental health as the issue we want to champion and positively affect as our social purpose. This is an issue that resonates with many of us ‘salties’, and which connects to our workplace and our work: something we can take into client campaigns, into how we support good mental health inside the business, and into pro bono support for mental health charities.

Mental health is a wide area of course, so we are narrowing it down. Good mental health and wellbeing at work is something we aim to support through our HR systems. For example, stress management, line management training, wellbeing support. And the mental health issues we’ve worked on with clients have tended to focus on anxiety, the impacts of abuse (mental and physical) and stress. Both done successfully are an active expression of our company mission to drive positive change through communications.

As part of our purpose, we’re supporting a social enterprise, The 888 Collective, and we’ve asked our friend in mental health advocacy and Founder, Jana Dowling, to give her opinion on why mental fitness should be on business agendas. We’ve asked Jana to share her thoughts in a guest blog:

  1. Tell us a little about yourself and The 888 Collective 

Two and a half years ago I started to feel tired all the time, nothing interested me, and I’d look forward to leaving work to get into bed by 8pm. My friends sent me to the doctors and I was diagnosed with Depression. I started taking medication while I was at work and the side effects hit me really hard. I was unable to focus and stay awake. People started to notice so instead of telling the truth about what I was experiencing I decided to stop taking my medication. Fast forward a few months, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and started another course of medication. I decided to take my recovery on like a job and started tracking everything I was doing. I slowly became stronger and was ready to go back to work three months later. When I say ready, I mean I needed to go back, I needed my life to not to revolve around my mental fitness, I needed to have a routine and feel the self-worth you get from being in employment. This is when I hit another massive hurdle; who’s going to employ me? What should I tell them?

Luckily my friend came to the rescue and gave me a job as a P.A. – I was officially the worst P.A. but my friend didn’t give up on me and told me to “keep trying”. Life went on and I started to meet others who were in the same situation, struggling with symptoms and getting back to work.

This inspired me to do something more. I decided to set up The 888 Collective, a social enterprise focused on helping people with mental health issues get back into work. We started very small, selling toasties out of a shed in East London. I hired anyone that had mental health issues and wanted a job. I shared with them a mental health daily personal tracking system I built (and still use). Most importantly, I believed in them, as my friend did for me. Over the last year it has grown and developed into much more. We now deliver free Personal Development and Mental Health Management courses for those struggling with mental health issues. I’m now at a stage where I’m completing Series A funding to launch my new brand: ‘Arkeo – Fitness For Your Brain’. Empowering people and organisations to take control of their own or their employees’ mental fitness through training and technology.

  1. Why is it important for businesses and organisations to add mental fitness to their business agendas?

The facts and figures speak for themselves. 300,000 people lose their jobs each year due to poor mental fitness. The average person will take off 4.5 sick days a year but someone with work related stress, anxiety or depression will take off 23.8 days. The cost of poor mental fitness to UK businesses is £8bn per year. We have been taught a lot about the impact high and low physical fitness has on our lives but we have not been taught about the impact high and low mental fitness has within the workplace. Just as keeping your physical body fit you can keep your mind fit. There are things you can do to ensure you build and maintain a strong mental fitness. When you are living with your optimum mental fitness everything in life gets easier; work, relationships and dealing with stressful or disruptive issues. It is not just about being more productive at work. It’s about being more productive across all facets of your life. Actively engaging in supporting strong mental fitness in your workplace truly benefits your employees.

  1. What actions can businesses take to support their employee’s mental fitness?

Knowledge is power. Training is a simple and quick way to support employees. If everyone understands mental fitness, how it works and the things they can do to track and monitor it, employers will give their teams the tools they need to support themselves and others.

In terms of personal mental fitness tracking, there are a few forms out there you can download but along my journey I built an overall tracking system (which started on paper and looks like trinary code) which you will be able to download as an app. It measures and tracks individuals’ mental fitness. Combining workplace training with the app means employees can anonymously feed back to their organisations about the impact the work environment is having on their mental fitness meaning organisations can take action and measure their overall mental fitness.

If I can go from spending five weeks under 24 hour watch as a high risk suicide patient to the CEO of my own training and tech start up in the course of two years simply because I took control and tracked my mental fitness, imagine what you can do if you take charge of yours and your employees.

A favourite quote of mine is “Rule Your Mind or it will Rule You” Horace. I take inspiration from this and hope you do too.

 

ARKEO will launch in April 2019. To show your support for mental fitness in the workplace, access Jana and her team’s tools and training, please contact contact@myarkeo.com or visit www.the888collective.com