When we think about what makes up our average day to day, much of our energy is spent on work. As Ruth White, Ph.D., MPH, MSW, suggested at the Naturally Informed virtual event Mental Wellness: Mastering the Market, American work culture is "always on." Our American identity is attached to how hard we work.

The COVID-19 pandemic shook up our daily routines, perhaps none more than the way we do business. We all know too well the hardship this had on our mental wellbeing. Dr. White, along with Michelle Canada, VP Human Resources at NOW Health Group, and Tim Salau, “Mr. Future of Work” and CEO of Guide, teamed up to present the session Creating a Happier, Healthier (and Successful!) Workplace. In this panel, they discussed stress management, preventing burnout, and fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.  

Managing Stress On and Off the Job

In a study conducted in 2012 by the American Psychological Association (APA), 65% of respondents cited work as their number one stressor. Of those who participated in the study, only 36% believed their workplace provided adequate support. The pandemic forced companies to take a step back and reexamine the welfare of their employees. NOW's Canada wanted employees to know it was ok to seek help. 

“It’s okay to get help," she told attendees at the event, which was held in January 2021. "It’s ok to talk to somebody. We’re going through a really rough time right now. If you need somebody to talk to beyond your inner circle, it's ok. Reach out.” 

Over the course of the pandemic, there was an increase in workers seeking help, especially employees with children, Canada shared. The impact of students going remote and not having extracurricular activities like sports available, was difficult on families. NOW provided free mental health services such as Teleadoc, a remote platform that connects individuals with therapists, psychologists and other mental health professionals. 

Establish A Supportive Work Culture  

Despite having gone through a couple of years during which remote working has become more common, there are still challenges to this new work lifestyle. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes burnout as a condition of the workplace. What can we do to create a more productive work environment? 

Salau emphasized the importance of culture. “We built a company that's not fundamentally focused on the work, but fundamentally focused on the employee...We operate from the lens of ‘How do we serve our customers?’ and ‘How do we take care of ourselves?’ to ensure that we can come to work as our best selves and as our most creative selves.” 

Creating A Happy Work Environment

Along with the culture we create, we also have to take care of ourselves as members of a larger team. All three of the panel speakers emphasized the importance of increasing work happiness and self-care. 

Tips to improve self-care in the office

Dr. White and Canada offered some actionable advice: 
  • Reducing Workload: Set boundaries around time and how you work. 
  • Work in a sunny place: Even if this means simply raising the blinds. Studies have shown sunlight can improve mood and help you sleep better at night. 
  • Place images or objects around the office or your workspace that you love. Examples could be plants or pictures of loved ones. 
  • Pay attention to your diet, limiting sugar and alcohol. 
  • Declutter your workplace: Start by cleaning out one drawer or one corner at a time. You will feel more clarity in your thinking. 

Praise and acknowledge co-workers

“Thank people publicly and privately when they’ve done something for you or have done something that is deserving of thanks," Dr. White encouraged. "Publicly and privately praise people so that they feel valued and so that they understand the work they do is being recognized.”

To keep work productive and prevent disagreements and discord, Salau also suggested keeping meetings brief, no longer than one hour. Beyond that, our ideas are no longer fresh and can be less creative. 

For more on Mental Wellness

View this session in its entirety (along with all the other sessions from this event) atwww.naturallyinformed.net/mentalwellness-on-demand. Also sign up with the next Naturally Informed virtual event,Stress & Mental Wellness: Mastering the Market.This 3-day event will take place Sept. 20-22. Sign-up at www.naturallyinformed.net.