One of the many, many <sigh> many things I oversee in my HR gig is the company’s wellness program. Now, traditionally, “wellness” has focused primarily on physical health – you know, BMI, blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol. And while we do include components of these things, we’ve recognized the need to take a more holistic approach to wellness – so, in addition to talking about heart health and nutrition, we also incorporate activities surrounding financial well-being and mental health.
Mental health is hard to talk about in the workplace. But it needs to be addressed – if not for the greater good of society, then because it’s costing companies productivity (read: money.) Take a look at this Harvard article:
Researchers…found that workers with depression reported the equivalent of 27 lost work days per year — nine of them because of sick days or other time taken out of work, and another 18 reflecting lost productivity.
And it’s not just depression….Anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD can wreak havoc on one’s personal life AND career:
Studies estimate that people with ADHD may lose 22 days per year (a combination of sick days and lost productivity)….people with ADHD are 18 times as likely to be disciplined for behavior or other work problems, and likely to earn 20% to 40% less money than others. They are also two to four times as likely as other employees to be terminated from a job.
So many of us are silently struggling – but we’re not getting any actual help:
In one study, only 57% of employees with symptoms of major depression said they had received mental health treatment in the previous 12 months. Of those in treatment, fewer than half — about 42% — were receiving treatment considered adequate….
Anxiety disorders affect about 6% of the population at some point in life, but typically go undiagnosed for 5 to 10 years. And only about one in three individuals with a diagnosed disorder receives treatment for it.
In the United States…only 13% of workers with ADHD reported being treated for this condition in the previous 12 months.
So yeah. Big problem, here. And mental illness comes with the challenge of overcoming the not-insignificant stigma associated with it. Here’s an illustration I’m blatantly stealing from a recent seminar I attended:
First, think about some of the slang terms that you’ve heard to describe mental illness.
Nuts. Loopy. Crazy. Unbalanced. Psycho.
Yeah. You probably have a few more.
Now, let’s list the slang terms you know that describe people with cancer:
Um. <cough> <furrows brow> Uh…
Okay, so what words do we typically use?
When we roll this out at the workplace, then, we want to incorporate mental wellness slowly. With baby steps. Because while we really want everyone to be all enlightened and shiz, the truth is that blasting them with in-your-face messages that scream DEPRESSION! ANXIETY! might have them hearing something that mentally sounds more like ZOMG SPIDERS AND CREEPY CLOWNS!!! resulting in everyone scrambling like insects exposed to the light from an overturned rock. Which helps nobody.
So in order to gently introduce the idea of focusing on mental health to our organization, a few weeks ago we rolled out the Paths to Positivity Program. (Materials here.) During this five-week program, participants choose one of three areas of focus:
- Connect with Others
- Mind Your Mood
- Find Your Purpose
Since 99% of my friends are imaginary people I met on the internet, I decided to focus on Connect with Others. I took my team to lunch, and we volunteered with our families (well, OK, THEIR families. Because my kids were at their dad’s, and the hubs and my stepsons won’t do anything with Jesus, even if it’s a good thing) at Feed My Starving Children. And I thought it wouldn’t hurt to incorporate some of the other suggestions, like reaching out to people in need, helping others….Essentially, I tried to subdue my snark and exercise my empathy a little.
First up: My college-aged daughter needed some help with her resume.
Look at me being all servant-hearted.
She had an actual JOB for two summers, and volunteered at the local hospital for YEARS. You’d think we could start there….
Kid can play virtual poker (she won, btw) but listing things you’ve actually DONE is a stretch? LOL I’m such a patient mom. But it paid off:
Well…it was momentary gratitude, anyway. 🙂 But if you speak teenager, you know what high praise this is. Further, she asked me to help her roommate, too. How many college freshmen have YOU met who are happy to get their mothers involved?
Of course, I wanted to extend happy vibes beyond just family – I planned to reach out to strangers, too. I’ve mentioned before that I get a decent volume of misdirected email, so I thought this recent note in my inbox might provide a good opportunity to spread quasi-random kindness:
While I DO frequent Chipotle (because OMNOMNOM) I didn’t recall sending this. <headscratch> Certainly not from Illinois, where I haven’t been in over 10 years, save a few unfortunate layovers in O’Hare. Puzzled, I scroll down:
Ah, OK. Someone filed a complaint and inadvertently used my email address. Shrugging, I typed a reply, figuring I could use this as a chance to say something kind:
I thought that’d be the end of it, but she wrote back:
OH HELL YEAH.
And once I got my burrito, I made sure to thank her.
A few weeks ago, I attended my annual Safety Conference – the one time a year where
oppressed party animals HR and safety professionals get together to share body shots of Fireball best practices and strategies surrounding their respective Safety programs. This year, the drunkfest conference was held in Las Vegas. I’d never BEEN to Vegas, and honestly, wasn’t looking forward to it – other than purchasing a Powerball ticket whenever I gas up my car, I don’t really gamble, and I knew we wouldn’t have time for any cool shows due to the “strongly encouraged” networking sessions held after-hours.
So I arrived at Caesar’s Palace on a Wednesday night.
I was tired, hungry, and largely confused, and the mechanical BLING!! BONGBONGBONG BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRING of pending financial ruin combined with the light haze of cigarette smoke made me hella cranky. After meandering aimlessly for a bit, I found the check-in area. It was staffed by several kiosks and one very frazzled-looking clerk, who was hopping from screen to screen attempting to keep the guest-grumblings to a minimum.
Sighing, I approached one of the portals and started my check-in. After a few clicks and pokes at the monitor, I got a status update:
YOUR ROOM IS NOT YET AVAILABLE. PLEASE ENTER A PHONE NUMBER WHERE YOU CAN BE REACHED WHEN IT IS READY.
“Really?! It’s 9:00 at night!” I whined. The clerk rushed over, assuring me that it would just take a few minutes for the system to process my arrival. With a weary smile, she apologized for what she was sure would only be a short wait, and promised I’d have my keys soon.
I realized that this woman had been politely defusing irate customers for the bulk of her day. Her eyes were tired, but kind. Breathing, I thanked her, adding, “You know…I’ll bet people don’t realize how difficult your job is. You’re here all day dealing with grumpy, entitled, clueless tourists who have absolutely no idea what they are doing, and they probably take out all that angst on you. Thanks so much for helping me.”
The woman blinked, surprised. Her head titled to the side as she stared at me for a moment. Then, she responded, “You…you GET it. You really understand. Thank you.”
I wondered if I’d been the first person that day to remember that she was not an extension of the automated check-in bots, but a real, live person with emotions and feelings and a soul.
She winked at me then. “I’ll be right back.” She went behind the main desk and assisted another customer before returning to me. “Your room should be ready now. I got you a good one.” I took the keys that popped out from the dispenser and wandered off to follow the complicated series of directions to find whatever tower my room was hidden in….
I exited the elevator and followed signs down a long hallway, passing several rooms.
Oh. Here we are.
But…why are there TWO doors…?
I double-check the number. 932. Yep. I open the door, and….
THIS. ROOM. IS. MASSIVE.
Two giant closets – and a fax machine (really!)
One small bathroom and two larger bathrooms (each with a phone, just in case you run out of TP or need to order a pizza):
A hot tub:
…a butt washer thingy (no, I didn’t use it):
A shower built for two:
…and finally, a mini-suite to sleep in (if one does that in Vegas.)
Oh, and just in case you wanted to have a few friends over? We got you, fam. Check out what was behind the kitchen:
Yeah. She got me a good room, alright. The view didn’t suck, either:
So, for a safety conference, it wasn’t all bad. Between the room and the
party bus networking session, it was almost…fun.
At least, I think it was. What I recall, anyway. Once the
notworking networking got underway, things got a little blurry. A bunch of us piled into this very corporate-looking van.
The driver took us on a free driving tour (which included a stop at the liquor store) and said he could get us into the VIP section of some swanky gentleman’s club. “Ask for Marcus. Tell him you’re a friend of Pete. He’ll take good care of ya.” We declined, as we had pretty much all the party we needed.
Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe a liiiiiiiittle too much party.
Fortunately, they also feed us really well at these things….
And, in the spirit of sharing affirmations, I apparently texted this picture to my entire team AND TO MY TEENAGE CHILDREN. The caption was profound: HAHAH HEE NEKKKED WHAO
Hmm. I may have gone a tad overboard with the well-being messages. Or the libations. Or both.
But I think I cemented a few blocks down on my path to positivity. They may even be part of my permanent record now. 😀
Your turn! How do you spread random happiness? Share in the comments!