By Michael Contento, CEO, My Blue Umbrella
Fatigue, stress, lack of motivation—we're all feeling it in the pandemic. In fact, a recent study by NeuroFit Lab, McMaster University’s research centre dedicated to exploring the relationship between brain function, mental health and physical exercise, found that more than half of respondents reported worse mental health since the start of the pandemic.
When talking with friends and co-workers, I’ve found that many associate their workload with recent mental health struggles. but I think it's more than that. It's the work environment that's getting us down. Our commute now spans the distance from the bed to the home office — in my case, maybe 15 paces. The variety of life is stunted. Travel, a visit to a nice restaurant — the little things that used to make life fun — they've all been out of bounds for more than a year now. Plus closed gyms and stay-at-home orders mean everyone's exercising less.
I compare mental health struggles to carbon monoxide: Invisible, undetectable and more harmful the longer it goes unaddressed. So recently I've been trying to think of ways to boost my team's mental health. Here are three strategies we've been using at MBU to check in with staff while promoting a balanced lifestyle.
Mic with Mike
Every week, I set aside 20 minutes for a company-wide phone call. Team members are encouraged to join these non-mandatory calls for a simple check in. We share personal and professional anecdotes, discuss what MBU is doing to prioritize health and wellness, and discuss the company’s future goals. These conversations go a long way toward making sure the team feels connected, allowing us to celebrate each other’s contributions and stay passionate about our work.
One of MBU’s core values is to create a fun and happy work environment. That's been tough this past year, when we're all siloed at home. Which is why we've started hosting virtual team-building exercises at the start of every month. Playing Pictionary or some other fun, interactive game, online together, has proven to be a great way to break up the monotony of the day, and we've seen more laughs on these short calls than we saw on each other's faces for weeks before we started the events.
You can’t take care of your mental health if you’re sitting inside at your desk all day. To encourage better habits and promote wellbeing, we’ve started a 15-day walking challenge. Each day I encourage staff to pound the pavement with me for an hour—at 7am, 8pm or both. We have a call-in number so we can chat while we walk, and as extra incentive, anyone who completes all 15 days gets a $100 gift card to a retailer of their choice. To date, I’ve logged more than 50 kilometres and can definitely feel a shift in my mental health. Whenever I feel the fresh air hit my face, I feel better equipped to handle the work ahead.
How is your company supporting employees' mental health? Share your tips, tricks and advice by registering for our webinar on May 14 at 12:30 p.m. Register here.
Download a copy of the NeuroFit Labs COVID-19 Toolkit PDF.