The discussion around mental health, specifically in terms of workplace or business mental health, is still lacking.
The first statistic given at the beginning of the ‘Mind Over Grind’ discussion by host Alice Lyons of Dark Coffee was one I was familiar with; 1 in 4 people in the UK suffer from a mental health disorder. The statistic I was not familiar with, however, was that this statistic narrowed to 1 in 2 for entrepreneurs.
With this in mind, as someone who is neither an entrepreneur, nor knowledgeable on the specific challenges faced in entrepreneurship, I was curious as to how applicable some of the issues business owners faced would be to the general public. It seemed I wasn’t the only one curious, as a lot of other people present in the discussion did not openly describe themselves as ‘business owners’.
As it turns out, concepts such as ‘work/life balance’, or ‘work/life harmony’ seem universal in their importance to the average workers mental health. I did find the distinction between the average employee, who often has their hours dictated for them and therefore an obvious timetable to fit their life into the balance, and an entrepreneur who frequently works at hours that would make the non-entrepreneurial cry, an insightful point. The concept of ‘balance’ seems fraught with an expectation that there has to be an equality between the hours spent working, and the hours spent on personal well-being, which is rarely the case.
When asked about how to keep a sense of harmony, particularly regarding hobbies as an outlet from the stresses of work, Vikas Shah (MBE) took a long pause before giving one of the best pieces of advice from the event: “Get a pet.” The notion of resilience to both the ups and downs of business was something Vikas seemed particularly passionate about, in particular, dispelling the notion that the ups can have no negative impact on well-being in the same way the downs of business do.
Setting a precedent for those around you, as Carol-Ann Reid described, is important. For a lot of entrepreneurs, the scenario of staying awake until the early hours of the morning and running on fumes to run your business is a familiar one, but shouldn’t be a trap that any of your employees feel they should have to fall into. Always checking in on your internal self-talk is a way to be aware of what challenges you might be facing, to acknowledge them and turn them into more positive, motivated ways of thinking.
The atmosphere in the room was open, positive and inquisitive. From those who noted the hypocrisy of advice often given in mental health discussions (“routine is important”, versus, “strict routine isn’t necessary and can be damaging”), to those who asked about just how responsible and accountable companies should be regarding their involvement in their employees well-being.
“For the workplace,” Alice says, “be authentic and have a clear sense of your business values.” Separating the business from the owner can often be a difficult task, in particular, the way a brand can become so attached to a person, that there is little distinguishing between the two (such as Richard Branson and the Virgin Group). Separating the two but keeping your values intact was one of many insightful pieces of advice given by Alice.
There are safeguards in place for physical health, but none yet for mental health. Putting emphasis on physical and mental health, making it a priority and being aware of the intangible forces in our work-life seemed to be the take home message. You only have one life, so making health a priority is essential.
Use.Space seemed to be the perfect venue for the discussion, as a co-working space that recognises the importance of environment on well-being. Creating a positive atmosphere starts with the environment, so having a room full of colour and green-spaces definitely impacted the discussion positively by providing a comfortable space to openly speak about such a heavy topic.
“It’s something that affects everybody, we all have mental health and we all have a responsibility to look after our own mental health.”
They say you can usually tell the success of an event or presentation by how much discussion it creates throughout/afterwards. If that is the case, then this event could only be described as successful.