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Leading by Prioritising Mental Health in the Workplace | Turing Fest 2020 Recap

January 7, 2022

Mental health is still seen as a taboo topic in the workplace. Many people across numerous industries have had issues with mental health and by ignoring these concerns, they experience mental and physical burnout. 

In a recent study conducted by Indeed, it was found that the percentage of burnout is rapidly increasing. Indeed interviewed individuals pre-pandemic and in 2021, their findings show that over half of the respondents (52%) experienced post-pandemic burnout. This was an increase from the 43% that were burnt out pre-pandemic. 

Emily Anhalt, a Clinical Psychologist and Co-Founder of Coa, joined TuringFest in 2020 to speak about her experience working with technology companies and providing mental health solutions to their founders and employees. 

During the interview, Emily shared how individuals can avoid burnout and how companies can implement mental health programmes to help boost employee productivity and promote a healthy mental and physical environment for staff.

You can watch the interview on-demand or read the highlights below! 

Reactive vs Proactive Approach to Mental Health

Emily explains how the issue with our current working system is that we are very ‘reactive’. This means that individuals feel as though they need to be at the brink of a mental breakdown or completely falling apart before they look or ask for any kind of support. 

Having this mind frame is incredibly toxic. So instead, Emily is aiming to redefine mental health and make it a ‘proactive’ practice. This means solving the issue before it arises. 

A good analogy for this phenomenon is, you won’t wait for your doctor to diagnose you with heart failure before you start eating healthy and going to the gym. You want to prevent it from ever happening in the first place. Therefore, you try to live a healthy lifestyle and frequently exercise to avoid going to the doctor.

Emily did some research where she interviewed 100 psychologists and 100 entrepreneurs. She asked them, ‘how would you know if you were sitting across the table from someone with good emotional fitness and ongoing proactive emotional health?’. 

From the research she conducted, she coded the answers into themes and found 7 traits of emotional fitness. These include: 

  1. Self-awareness: Understanding emotional triggers & biases

  2. Empathy: Understanding the emotions of others

  3. Play: Fostering a safe space of connection

  4. Mindfulness: Becoming more comfortable when tolerating discomfort

  5. Resilience: Bouncing forward from failures & setbacks

  6. Curiosity: Pursuing growth over defensiveness

  7. Communication: Putting words to needs, boundaries, & expectations

These are the traits she believes encourage a good proactive mental health lifestyle. Her business, Coa, helps individuals understand this by providing one to one therapy, emotional fitness classes and a community that supports and encourages a proactive approach to mental health. 

Protecting Your Mental Well-Being

No one is immune from experiencing mental health issues. No matter what walk of life you’re from or headed towards, you will always face obstacles that can be unsettling. Even as a founder of a company. Although the outside world may see you as having everything together, they won’t know your struggles, hardships and rejections. 

As an entrepreneur or a business founder, you will naturally invest a lot of time and energy into your craft. Whilst doing this, it’s easy to lose sight of your mental and physical wellbeing. You can accidentally skip meals, miss a workout or have less sleep because of the work you’re putting in. 

However, it’s always good to have a moment to pause and prioritise your mental wellbeing. In Emilly’s experience, she has found that founders and entrepreneurs tend to feel more comfortable discussing any mental health concerns when surrounded by a community of people who understand. 

Emily explains how anxiety can make you feel isolated and as if you’re alone. However, surrounding yourself with others who understand your hardships and can relate to your circumstances builds a safe space for you to talk about your concerns.

“Emotional fitness is an independent journey, but it’s a communal pursuit.” 

Emily Anhalt, CoFounder and Chief Clinical Officer Coa

Mental Health in the Workplace

Employers can often have the misconception that mental health in the workplace is none of their concern as it is personal to each and every individual. However, this cannot be further from the truth. 

An example given by Emily is that if someone’s job role involves a lot of physical labour and they’ve experienced a physical injury, that will cause issues with their performance, this will affect the whole company. The same could be said for mental health issues. Suppose an individual works in a sector that involves mental labour, having a mental health issue can negatively impact their performance in the workplace. 

When it comes to mental health in the workplace, employers shouldn’t focus their attention solely on the colleague’s mental health problems. Instead, they should implement mental health services within the company culture to help employees before a problem even occurs. This can be done by offering therapy sessions, wellness classes, conducting workshops or training which helps with mental health or even offering mental health days. 

By investing and implementing these mental health benefits within a company’s culture, employers can avoid future problems. For example, if an employee is suffering severe burnout, recovering from it is a bigger challenge. They may end up taking weeks off from work to recover and this can impact the business. 

“Burnout is easier to prevent than to fix.” 

Emily Anhalt, CoFounder and Chief Clinical Officer Coa

Learn How To Improve Your Workplace Culture at Turing Fest 2022

Any good entrepreneur avoids an issue before it arises. The same applies to mental health. It’s much easier to prevent burnout than to watch yourself and others completely shatter before getting help. 

For more insights into how you can tackle the negative stigma around mental health and champion a healthy working environment, watch the Turing Fest interview with Emily Anhalt live here

This post was provided by Kathryn Strachan, Managing Director of Copy House, an award-winning content marketing agency specialising in technology and FinTech, working with brands like Facebook, Klarna and Modulr by helping them build better relationships with their audience.

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