It’s Mental Health Awareness week in New Zealand.
Wellbeing and Mental Distress in Aotearoa New Zealand:Snapshot 2016, published in 2018 found the following:
The enormity of these findings can seem overwhelming, but there are things that we, as leaders, can do to support wellbeing within our organisations.
In his book “Lost Connections” Johann Hari states there are eight reconnections we need to make in order to stem the flow of depression and anxiety. We need to: reconnect to other people, reconnect socially, reconnect to meaningful work, reconnect to meaningful values, reconnect to sympathetic joy, and overcoming addiction to the self, reconnect to acknowledging and overcoming childhood trauma and reconnect to restoring the future.
For the purpose of this article, I would like to focus on how we might create a sense of ‘belonging’ within the workplace. Finding number three in the NZ research clearly states that when people feel isolated they are more likely to have symptoms of depression, anxiety and other forms of mental distress.
Psychiatrist William Glasser also speaks of our Five Basic Needs, one of them being ‘Love and Belonging"‘.
For many people in the workplace, there is a sense of disconnect; that they are just a cog in the wheel of work, with no sense of connect to the greater meaning or vision, or connect to those they work alongside. I see this in my work, and have experienced it myself. It’s like an outer-body experience where you are part of a work community, yet feel like you are an island, alone, battling-on with no sense of contribution or worth towards creating the overall picture.
So how might leaders support people to feel connected and to belong?
Infuse work with a greater sense of meaning: Support people to see the greater picture of their work. How does it fit into and support other elements of the overall vision. How is their contribution helping and in what way?
Acknowledgement: Take the time to tell people you appreciate their contribution. Let them know how valuable it is. Sometimes it may be those people who are forever ‘blowing their own trumpet’ that are in fact calling-out to be acknowledged.
Social reconnection: Whilst it is not an employers role to help people become socially connected, there are things that can be done internally to support people to feel connected. Ensuring there are social events that include rather than exclude people. Having social events that include high costs and alcohol every time can exclude many people. When organising social events therefore, ensure they cater for different groups of people i.e. people with young children, different financial states, those who may not enjoy doing physical things or those who don’t drink to name a few.
Furthermore, support people to work-alongside each other on projects, encourage connections to be made; particularly for those people who may tend to work in isolation.
The statistics and state of mental wellbeing not only in New Zealand, but around the world are not good reading. But rather than thinking it’s too big to make a difference, as leaders you can do your part to help people feel more connected.