It's great to see increasing airtime being given to the importance of mental wellbeing (alongside physical wellbeing). I'm a big believer in health body, healthy mind but I've grown to realise that there's a lot more that can be done to aid and enhance mental wellbeing other than just exercise. Undeniably life gets busier as you get older. Responsibilities increase and demands placed upon us mount up. The rapid rise of social media and an endless list of new channels to communicate across can result in a never ending to-do list, constant distraction, and less and less time to do what we love and/or spend time with our nearest and dearest.
McKinsey have conducted significant research into productivity and what constitutes a "healthy" work/life balance. They suggest not to consider work/life balance - but to focus on your energy levels, how you recharge your energy and where you get your energy from:
As populations grow, competition for work, promotion and increased earnings also grows. We are conditioned to operate mostly in our 'Drive' (striving/aspiring) and 'Threat' (safety-seeking) systems - which stimulate the hormones dopamine and adrenaline. Our soothing system can easily get a raw deal - leading to a deficit of contentment and/or trust.
Skills to handle stress, and build resilience are often not taught, nor are employers typically quick to provide systemic support to employees, carve time for them to destress, or for relationship building across teams.
I learnt about compassion-focused therapy on a recent mindfulness course. As someone who is a relentless critic of himself, and constantly setting new and more and more fandangled goals - it was enlightening to realise that I could (and indeed have) benefit from a more triangulated approach to my own mental wellbeing.
Quite rightly in my opinion there is an accelerating trend for well-considered and executed employee wellbeing programmes. To attract and retain the best people however - it is not simply about a duty of care to your staff - is it about empowering them to manage their own development, invest in their own wellbeing, and learn to lead by example in the process.
Being a Londoner myself - over the years I have found huge benefits in escaping the City and venturing into the mountains. Working in the heart of the City, meant running the gauntlet on SW trains and hustling through the Waterloo & City line scrum twice a day. The claustrophia created by the concrete jungle was definitely eased by short decompression trips up to the Highlands and the Islands on the West Coast of Scotland. Having recently relocated to Edinburgh to launch 'ReBoot', which is aimed at using the great outdoors and stoking some adventurous spirit to boost mental wellbeing - I have been busy networking across a very vibrant startup community here. Scotland was one of the first countries to prescribe nature as a method to improve mental health. Spoilt for choice with stunning Glens and Beinns to explore - perhaps it is no surprise..!
It's also been refreshing to hear from many progressive Founders and business leaders, who want to take a different, more considered approach to employee wellbeing.
Culture is often seen as a by-product of business success, but times seem to be changing - with preemptive thought and action being taken to start on the right foot, and put steps in place from day 1 to foster a healthy work/life balance, learning culture, collaborative environment, and with high performing teams at the core.
An increasing number of people have also advocated for the benefits of nature in the context of coaching, personal development and team building. It has often amazed me how workplaces are where we spend the majority of our (conscious) working week, and yet little time is afforded to really getting to know the people we work with!
For me, and many others - there is huge scope to move away from the training room into an activity focused outdoors classroom - and create room to reflect, or to bond, to innovate, challenge yourself and others, and to unlock untapped potential..
What do you do to invest in yourself?
Has there been a structured wellbeing programme that has been effective anywhere throughout your career?
I'd love to hear from you if any of these new approaches resonate, or you would be interested to join the growing ReBoot community.