By Cathy Jackson
As we start a new year, more and more employers are realising that unless they adopt a new approach to corporate wellness, they are literally sitting on the precipice of a mental health crisis.
Founder and owner of Healthy Living Consulting, Ronald Abvajee, says COVID has literally been the firelighter that has lit the flame on mental health issues and highlighted the inadequacies of patchwork wellbeing solutions in the workplace. “We’ve seen the need for a more integrated holistic, proactive and texturally-relevant programme which resonates with the needs of employees.”
Lindiwe Miyambu, group executive for human capital at African Bank, who has partnered with HLC as a provider to ASI, agrees stressing the importance of linking the wellbeing drivers of your business with that of your people. “It can no longer be viewed as a beneficial add on. Employee wellness has to be placed front and centre of everything one does and literally integrated into the very fabric of the organisation.” Abvajee calls it embracing one’s imperfections which actually begins to perfect one. It is this paradox that transforms mental health to mental wealth. He says the reality is you cannot achieve your business driver success if your people drivers and wellbeing drivers are not married together. The concept is not necessarily new but COVID-19 has taken many of these underlying issues and made them bubble to the surface.
Mental health is a state of mind. We all have it – the question becomes what do you do with it? “When we flip the script and take mental health and empower employees to change it to mental wealth, that is when we really start to see a difference,” he says. It’s about investing in something that is better for you. Abvajee uses Kintsugi as his life’s anthem. The practice of Kintsugi – repairing broken vessels by sealing the cracks with lacquer and carefully dusting them with gold powder is a remarkable art. The Japanese believe the golden cracks make the pieces even more precious and valuable.
“Using Kintsugi principles in the workplace means you do not neglect the journey you have walked with your wellbeing – it utilises this as a point of reference. It’s about taking the journey of the past, healing it, and piecing it together so you can acknowledge where you come from and the journey you have gone on.”
Miyambu says that struggling is a normal part of life but, using this principle, you make the individual the phenomenal base. “The fuel becomes the tools you get to be inspired and to act. And when you act, the fuel becomes your wellbeing – your ‘well’ being wealth to invest in.”
We have to try and rid ourselves of the stigma of depression and create more safe spaces in business. Kintsugi actually shows you that there cannot be light without the darkness. It is what you do to reframe that within yourself that matters. “When the workplace begins to embrace this as leaders, you make it authentically real and it resonates with staff so each and every day there are choices people can make. They can then be given the tools and techniques, the golden underlying thread, to help them take what is relevant to them and rise up as they deal with the dips,” she says.
Moving forward a one-size-fits-all solution to wellness will never work as it just leaves too many people on the wayside. She says many companies are happy to invest in wellness but when it comes to the crunch they are just not doing enough. It goes back to incorporating wellbeing as a golden thread into every facet of the organisation. By now so many people are conditioned to living with stress they often don’t even see the danger signs and these days we are seeing so many people struggling who have also lost their work-life balance.
And that includes the leaders and managers in the organisation – the caregivers. Abvajee says compassion fatigue has become a very real syndrome with managers and leaders constantly having to fill up other people’s cups and not filling their own. “They can become literally numb which moves them from being empathetic to sympathetic. This is why we now also have introduced a number of programmes for the caregivers as well,” he says.
Abvajee says if you can bring care and marry it to high performance, you are literally investing in the wellbeing wealth of your organisation and avoiding the impending wellness crisis companies globally are about to experience.
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