Employee Mental Fitness Matters

CoachHub · 26 April 2022 · 6 min read

The conversation on mental health in the workplace has gone mainstream and it’s not going back. As employers realize the impact poor mental health has on productivity, more effort and resources have been poured into promoting mental health in the workplace.

But just like you can’t expect to attain a beach body by attending the occasional personal training session and eating junk food the rest of the time, employees need to practice mental health strategies frequently in order to keep themselves in tip-top mental condition.

Likewise, mental fitness, which is our state of psychological well-being coupled with consciousness over the way we behave, think, and feel, has to be something that employees work on daily.

By building an environment where mentally fit individuals can thrive, employers play a much-needed role in ingraining behaviors that cultivate and maintain mental fitness. This provides employees with the increased ability to respond to work situations positively, producing a ripple effect that will benefit organizational growth.

And, employers can play a much-needed role in ingraining these behaviors. After all, mentally conducive working environments will equip employees with the tools they need to keep mentally fit, and this ripple effect will benefit organizational growth.

However, if recent studies are anything to go by, there’s still much work to be done to help employees cope with stress and anxiety at work. According to Gallup, 57% of employees in the US and Canada had daily stress and 67% of workers in the U.S. believe the pandemic made burnout worse.

Mental health is a company’s greatest asset

The mind is the modern employees’ muscle, and usually the most valuable asset for most businesses. Employees use their minds to measure risk, explore new solutions, ask provocative questions, collaborate, and more. A weak and tired mind will naturally have less capacity to perform these essential tasks at a high level.

However, the mind can be trained to endure larger workloads and become more flexible. Cognitive training has been shown to increase one’s fluid intelligence, or the ability to understand and solve novel problems as they are encountered. And perhaps contrary to conventional wisdom, scientists have also found that gamification of tasks can increase one’s attention span, reflexes, and ability to multitask.

By extension, cognitive flexibility can also allow us to bounce back from failure more quickly. At work, such mental tenacity can be useful in several ways.

First, mentally fit employees will be more likely to improve upon (constructive!) criticism, and second, they will be better able to help teams quickly regroup if a project fails. Considering the potential amount of time and effort that can be saved, not to mention an overall boost to morale for the whole office, mental fitness appears to be a worthy investment.

The effects of poor mental conditioning

Building mental fitness is not just about toughing it out. Just like our physical bodies, placing constant strain on the brain only leads to injury and fatigue. Studies have shown that chronic stress can influence our behavior in several ways, including:

Placing our brains under significant strain for prolonged periods will lead to increased frequencies of such mental phenomenon, which leads to decreased worker productivity, wellness, and satisfaction.

However, through directed exercises and mindfulness exercises, it is possible to build neural connections that strengthen our propensity for positive and productive habits. How employers shape the office environment, both physically and culturally, can have a great impact on how conducive the workspace is for these connections to take root.

Employee well-being and burnout

Supporting employees’ mental health and fitness

  • Creating meaningful work

Life is too short for mind numbing, repetitive work. Work can quickly become a mental burden that grinds on employees’ will and motivation when they do not see the value in what they do. Overtime, this can make them vulnerable to burnout.

This can be alleviated by spicing up work with a simple two-pronged approach. First, shuffling different types of work between employees breaks up monotony and also has a handy side effect of promoting collaboration and understanding between colleagues.

Secondly, providing employees with context of what’s happening with the business can help them better understand why work is allocated a certain way, why decisions are made, and even how their actions can contribute to the company, the clients, and even wider society. 

  • Normalize “whitespace”

Work has many different appearances — and it doesn’t always have to look like employees typing on the keyboard. Work can be coming up with ideas or strategy over coffee, taking a 15 minute stroll to declutter mentally, or even taking a quick power nap to look at a project with fresh eyes.

This claim wasn’t just cooked up by lazy employees who want more time off. Science even has a name for this sort of work: Default Mode Network (DMN). fMRI scans of brain activity shows that our neurons are still working at 20% capacity during downtime, which scientists suspect might explain why we are able to come up with new ideas after walking away from a task for several hours.

Idle time is also crucial for our brains to piece together information that we’ve received. When you have a calendar full of deadlines, the best ideas will inevitably have to be cut down to size or trashed altogether, simply because they cannot be developed within the tight schedule.

Normalizing “whitespace” can improve productivity and innovation by giving the best ideas time to come to life on their own. It can also prevent hasty, and even costly decisions from being made. 

  • Touch base meaningfully

We all know that maintaining connection is important, especially for remote teams. But how we go about doing it can determine whether your co-workers will walk away from meetings energized, or so drained that they have to lie down for 30 minutes when the conference window finally closes.

Face time IS necessary, especially when half to three-quarters of employees are still experiencing heightened emotions of loneliness and isolation. Just like how meeting an old friend after several months can inject new life into us, effective check-ins don’t have to happen often, but they should count when they do.

Placing the focus on employees as people, and taking the focus off work can show that you really care for their well-being beyond how much they contribute to the office. Even if they do not reach out, being shown that they have the option to do so if necessary can also make a world of difference.

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Building a business can be like running a marathon that lasts for decades –  only the ones built by fit, healthy employees will be able to go the distance. Keep your team mentally fit and help them achieve levels of productivity and work satisfaction that they never felt were possible before with personal coaching.

But don’t just take our word for it. Thirty-nine percent of seed-stage CEOs and 60% of growth-stage CEOs hire coaches to help keep their business growing. And we’re not just talking about self-motivating mumbo-jumbo here. We’re talking about scientifically backed, empirically proven methods of improving and evaluating well-being, with a track record of positive testimonials from employers who have tested out coaching and never looked back. Read all about the latest digital coaching methods and its effectiveness here.

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