Wellbeing in the Workplace?

Nike announced this week that they are offering their corporate employees a week off to rest, recover and recharge. Their action is in line with other organizations such as Microsoft (added 5 wellbeing days to employee benefits) and Intel (4 weeks of sabbatical after 4 years at the company).

Over the course of my career as a clinical and now organizational psychologist, I’ve watched as companies have struggled to address mental well-being. Almost everyone offers medical support such as employee assistance programs and health care benefits but as I like to say these are not well-being programs but programs to help address emotional and mental crises and illness.

Well-being is a different animal completely.

Many years ago, I was attending a conference on mental health in San Francisco, and we invited several people to a performance of a group of improvisational artists who call themselves “Interplayers”. In full disclosure and as many of you know, I am a member of this community. Interplay uses art forms such as physical and visual art forms so that participants can better understand and use the “wisdom of the body.” That night of the performance, a number of psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers attended the show and at the end of the program, the chairman of the conference came over to a group of us and said, “now that is mental health!”

Being mentally healthy is not about taking a week off from work but moving in an intentional way to create emotional wellbeing. If you took a week off from work intending to get physically stronger, you wouldn’t get there sitting in a recliner watching TV. Certainly, Nike and other companies can’t prescribe how people spend that time and they can provide them with ideas on how you achieve good emotional health which might include:

  • Being out in nature
  • Spending time with family
  • Connecting to art
  • Taking time for yourself
  • Immersing yourself in a hobby
  • Resting and doing nothing.

For the first time in my 30+ year career, I think mental and emotional well-being may be getting some of the attention that it deserves and needs. It is one of the blessings coming out of Covid and one that I expect to grow. We may not really know very much about how to be emotionally healthy yet, but it will be a fun journey finding out!

© Richard Citrin 2021

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