We need to talk about mental health – but not just today. This is a conversation that needs to keep being brought up over and over again. With the issue getting more attention (as it should be), companies are looking into their workplace environment and how it is affecting their employees.
As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge trigger for mental disorders. Every single thing about the way we used to live our lives has changed: we were forced to stay inside and have little to no human physical interaction for years. Most importantly, we lived in fear and a lot of us lost people we love, which could undeniably be defined as dark times. It is no wonder why many -if not all- of us had a really hard time coping.
Inevitably, work dynamics also changed. Some needed to continue working outside, which made them risk their health in order to keep essential things running, like healthcare workers, public safety or other first responders, transportation workers, and the list goes on… the constant danger of being at risk took a heavy toll on them. To others, who were able to work remotely, the transition might not have been that easy, because they didn’t have the structure needed to create a good workplace or due to the fact that they simply didn’t adapt to this way of working.
However, the mental health problem obviously predates the pandemic, and it had already been getting worse. One of many studies on the topic shows a considerable increase in mental disorders between 1990 and 2019: “Mental disorders accounted for 654.8 million estimated cases (95% UI 603.6-708.1) in 1990 and 970.1 million cases (900.9-1044.4) in 2019, corresponding to an increase of 48.1% between 1990 and 2019″¹. And working can be a big source of stress and anxiety. In fact, there are several studies on the correlation of psychosocial issues and work and what it entails.
So how did we get here? What is it about our society that makes it so complicated to have a healthy relationship with work and with other life aspects in general? It’s hard to pinpoint a single reason, or even make a list of specific reasons, since we are complex individuals with our own struggles and difficulties, but there are some factors that definitely helped worsen the situation.
We live in a time in which everything is immediate and urgent. We want everything right now. There is always a sense of urgency like we need to deliver as much as we possibly can – or more often than not more than we actually can. We are consistently online consuming all sorts of information and being overwhelmed by it. There’s never enough time to process, and it builds an ever growing pressure that makes us feel like we need to achieve impossible goals.
It is also common for our society to romanticize the idea of living to work. There’s even a word for it, that I’m sure you’ve heard: workaholic. How many times do we see this used as a good thing, a quality, a path that we are tricked into believing that we need to follow? It’s expected of us to make our jobs our top priority in life, our identities, to the point that other parts of our lives are just not as important, like mere background noise.
There’s only one possible end to this route: burnout – a mental disorder caused by exhaustion from working so hard that you can’t bring yourself to work, or even do anything at all anymore. You’re completely exhausted as you reach your limit, because you are doing more than you (or any human!) are able to take.
So what are companies and employers supposed to do? What is their part in making it better for everybody?
A lot of companies are providing assistance for their employees, with mental health professionals and mental health days off. And that is unarguably a great progress, but it’s not enough, since it’s not hitting the actual cause. What also needs to be done is a huge change in ideas and ways of operating.
Employees are human beings, and they have to be treated as such. They are not to be expected to work as a machine. Companies and employers need to look at their approach, a deep dive on how they function and how they are connecting with their team. It’s crucial to create a safe environment where people feel welcome and respected.
It is a priority of the Studio Venturas team to be mentally well, so that all the work is done with the greatest care in the world. Therefore, we have listed some internal guidelines on how we take care of our mental health.
We are not immediate, nor do we want to be. We have detailed schedules with our customers, and they are always strictly adhered to. Projects with a deadline “for yesterday” do not exist, because we understand that this will affect us negatively, in addition to disrupting other projects that are already being built.
Whatsapp is not a place of work. Why give up the use of emails? With them, we respect our check-in and check-out time, and we don’t have to worry about a 2 am message from a client. We talk exclusively via email, and this brings an inexplicable peace.
We understand the customer’s limit, and they need to understand ours. If we budget a delivery X, we don’t add Y or Z in the middle of the process without having it budgeted and extending the deadline. All our projects have extra time for any small changes, so we know how important flexibility is. But we know there is a limit to that.
Creative work is often undervalued, and it took many years of work to create this professional “shell”, but our mental health isn’t negotiable.
As we just mentioned, it is extremely critical to find where you should draw the line. Respect your boundaries and don’t overlook your mental health. Treat your team with kindness. Don’t expect people to push their lives aside to live and breathe work. The best part about the issue being increasingly more discussed is that it raises awareness to how important it is to take care of your mental health, so do not hesitate to seek help if you feel like you need it. Prioritize yourself.
¹ Global, regional, and national burden of 12 mental disorders in 204 countries and territories, 1990-2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet Psychiatry. January 10, 2022.