Mental health is important at every stage of life. Some people seem to quickly bounce back from failures and setbacks; while, there are people who find it much more difficult.
According to a report by WHO, close 1 billion people are living with a mental health crisis. And now with the COVID-19 pandemic that has flipped our lives upside down, more people around the world are having a further impact on their mental health.
There are many reasons why one feels mental health issues. But today, let’s talk about one such stressing spot in our lives that is usually overlooked and create daily stress — our workplace/work life. In today’s modern world, it is one of the most neglected areas of public health. While work is good for mental health, a negative working environment may lead to serious physical and mental health issues.
We talked to the Pooja Jauhari, CEO, The Glitch who has shared her thoughts on building mental strength while dealing with pressures of modern working life.
Excerpts From The Interview with Pooja
1. The entire world is talking about mental health, but do you think we as a community are doing enough to cope or help the ones going through mental health issues?
At the outset, I would like to point out the big difference I see this year — Intent! Intent to understand mental health issues, Intent to acknowledge that it exists and isn’t made up, and intent to be sensitive towards people struggling.
But are we doing enough? No, we are not.
Everyone is trying to do their bit though. However, the way we speak about it needs more refinement. Our parents need to acknowledge the fact that it exists and accept that this is not a made-up “generational problem”. Then with our friends and family, we need to be able to support someone struggling by encouraging that they take help and don’t single them out as “he/she is just depressed” and finally, at work, we need to have mental health days as sick days. It is, after all, an illness of the mind. We’ve started a mandatory mental health day off every month. Some are able to take it and some not, so we need to find a way to allow for that to happen more easily. That’s work in progress.
2. While we all are talking about mental health in general, there are times when our work becomes the major factor that affects us the most. What’s your take on it?
Oh, 100%! Especially when locked down, unable to have human interaction and solve conflicts in person or be able to simply ask for help in person. These are major factors. I know… I’ve struggled with it and I know so many of my colleagues, friends, and clients who’ve struggled with it too.
So being able to speak to people more often, actually calling out stress triggers before it reaches a tipping point, and focusing on what you can control rather than losing sleep over what you can’t control have helped me for sure.
3. Let’s address the “hustle and grind” mindset that entrepreneurs are advocating. Do you think it is also contributing to our mental health issues?
The mind needs breaks, different experiences, positive affirmations, and again breaks, and rest to function well for a long period. Burnouts are so rampant. It’s a fact.
As a leader, I need to do more to ensure that it isn’t a norm. As an industry, we need to do more to ensure we bring changes to the way we conduct our business. Clients need to support this, encourage this even. We need to have rules and regulations for this. Something all companies have to follow. The lockdown has aggravated this majorly.
4. Modern work life puts a lot of pressure on individuals, without a doubt. No matter how much we preach about delivering a cool work-life environment, there’s always a void. What companies and employees can do to build mental strength?
I will speak from my experience as a professional.
We can choose to have a professional path that best suits the kind of life we want to live. The understanding that the control lies with oneself is of utmost importance. Blaming your boss, company, or client help for the moment, but it will not help in building strength to see a full successful career through. So, from the start of my career, I’ve worked in multiple places where work-life balance while spoken about and important never really existed. But over time this is what I did to build my mental strength.
A. Build resilience towards short-term irritancies so you don’t give up long term ambitions.
B. Building mental resilience is like weight training. A bit by bit, train your mind to get stronger.
C. Always have perspective. I get stressed if my daughter is sick, but not if something is wrong at work. I will worry, but not drive myself crazy with stress.
D. Build the ability to switch on and switch off immediately. For eg: the irritation of answering an email over the weekend should end after you press send. The residual effect of that irritation can ruin your entire day.
E. Lastly focus on what you can control and solve for it, don’t obsess over what you can’t control. It’s usually the pressure of worrying about what you can’t control that increases the task list for the day.
5. There’s another overlooked group of people who don’t get that much attention when it comes to their part of the story — Entrepreneurs. There are many young folks who are trying to set up their business but are failing. And that is kind of pushing them towards several mental health issues. What’s your take on that? What can be done to ease their entrepreneurial journey?
Understanding and owning up the fact that this was their choice. The control of how resilient they choose to feel about their struggle is in their hands. The human mind reacts with strength when it knows it’s in control. That for me has been the biggest factor. But, you can control only and only yourself, nothing else. You can’t control how your customers react, or the market, or the environment. Just yourself.
So, build the strength to understand that you can do your bit and leave the rest to unfold. And as it unfolds, have the strength to adapt. The last 35 years of my life have taught me just this.
6. Tell us how the work culture looks like at The Glitch? How the company is helping its employees to have a work-life balance and better mental health?
We have a culture that’s open, entrepreneurial, fair, progressive, inclusive, and gender blind. But as an organization and as an industry, we need to do a lot more to help bring work-life balance for our talent.
Over the last few months, we set up multiple calls with our clients to let them know about the pressure our people were feeling in lockdown. A lot of them reacted positively and have bought about changes to the way they function with us. We’ve introduced a mandatory mental health day off every month. But, we honestly miss the human connection. Our world has changed, and we have changed with it. I do not think we will go back to the office at 100% capacity for the foreseeable future, but once we can and are able to have segregation to our personal and professional time, tactical and important things like constant conversations with our colleagues, being transparent about the company, staying in touch with clients to encourage them to play their part and regular mental breaks will have to do.
7. Also, being the CEO of The Glitch, you must have your own set of worries and work pressure. How do you go about this journey on a personal front? Tell us about your mental strengthening routine as well.
I focus on mental health as much as I do on my physical health. I also work with a life coach and have sessions every other week to keep me mentally charged and mostly, follow the points I mentioned above (answer 4).
Word To The Wise
Every storm in life is not set to destroy you, some actually clear your way. Keep that in mind through every tough situation.