Mental health is extremely important to all of us here at LABUR. We have made it a priority and accommodate it at every level. Our hope is that LABUR continues to be a firm that attracts talented and likeminded professionals who recognize and appreciate the important role that mental health plays. In doing so and by cultivating a team culture of mindfulness, we have been able to continue to grow, as individuals and as a firm, more holistically. Mental health always comes first.
Likewise, we are proud to partner with other organizations that share our priorities. Our long-standing partnership with Home Base, including our annual golf outing to benefit the organization, gives us the opportunity to give back to veterans and their families for whom mental health is an issue of particular importance. In the last year, we have also worked to step up our contribution to Boston Partners in Education and their crucial work around helping the ‘whole’ student, including health, education and their general well-being. The city of Boston is near and dear to us, and partnerships like these allow us to extend mental health as a priority beyond just the LABUR team and to benefit that broader community as well.
Mental Health in 2021
Beyond ever-present health risks, we have all faced obstacles throughout the last year as individuals, families and as places of work. With National Stress Awareness Day today (4/16/2021), it is important to acknowledge these common stressors and consider what we can do as employers, colleagues, family and friends to better help those around us.
Two issues we have all faced over the last year are social isolation and the upending of daily routines. Socialization is crucial to mental health and is especially important for children. No longer commuting to work, going to school, seeing friends or visiting places of worship has taken its toll on everyone’s mental health in varying degrees.
Family has been an additional complication for many, including parents who were suddenly tasked with managing children without help or school resources. I know first-hand the anxiety of not knowing whether my children were receiving the schooling and emotional learning they needed. And of course, the inability to visit family members while worrying about their health or even while grieving their passing has been perhaps the greatest consequence of the pandemic.
The mass migration to remote work forced employers and employees alike to adapt technologies and work styles, while also considering individual circumstances like space and technical limitations, family needs and mental health. For many, especially in certain industries, there has also been a constant fear over the ability to keep their job, pay rent and feed their family.
Broader societal issues have also had a significant impact on mental health this year, including increases in gun violence, acts of racism and the chaos of a heated election year have been especially heavy burdens. As is often the case, many of these issues and those listed above disproportionately affect people of color and other disenfranchised groups, adding even more stress to life during the pandemic.
With all of these factors, the last year has been like a tsunami of negative events and stressors coming from all directions. So how can we hope to combat these and work to protect and maintain our mental health and that of our friends and colleagues?
Finding a Balance
Don’t dwell on the negative. In times like these, feelings of fear, stress and anxiety are only natural, but it can be easy to get lost focusing only on the negative. A lot of good has been done as well. The Boston Hope field hospital and last year’s massive Black Lives Matter protests have shown us that people will always go out of their way to help their communities and fight for worthy causes. Most importantly, try to remember that these circumstances are fleeting and will end. The development of more vaccines and vaccination programs are proof of that and are a much-welcomed source of hope after a difficult year.
Maintain compassion for others. Reach out to your friends, family and colleagues, help people when you can and try to connect/reconnect to your communities. People need your help and kindness now more than ever and playing a positive role in the lives of others is an easy way to find the fulfilment that many of us have been missing during quarantine. Things as simple as listening to and being there for others can make all of the difference.
Take advantage of personal time. If we’ve learned anything from our new ways of working in the last year, it’s the importance of a healthy work/life balance. We all need to give ourselves time for self-care, whether it be through meditation, yoga, exercise or personal hobbies. Most importantly, if you are taking time off, make sure that you are truly off. By planning far enough ahead and by working with your colleagues to ensure your responsibilities are being covered in your absence, you will be able to more fully enjoy yourself and recharge. The difference this makes is truly amazing.
The role of the employer is key. No one should have to worry about keeping their job, paying their rent, or feeding their family during a pandemic. As we’ve established new ways of working to accommodate our remote and hybrid team, it has been important to account for individual factors like mental health. More flexible working hours don’t have to impact productivity and, if anything, providing the tools to take time when needed for family needs or to incorporate exercise into the workday has created a significantly more healthy, cooperative and productive workplace culture.
Work takes care of itself if you take care of yourself and those around you. Most of our internal conversations at LABUR have been about how we can stay healthy, despite the global shutdown; what we are doing to check in on one another; and what our friends, colleagues, consultants and clients need from us from a social and emotional level.
Together, we are establishing new routines, reconnecting with our networks and taking much-needed time off for self-care. Outside of our work, we are working hard to stay involved in our communities—no matter what new form this takes. We are still learning and improving along the way like everyone else, but having conversations as a team about cultivating compassion and kindness for ourselves and others has been invaluable.
Take care. Stay healthy. Be well.