As Grimshaw’s New York studio settles into our new permanent home at 60 Madison, we have a rare chance to examine our workplace personas and shift them to align with our goals of a collaborative and innovative work environment. The beginning of that shift in personas starts with a reflection on who we are in the workplace and how it impacts our work and that of our colleagues.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as: “a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. It is an integral component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in. Mental health is a basic human right. And it is crucial to personal, community and socio-economic development.” While this statement may seem overwhelming to digest or appear unattainable, it is ultimately a crucial part of our wellbeing and can be achieved with focused effort.
The words “mental health” and “workplace” are not often mentioned in the same discussion. However, a typical 40-hour workweek means we are likely spending more time with our coworkers than our families, friends, and loved ones. Therefore, it is important that we care for ourselves so we can have the enthusiasm to show up for those around us, both inside and outside of the workspace.
While it is essential to do your own individual wellbeing work, it is equally important to have a supportive environment and infrastructure that positively contributes to your needs. Kelly Greenwood and Julia Anas mention in the Harvard Business Review, “Employees don’t experience mental health challenges in isolation. Employers play a role, too – both good and bad.” An adequately safe and healthy work environment with a dependable support system can help foster one’s mental health and ultimately make them a better employee and coworker. A positive work atmosphere allows people to feel confident, have a sense of purpose, and make meaningful connections with their peers and community, while also providing a sense of structure.
So how do we break the stigma of talking about mental health in the workplace? First, we can start by speaking about it more often, both from the top-down and the bottom-up. Mandie Conforti writes on Spring Health that “you can change your employees’ lives by advocating for the mental health support they need, building a plan to implement that support, embracing diverse ideas and perspectives, and always leading with empathy.” If we can get more leadership to normalize talking openly about the importance of wellbeing – while also taking a pulse check on their own mental health and the mental health of those around them – we can begin to break the stigma. Individually, we can contribute by expressing our needs and ideas surrounding mental health, while also serving as a soundboard for those around us.
In line with Grimshaw’s commitment to employee health and wellbeing, I recently became certified as Mental Health First Aider for the New York studio. This program trained me to notice and support my peers who may be struggling with a mental health challenge or crisis while also being able to direct them to the appropriate parties and resources. Being a Mental Health First Aider allows me one avenue to contribute to a healthier workspace. As a Project Controller for Grimshaw and a natural empath, I feel this certification will help strengthen my ability to recognize a teammate who may be struggling. This can help bridge the gap between the stigma surrounding mental health in the workspace and hopefully let others know there are people and resources to turn to.
However, you do not need to be certified to play a pivotal role in the mental wellbeing of your workplace. A more simple and direct way you can break the stigma around mental health in the workplace is by shifting your point of view. Perception is extremely powerful. The American Psychiatric Association writes: “Research shows that knowing or having contact with someone with mental illness is one of the best ways to reduce stigma. Individuals speaking out and sharing their stories can have a positive impact. When we know someone with mental illness, it becomes less scary and more real and relatable.”
Be open to how mental health feels and is observed by different cultures. Learn and commit to using non-stigmatizing language when speaking about mental health. For example, instead of saying, “that person is mentally ill,” you would say “a person living with a mental illness.” Align your mental health with your physical wellbeing. By taking care of both your mind and body, you will help set yourself up for a meaningful and fulfilling life. Let’s be conscious of how we speak to one another and show more compassion. These intentions will all lead to breaking the stigma of mental health inside the workspace.
As we move into our new studio and begin spending more time with one another again, we have the opportunity to reset our perspectives on mental health in the workplace. With this shift in workplace dynamics comes the prospect for more peer connections, guest speaker events, the revival of Women in Architecture, and possibilities to build relationships with our communities. As a studio and as a firm, we are committed to looking after one another to ensure workplace wellbeing.
Welcome Home – we hope you stay awhile!
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