The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 is 'Surviving or Thriving?'. In this blog, Mastered graduate Katie Driver explores how organisations can help their people not just to survive, but to thrive.
There is a tendency to think of mental health simply as the absence of obvious mental illness. But, as Martin Seligman and others exploring this territory have found, to thrive – to have good mental health and wellbeing – needs active cultivation in its own right. To thrive we need to find ways to engage meaningfully with our work and our lives, to build relationships that sustain us and to accomplish things that matter to us.
Similarly, there is a tendency among organisations to think that a policy on mental health is delivered simply through stress-management programmes or access to a counselling service. But again, this only achieves survival mode. Thriving organisational wellbeing also needs to encompass things like resilience, enjoyment and dealing positively with the emotions that arise at work.
The good news is that there’s a win-win to be had. The move from surviving to thriving can often be achieved through simple actions which simultaneously work for people and for business.
Take meaning, for example. People who find meaning in their work are almost three times more likely to stay with their organisation and are 93% more engaged, according to the Energy Project. And the ability to find meaning also builds personal wellbeing. Those who feel their work is a calling report higher satisfaction with their lives and work. So an employer who can develop a company mission to which employees feel deeply connected boosts the organisation and the individuals in it at the same time.
Another way for organisations and people to jointly thrive is through developing and nurturing diverse strengths. When managers focus on people’s performance strengths (instead of weaknesses), performance rises by more than a third. And when people use their strengths, they report lower levels of stress and higher levels of positive energy, both important for wellbeing. So by building teams where people work together on projects that capitalise on their different strengths, companies can achieve far more without running their people into the ground.
Too often I see people and organisations surviving rather than thriving. And the price is not only paid by those who become unwell. There is also a huge collective cost when people and firms are just going through the motions. Living diminished lives and doing just enough risks becoming the norm for many.
Thankfully, I am also starting to see people and organisations working together to build cultures where staff and business outcomes jointly thrive. With strong workplace engagement associated with business success, I hope these firms will lead the way for many more of us to thrive.
 Wrzesniewski, A et al (1997) as quoted in ‘The Positive Leader’ by Jan Mühlfeit & Melina Costi
 Corporate Leadership Council study (2002)
 Govindji & Lindley (2007)
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