Workplace Mental Wellness and Intrapersonal Skills: A Case for a Proactive Approach
The current misconception is that mental health and mental illness is the same thing, this needs to be addressed. In order to have good mental health, we need to perform activities that support mental wellness. Mental wellness can be achieved through practical knowledge of intrapersonal skills. Implementing and practicing intrapersonal skills every day will ensure sustained mental wellness.
Intrapersonal skills are based on knowledge and understanding about what goes on inside of us, intra meaning inside. This enables us to notice our thoughts and feelings before they develop to the point where they cause a cascade of problematic consequences. Intrapersonal skills draw on awareness, the primary tool or instrument we can use to regulate and maintain optimum performance of our internal functions.
Internal functions are not directed in a conscious way, they happen by the command of our subconscious. Until awareness is used as an instrument, the autopilot of emotional and thought related reactions direct our every action. Practicing psychiatrist and Wellness Orbit founder, Dr. Helena Lass states, "we all know going to the gym is good for our physical health, so why then don't we have a similar attitude when it comes to shaping our internal landscape?
Our capabilities to direct our inner functions also need regular learning and training, just as our physical muscles do. Sustained practice of wellness activities leads to better mental health, which in turn results in optimum inner functioning and effective use of our innate potentials."
Workplace wellness - what's the problem?
Current workplace wellness programs need to be urgently rethought to address the challenges and needs of our time. Both employers and employees would greatly benefit from being provided proper tools that enable them to sustain themselves at the highest level of performance. This is a win-win situation. More physical oriented jobs have different requirements from office jobs.
This seems quite obvious to point out, however current corporate wellness programs offered to office employees focus more upon catering to their physical needs as opposed to their needs regarding their inner mental functions. Due to the nature of office work, we can surmise that the proportions of demand placed upon employees are approximately 10% physical and 90% mental. It is therefore imperative to offer more tools and skills training to reflect this.
Simply offering comfortable chairs, ergonomic mice and keyboards, headsets and casual dress policies are great on the one hand, but on the other do nothing to adequately provide what people actually require to realize their inner capabilities and address arising problems. Take construction workers for example, construction work is labor-intense, and comes with its own set of potential health hazards.
Before any worker is allowed on a building site they must learn how to protect themselves, there are rules, they require knowledge how to maintain their physical health in order to sustain themselves to be able to do their work. For office workers, the environmental challenges are not physical, but more mental. Office workers obviously are put under a different set of strains, however they must still learn how to protect themselves.
Maintaining the wellbeing of the inner domain is equally as important, if not more important. What is the use of a human who has a healthy body, but is mentally unable to contribute? Inner hazards such as fatigue, exhaustion, lack of sleep, irritability, boredom, lack of engagement, absenteeism, presenteeism etc. all of which are some kind of malfunction of the internal functions that can eventually lead to stress, burnout and depression. Knowledge of how to deal with these should be encouraged and provided in a proactive and preemptive manner, the same as it is for the construction worker.
Intrapersonal skills as the solution
Proactive learning and practicing of intrapersonal skills prevents problems before they arise. By training our awareness to notice how we think and feel serves us to radically decrease the automatic reactions that cause so many problems in our lives. Intrapersonal skills allow us to notice internal reactions as the happen, in real time. We are used to our autopilot mode of automatic thinking and reactions.
We can now influence these automatic reactions, making a conscious choice whether the reaction at hand is helping or harming us. More than 80% of employees say they are not engaged or passionate about what they do for work. Dr. Lass expands, "it is a mistake to think that employees simply need more motivational training, team building exercises or gym memberships.
People are overwhelmed with stress, burnt out or struggling with handling their inner mental reactions. Feelings of boredom and indifference to work are not physical issues. "When people are unwell at work they report decreased ability to complete their task (62%), find they are not engaged (63%) and unmotivated (62%).
In the UK, a company on average loses 700-1000 per employee per year through stress and mental ill health related absences. When employees are equipped with methods to effectively handle every day challenges, pressures will not escalate and seeds of illness can be kept at bay.
Super fast learning in the face of technological change
Learning intrapersonal skills can be likened to learning to read. Being able to read opens up new learning opportunities and new knowledge, broadening our understanding of how we interpret and relate to the world around us. Skills to regulate our inner functions open up both development of these very potentials as well as preventing possible problems and inner malfunctioning. Using intrapersonal skills we are able to relearn how to learn.
Using sustained awareness to relearn the fundamental skills of how to learn, we will be able to learn anything, essentially speeding up learning. This is particularly crucial with Artificial Intelligence (AI) being ever increasingly implemented into the workplace. Workers might be thinking, how ever can I compete with a super computer? But we already have our own super computers, it is just we haven't been taught how to use it properly.
There isn't just one practical use for intrapersonal skills. Being universal they provide multiple solutions for all manner of problems and enable development of our innate potentials. Such examples include, holding and maintaining our focus, better motivation, and creativity in dynamic environments.
A new way forward
Dr. Lass passionately tells that, "companies have a real chance to become worldwide educators by filling in the gaps left by educational institutions by offering their employees training that builds a path to better mental wellness. We as society must begin to make more of an effort to have good mental health by placing sustained wellness at the centre of everything we do.
By our workplaces not offering the skills to sustain our wellness, it is only a matter of time before the escalation of mental related illnesses becomes an epidemic that cannot be stopped. "A global proactive approach to promoting sustained inner wellness is still very much in its infancy. Aside from Dr. Helena Lass and a handful of private psychiatric professionals, there has been limited research on the topic of mental wellness let alone a practical and readily available solution for training on intrapersonal skills, until now.
Gallup 142-country study "State of the Global Workplace", 2013:�http://news.gallup.com/poll/165269/worldwide-employees-engaged-work.aspx Global Wellness Institute 2016, "The Future of Wellness at Work" report  The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, document on "Calculating the cost of work-related stress and psychosocial risks". Referring to the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health survey (2007) about costs of mental health issues in UK