May is Mental Health Awareness month and this has prompted much conversation and reflection within our team at OnLoop. Guided by making a habit of day-to-day reflection, feedback and learning, we felt very invested in how mental health is perceived, talked about and addressed in the workplace.
As a hybrid team across multiple continents, from different backgrounds, and different levels of work experience, it becomes super important to be transparent around each individual’s mental health and mindset. And while there’s been some debate around the separation of work life and personal life, we believe it’s important to bring your whole self to work. By fostering self-reflection and building a culture of openness and psychological safety, OnLoop is already making strides towards eliminating the taboo of mental health at work. Our dream is to build a less biased, less anxious, and more productive workplace culture through day-to-day, data-driven collaborative team development (CTD).
With that in mind, we’ve asked our OnLoop community to share their experiences around mental health in the workplace. We hope you’ll find these comforting and insightful — you are not alone.
The stigma around mental health is still strong and crippling
It is estimated that over 264 million adults around the world suffer from anxiety. Whether it’s at home or at work, highly visible or more subtle, mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and trauma are extremely prevalent in our society — and unfortunately, they are still scorned upon in many parts of the world.
“I’ve suffered with my mental health since I was 15 and for almost 20 years (with a lot of therapy), I’ve worked on self-awareness, self-control, mindfulness, yoga and meditation to stay healthy and ‘sane.’ But mental health is still a taboo in many cultures. Where I live and where I grew up, it is still frowned upon to be open about it. I’ve only recently felt comfortable enough to speak about it at work — I’m so glad to see companies taking the topic of mental health more seriously.” — Andrea
“A family member in India has recently been suffering from sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression. While I’ve had the privilege of being exposed to a Western professional and personal environment where mental health issues are more normalized, my relative never has. In cultures like India, mental health issues are taboo and people don’t have the right vocabulary to deal with it.” — Projjal
“For the longest time, I believed that being professional meant hiding my emotions, keeping cool, not showing vulnerability. Then COVID hit and it became much harder to contain all my feelings — and to distinguish home from work enough to know when to release them. On one occasion, my insecurities and frustration spilled into a 1:1 with my manager, and the most incredible thing happened: my manager showed empathy and support, and helped me work through my feelings so that I could continue with my day more confidently and productively. In the end, being open about my mental state helped me be more effective in my work and rid myself of this stigma that vulnerability is weakness.” — Diana
Mental health is not just personal, it’s professional too
One of OnLoop’s five core values is trust. Trust that we have good intent in each other. Trust that we will create a psychologically safe space for people to do their best work. Trust that if someone shares a vulnerable feeling, we as a company will support and enable them to get through it.
“I was born with a visual impairment that makes me experience the world entirely differently to most people. It’s not visible — and most people would never know unless I told them. I was also recently diagnosed with ADHD, after years of being dismissed as just a hormonal teenager with a spot of anxiety. Add to that the fact that I entered the workforce during the pandemic, in a hybrid setting, it became even more important for me to vocalize my mental health situation with my team. I’m so grateful it was met with understanding and support — it helped set me up to succeed and grow at the same rate as my peers.” — Sophie
“When I first started working, I was constantly ’at work’ even when I wasn’t physically at work. Naturally, that led to burnouts. Today, I actively switch off when I am not supposed to be at work. Being in the right mental state to work efficiently is more important than just trying to get through work everyday.” — Aditi
“There are days my anxiety leaves me feeling a little dissociated from reality. Things sometimes go over my head even though I’m trying my best to absorb them, which often leads to a cycle of overworking and burning myself out.” — Arunima
“I recently made a careless mistake that affected everyone, and felt awful about it. I brought it up as my vulnerable share in our All Hands meeting that week, and was met with empathy and understanding. The team understood it was not ill-intended, and I was surprised at how comfortable I felt to bring it up and face it rather than sweep it under the rug and never mention it again.”—Han
The best advice is the one that sticks
Often shared in passing, as part of a genuine conversation or vulnerably shared moment, the best advice is rarely predictable. It resonates with a particular feeling, and it sticks — so much so that you go back to it regularly, like a familiar blanket. We asked our OnLoop family to share some of their go-to words of wisdom.
“Positive self-talk and channeling of energies are the best antidotes for most manageable mental health situations. That, and identifying your personal support system and asking for help when needed.” — Projjal
“There will always be good days and bad days at work, but if there are more bad days than good days — something needs to change.” — Aditi
“Be present. Thinking about the past generates depression and thinking about the future generates anxiety. The only thing that matters is today.” — Andrea
“Disconnect from distractions — both at work and in your personal life. When you’re working, don’t entertain messages or scroll unnecessarily through your phone. When you’re taking a break, disconnect completely from anything work-related unless they are emergencies or extremely time-sensitive.” — Arunima
“Everyone is a chemical imbalance away from being exactly where you are now. You’ll get through this, you’ll get out of here, and you’ll be good.” — Ines
“Thoughts lead to emotions, emotions lead to behaviors, behaviors lead to situations in life. The mind is so powerful, but you can learn to control your thoughts. If you do, you will change the course of your life. — Andrea
“Seek discomfort. It is only when you take yourself out of your comfort zone that you are truly able to learn.” — Michael
“Sleep, food and exercise are so important for mental health. People underestimate the effects of neglecting these three things.” — Andrea
“‘Don’t take things personally,’ from Don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements.” — Diana
Check out our team’s reads and recommendations
Bouncing off that last piece of advice, here’s a list of some of our community’s go-to tips and resources to tackle mental health — visible, invisible, sporadic or long-lasting. We’d love to hear yours in the comments!
“The #1 resource I’d like to recommend is to reach out to professionals! Your friends and coworkers can be an incredibly powerful support system, but it’s your job to help yourself first. Whether it’s therapy, medication, or simply some time off, you need to make the effort — as daunting as it may seem — to enlist the help you need.” — Ines
- The Happiness Lab podcast, by Dr Laurie Santos. She also teaches “The Science of Well-Being” on Coursera, which I highly recommend. Favorite takeaway: the things we think will make us happy don’t.”
- Therapy for Black Girls podcast and blog. Even if you’re not the target audience, the podcast is such a safe space and information is consumable and comfortable.
- The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish, #110 — Jim Collins: Relationships vs. Transactions
- Making Sense with Sam Harris, #242 — Psychedelics and the Self
- The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
- The Drama of the Gifted Child, by Alice Miller
- The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hang
- The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
- Melody Li, an Austin-based therapist who set out to “decolonize mental health”
- Regular practice of meditation and yoga
- Savasana playlists on Spotify
In conclusion, it’s important to bring your full self to work
Raising awareness around mental health — and especially mental health in the workplace — can only be a good thing. We feel lucky and proud to have built the kind of team that doesn’t shy away from these tough conversations and feels comfortable being themselves, 100% of the time. We hope that by sharing our personal experiences, it inspires you to be more open and unashamed about yours. All toward the mission of building a less biased, less anxious, and more productive workplace culture.
If you want to find out more about OnLoop and what we’re up to, check out our website and sign up to request early access.