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What Did You Do For World Mental Health Day?



 

Today my daughter came into my home office thrilled to tell me about a local invention competition for kids. Her idea…design a robot that drives around to local parks. People in the park can write on a slip of paper (provided by the robot of course) what is bothering them that day. The humans feed the paper into the robot’s mouth. In return, the robot shares an encouraging message. The robot, quite literally, eats up loneliness, sadness, and human troubles!


I could write about my adoration for the creative ideas of our young folks. But instead, let’s talk about how we help one another and eat up others’ loneliness.

When I asked why the robot goes to parks, she said because that’s where kids sit on buddy benches to look for a friend to play with and “old people walk around by themselves”. (Note: I took a solo walk in the park Saturday so I may have some explaining to do!)

We have a loneliness issue…and it’s not just at the park.

Work can be a lonely place for humans. Consider some of the circumstances – it’s one of the rare places you engage daily with people that don't have much in common with you (let's be honest, some of these people would not be at the top of our dinner party guest list). Many cultures lack transparency. Personal topics, like your health or home life, can feel off-limits. And to top it off, many of us are often home alone the majority of the time. Even the most introverted can feel alone, and not in that healthy, restorative way.


Other than the fundamental principle that we should care for one another, there is a business reason to invest in the well-being of one another. Research shows that loneliness is related to lower job performance and lower commitment to the organization. Lack of relationships reduces collaboration and the sharing of ideas.

When we feel we don’t belong somewhere, the scope of what is possible begins to diminish.

We can all play a role in addressing loneliness.


Create connection through storytelling. I’m a long-time fan of storytelling. It’s at the backbone of culture building. The power of a strong story from a well-respected employee or leader is priceless. It creates a connection between two humans, even in a group setting. When a human shares their experience and vulnerability, we connect and see them. It’s that simple. And when we connect, we chip away at those feelings that we are the only ones that feel this way and alone.


Don’t underestimate the connection of purpose. Last week I sat in a meeting with a diverse group of individuals in age, gender, race, career experience, and cultural influences. We don’t have a long history together and yet we gathered for a common purpose – to advise this institution’s leadership on specific issues. The rally around an engaging and specific purpose opened up a dialogue that was creative, open-minded, and otherwise would not have connected a small group of diverse individuals.


Assume that everyone else’s need to connect is different than yours. Working from home is a great mask to hide loneliness or pretend it does not exist. I’m an introvert and see it as a super strength. But even I crave travel and in-person get-togethers from time to time to feel aligned with a client. It's a great way to connect, build relationships, and pick up on context like what it "feels" like in the office. If you lead a team, ask how your people feel most engaged with you, the team, and the company. It’s part of your job.


World Mental Health Day is a great reminder that we have the ability every day to treat each other with a bit more humanity, compassion, and connection.


Interested in learning more about building human cultures? Send me a note at Katherine@worksproutpartners.com.

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