Simone Biles is known as the greatest gymnast ever. With her withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympic finals, she proved that leadership is not only about winning. Sometimes it’s about taking a back step for the empowerment and wellbeing of others.
Of course, according to Biles, expectations play a role. “This Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself when I came in — and I felt like I was still doing it for other people.” I didn’t want to do something silly out there and get injured,” Biles said after the team finals.
Her decision to pull out from the Olympics has been encouraged by many. If Biles wasn’t confident that she would do her best, she did the right thing by withdrawing from the games.
Of course, it is fair for someone to make the argument that this is her job, and she should have shown up to work just like the rest of us are expected to do. It’s OK not to appear once best all the time just for the show.
When judging her based on her record is fair, it’s not fair to do so in her worst moment on the world’s most significant stage. Especially when we cannot deny that Biles hasn’t lost an all-around title in eight years, if Biles felt she couldn’t perform her best at the Tokyo Olympics, the responsible step to take at that moment was to step aside and cheer the team from behind.
“I knew that the girls would do a great job, and I didn’t want to risk the team a medal because of my screw-ups,” “Because they’ve worked way too hard for that,” Biles added.
Not only Biles, just a few months back, Naomi Osaka also pulled out from French Open as an act of self-care. England Cricketer Ben Stokes recently decided to take an indefinite break from cricket to focus on his mental wellbeing. Australian Basketball star Liz Cambage skipped the Tokyo Olympics, saying she had been getting panic attacks for the last few months. Tennis star Serena Williams took a break from the game in 2015 without officially announcing the reason behind her break. Later it was revealed that she was depressed.
Although in the past, too, athletes stepped away from their games to focus on mental health, there was a stigma attached to it to bring the issue into open discussion.
Not that only the above athletes have taken a back step from their career reasoning mental health, if we keep taking names, there would be a list of stars who, without officially announcing the reason behind keeping away from the limelight, took long breaks to take care of their mental wellbeing.
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Anyone can develop a mental illness, but unlike the athletes, a middle-class employee with a 9 to 5 job cannot just vanish from work and take a one-year break, citing their mental health issues.
Many business leaders assume that an employee’s mental health is none of their business. But the way employees think, feel, and behave impacts everything from productivity and communication to their ability to complete their assigned tasks efficiently.
Hence, helping employees improve their mental health could be one of the most important steps an employer can take to improve an organization’s overall productivity and health.
Many factors can trigger mental health issues. Although a healthy workplace won’t prevent or reduce all mental health problems, employers can at least try and take steps to help employees build mental strength to stay as healthy as possible.
Here are a few strategies business leaders can implement to create a mentally healthy workplace:
Promoting work/life balance
Awarding and praising employees who work late and arrive early or expecting them to work from home in the evenings hurts your company in the long run. Without a healthy work/life balance, productivity will likely decline, and employees are more likely to burn out.
Motivating employees to take regular vacations to unwind and not expecting everyone to answer work calls around the clock can be a significant step.
Studies have proven that people who exercise regularly, spend time with loved ones, and take time to care for themselves make better employees.
Maintaining an open culture at the workplace and having a healthy discussion on mental health with co-workers.
Everyone struggles to stay mentally healthy at times. By discussing stress, depression, anxiety, or other mental illness issues with colleagues, we can help each other heal. Talking about stress management and self-care in meetings and email communications can reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
Educating employees about the signs of mental health issues and certain behavioral traits to deal with a co-worker facing such issues can break the stigma related to mental health could also help.
Making wellness a priority.
Exercising, healthy eating, and participating in leisure activities are simple ways to build mental strength and improve mental health.
Employers can make it a norm to help employees develop healthy habits. Employers can offer incentives to employees who participate in wellness programs or provide free gym memberships. Offering free screening tools at the workplace can also help employees recognize they’re at risk for specific mental health issues to initiate their treatment.
Holding in-service events
Hiring a therapist to conduct workshops on stress management and resilience a few times a year could go a long way toward preventing mental health problems and emphasizing the importance of building healthy strategies in your daily life.
These in-service training could help employees reach their most tremendous potential, which could benefit the organization in the long run.
Encouraging employees’ efforts to seek help.
By making it clear that employers support the efforts of their employees in taking care of their minds the same way they want them to take care of their bodies, they can break the stigma and fear attached to judgment related to seeking help.
Whether by allowing an employee to take a mental health day or offering a flexible work schedule, employers can convey their concern that they are taking care of their employees’ mental health as long as they are associated with the organization.
It will likely be a while before treating mental illness similar to treating a fever or a cold. Still, we can start promoting psychological wellness one step at a time and encourage each other to seek help and talk about mental health without any fear of getting judged or being looked down upon.