Workplace And Community Health Check: R U OK?

By Ange Drake

As we get ready for R U Ok? Day on Thursday 8th September, I thought it timely to take a moment to not only ask our community ‘Are you OK?’ but also do a ‘health check’ on the wellbeing of our 23W team and what more can be done to look after our best asset, our TEAM. 

In this article we discuss themes around mental health and wellbeing. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, support is available from services such as Beyond Blue and Life Line.

Looking After Our Community

Mental illness in Australia is extremely common with one in five Australians aged 16-85 experiencing a mental illness each year. I recognise the unique and powerful position of 23W to pull our members together to promote meaningful connection in a safe and supportive environment. And while many people seek out our services for physical training, we recognise that the benefits of being part of a fitness community extend into the establishment of supportive social networks, confidence, resilience and positive self concept. 

Since COVID-19, contact with mental health services has increased by 42%. During the multiple lockdowns, the 23W coaching team did our best to implement a range of initiatives to keep our community engaged and uplifted while living apart. With restrictions a thing of the past, our goal this year is to create as many physical opportunities to run face to face workshops and events. We have also implemented a new system to reach out to members we have not seen for a while. This helps us remove the sense of disconnect some members feel in returning back to training. Our 23W app also allows us to offer a more seamless coaching experience with our members better able to get the support they need. 

This Friday we are hosting a special night out at Bar Pallino in Thornbury. This event is open to everyone in our community and is a great chance to form amazing, new social networks.It is not too late to come along if you are free. 

How to ask R u ok?

R U OK? has developed our four conversation steps to give you the skills and confidence to navigate a conversation with someone you’re worried about.

Looking After Our Team

When you become a business owner, developing a formal mental health program for your staff is generally not something high on the list of priorities. It certainly was not something I considered in the first year or so of being open amongst start up costs, business planning and marketing. Think about it… we are required to have a current first aid certificate and an appointed first aid officers in a workplace, what about checks on your employee’s mental health?

It is a quick realisation that in having ‘employees’, I was directly and indirectly taking responsibility for the wellbeing of another.   This responsibility comes with a huge sense of accountability too. After all, we spend a huge portion of our lives at work with our financial security depending on it. 

One of the silver lining of the pandemic was the time we were given to spend working together. We quickly realised the importance of checking in with each other on a daily basis and understood that on hard days, the importance of empathy, trust and collaboration. In the dawn of the great resignation and ‘silently quitting phenomenon’, I have spent a lot of time considering how, as the director of 23W, I can look after our amazing staff and ensure that they find joy, and meaningful connection to what they do on a daily basis. 

  1. A healthy relationship with my own business

When you are in the ‘thick’ of getting your business off the ground or through major growth periods, it is hard to see problems associated with an unhealthy relationship with your own business. But running a business is a lot like having a family. At the start it is a lot of hustle, working long-hours and fast pace changes. But as the baby becomes a toddler, it needs more than just your to flourish. It also needs to become independent of you. 

I had this realisation at the start of the year when membership started to ‘pick up’ and my attention needed to be divided again between my ‘real’ children and operating a much larger community. For 23W to truly thrive, I need to be able to have full trust in my team’s capacity and allow them to learn and grow. I also recognise the importance of championing balance; to be able to switch off, have an identity beyond ‘work/business Ange’ and have healthy hobbies and interests outside of the gym. This month I have returned back to one of my favourite pastime activities of surfing! Albeit, not very well!

2. R U Ok? Culture and gratitude

Man, sometimes I feel like the luckiest boss in the world. I am not shy to dish out lots of praise and encouragement for my amazing team. I say this all the time, ‘great coaches are bloody hard to find’. I made the decision at the start of the year to cover the shortfall in staffing myself until I found the right one… And just like that we found Tarlee. We start every team meeting off with reflection and gratitude and have our own slack channel dedicated to gratitude and daily wins. It really grinds my gears that some bosses rarely give positive feedback to their crew or let them know that they are appreciated.

3. Intentional mental health and burnout conversations

Coaching and personal training involves long hours on your feet, early mornings and late nights. The lifespan of a typical PT is only 6 months. Burnout is huge and is a conversation I have regularly with individuals in our team. Our coaches live busy and full lives. There is a real danger in them spreading themselves too thin, becoming stressed and increased absenteeism. As our community grows it is my goal to minimise the amount of split shifts worked by our staff and ensure that they have sufficient breaks, time working on administrative tasks and time to learn. 

4. Initiatives to connect and encourage team friendships

Okay, this year has been hectic. And staffing has been an ongoing logistical nightmare between COVID and flu season. But my intention is to double down in the coming month and into 2023 to host more get-togethers, coffee-chats, team lunches and team-building days. So excited for the special team appreciation afternoon we have planned at iFly at the end of the month.

In sharing these thoughts around wellbeing for our community and team, I recognise that we still have work to do. Afterall, wellbeing is determined by a variety of factors but I love being in a position this R U OK? Day  to be able to actively reflect and acknowledge areas we are doing well and areas for more development. 

If you lead or manage a team, I would love to know what workplace initiatives you are celebrating.

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Our founder

Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.

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