There is a mid-year phenomenon with a uniquely Japanese name, but which is felt by people around the globe: ‘５月病’ – ‘gogatsu-byou,’ or May sickness. Japanese students and workers have long experienced a hump-month, when the excitement of the new financial or school year has passed, and the rest of the year stretches ahead of them.
It is probably just a coincidence that for over 75 years, May has been Mental Health Awareness Month in the USA. Since 1949, numerous organizations like Mental Health America have reached out to encourage people to look after their mental well-being, and in 2021 this may be more essential than ever.
Here are 5 ways to make sure your team isn’t suffering from May Sickness, any month of the year.
Host Regular Team Meetings
The impact of loneliness on our health is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Worryingly, the majority of American workers don’t consider coworkers friends. There is no way to force coworkers to like each other, but seeing each other regularly is one way to prevent isolation, especially for those working from home.
This is just one of the benefits of Daily Huddles, but even more important is the impact of regular meetings between managers and direct reports. Weekly one-on-ones allow colleagues to get to know each other on a more personal level, and to address any personal or professional issues which may be overlooked in bigger meetings.
Don’t Manage, Coach
A quick Google search for ‘annual review stress’ brings up “about 450,000,000 results” (in just 0.67 seconds!) Annual reviews have long been a staple of the workplace, a century-old remnant that few enjoy but many organizations implemented without question until recently. Modern business practices have moved away from these stressful periodic check-ins to more frequent, coaching-based sessions.
Workers who have implemented regular one-on-one meetings quickly went from the ‘Not another meeting’ camp to the ‘I now have time to get to know my coworker, and to coach/be coached to ensure better results all round’ camp. Rather than looking back on what went wrong over a quarter or a year, regular one-on-ones allow managers to coach and correct through any problems which crop up along the way. This is good news for everyone’s mental health.
Define Your Personal Goals
Here at Align, every employee has two types of Priority: goals that contribute to the company’s quarterly targets and Annual Initiatives, and personal Priorities. My personal goals have included completing online Excel training and committing to reading a certain number of business books each quarter, (with a ‘Lunch and Learn’ session to share my findings with the rest of the team).
The fact that these goals were transparent across our organization kept me motivated and honest. Research shows that sharing goals is especially important for accountability, especially when you share with someone of a ‘higher status,’ be they superiors or just colleagues. Personal development is a key aspect of feeling appreciated at work, turning a job into a fulfilling career: there is even a place in the Align software to create a Personal One Page Plan, allowing us to apply our business methods to our personal lives.
Give Written Feedback:
Feedback is the lifeblood of any successful organization: Apple insists its workers live and breathe ‘Fearless Feedback’ between employees, and the former CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts wrote an entire book titled: ‘The Challenge Culture: why the most successful organizations run on pushback.’
But not everyone is comfortable offering praise or guidance face to face, not to mention receiving it. Having a regular meeting rhythm that includes written shout-outs and ‘stucks’ can take the emotional edge out of the necessary back and forth of feedback, making it less personal and easier to give…and receive! (This is where having a system in place for anonymous feedback comes in handy, too.)
Finally, one way to ensure your team is happy is to let them know they are appreciated and to celebrate successes together as much as possible. Here at Align, once the pandemic hit and our regular after-work drinks became impossible, we shifted to an online Virtual Happy Hour each week, where we got to know each other (and each others’ homes!) on a personal level.
In addition to weekly get-togethers, quarterly or annual themes are a proven motivator and should be celebrated when goals are met and targets reached. Rewards can be as serious as vacations or as fun as a (virtual) themed party: Coach Jason Rush and Accountability Coach Morgan Stanley offer advice on how to create the perfect theme, and how to celebrate at the end of it.
We all need to feel like more than just a cog in an organization’s wheel. While some see technology as part of the problem, it can also be a big part of the solution: from daily and weekly meetings which build human connections, to one-one-ones which allow for coaching rather than crisis management; from personal development and emotion-free feedback to celebrating the good times at work.