Corporate wellbeing and men
Waiting times for psychologists and counsellors are going through the roof. Pandemics, flu-vax hysteria, inflation, job insecurity, home schooling, isolation, floods, fires, pointless politics, fake news and the war in Ukraine are taking their toll.
For men 40 - 60+ these issues are biting hard.
When you're culturally positioned as the provider for your family, the weight of navigating safe passage through these turbulent, stormy waters in immense.
Whether it's reality or perception, I feel like there's great pressure on me to make the right decisions for my family. We can talk all day about equality and how we're "all in this together" but for many men that's just not reality.
Men 40+ are stuck in a time warp of cultural expectations that can't just shift with the tides.
We're taught by our fathers (and mothers) to open the door for 'ladies', we're taught that our job 'as a man' is to look after our families, to be the 'breadwinner'. Thankfully, for our kids at least, some of that is changing, but it doesn't change for us practically just because it should.
Evolutionary conditioning for masculinity doesn't have a simple toggle switch.
Change requires a rework that takes time, new skills, thought patterns and mental and physical health functioning at different levels. Wellbeing will be a key enabler but...
...current wellbeing brochures, websites and programs feature dreamy images of women (predominantly) and trendy young men (occasionally) in contorted, pretzel poses praying to the gods of flexibility on a yoga mat on a beach. Who's buying that?
You can dangle crystals, quote phrases from the latest guru book of enlightenment and chant 'Om' till the vegan cows come home. I'm not buying it. For many men, like me. it's a leap too far.
Wellbeing has to be accessible by the people who need it most.
Now I'm into wellbeing in a big way. I've been fit and healthy my whole life. I run, ride bikes, row, meditate, eat well, practice breathing, stretch, take cold showers, intermittent fast and more. I experiment with my physical and mental health every day and I'm turned off by a lot of wellbeing program content.
Most wellbeing programs miss the male mark for one reason; they're not written for men. They are designed and promoted for a person that doesn't actually exist...the neutral man woman. We're so worried about equality and being gender neutral that we miss the male audience.
Typically, corporate wellbeing programs attract women and younger men and typically both are already well.
Company in-house yoga classes attract those already doing yoga, fruit bowls attract fruit eaters, corporate psychologists are useful...if you know you need help.
Men across the globe struggle to admit weakness. In the workplace we don't typically show vulnerability and we worry it will impact future work opportunities.
We're taught by our dads (and mums, and sisters and grandparents) to be strong, tough, resilient, bulletproof. That attitude is now regarded as outdated by "society", (whoever that is) and all of a sudden we're expected to get in touch with our inner feelings, quit booze, cry in groups and skip our way to a mindfulness class.
This cultural hang-up is exactly why we need to focus on wellbeing. The tough exterior is hiding some pretty screwed up internal workings that are under stress right now.
Women have a lot of the 'nurturing' stuff right, they're good at that, but we don't need to become women to improve our wellbeing. We also don't need to lose our sense of being a man either.
What we need are some tips, tricks, strategies and healthier habits that can boost our wellbeing without compromising our masculinity. To enable that, we need to get among men who are doing this stuff, who are up for the challenge of personal change and improvement. Wellbeing must embrace masculinity.
Recently we held our first Wellteam Roundtable event. Fifteen members from our Adelaide cohort joined me at The Kings Head Pub. They're a very smart, accomplished group of men (from 37 - 73 years old). We heard how many had joined Wellteam from a referral from a friend, were interested in improving their health, get out of a rut or expand their network.
What came through strongly was how many didn't know what they needed until they joined, went through a program and came out the other side. We heard stories of life transformation, confidence boost and weight loss. Most importantly we heard of camaraderie, of mateship, stories of good men sharing healthy time together.
These are stories of men exploring wellbeing topics and activities in a masculine way, having some healthy competition and some social pressure to boost their wellbeing.
Consider that last line. "Social pressure to boost their wellbeing."
That's what men respond to. Not a partner telling them to lose weight, not their boss telling them to 'take a chill pill', not their doctor pointing out their blood pressure is a bit high. We need to feel in charge, like it's our idea, like we're missing out by not doing it.
Men respond when they are treated in line with their cultural conditioning, with authenticity and understanding, introducing them to a different way of being a man in a new manly way.
This is what Wellteam is here for. It works, it produces results for men (and their families, workplaces, community).
Our members told us we should be getting into organisations and running programs there. That's what we're branching into now, approaching organisations with a predominantly male audience or male teams.
If you have a team in mind, send us an email at email@example.com and we'll get in touch with our corporate programs brochure and/or schedule a time to discuss.
A mental health tsunami is on the horizon. Our collective goal has to be to prepare men, as best we can, to thrive, not just survive, to become leaders in wellbeing and not be lost at sea.
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