How Mental Health Boosts Company Performance

Addressing people’s well-being in companies is a strategic investment in employee performance and motivation. We share the vision of Tamara Cutrín, an expert in human resources and Cognitive Neuroscience.

In a constantly changing work environment, the importance of team well-being has emerged as an unavoidable priority for organizations seeking success.

Is it possible to create an authentic culture of well-being in the company? What are the most common challenges in promoting mental health at work?

Tamara Cutrín, an expert in human resources and Cognitive Neuroscience, co-author of “Enabling Genius” and Head of People and Culture at the technology company TEIMAS, answers these questions.

We have more and more evidence showing that emotional well-being in the company is intrinsically linked to organizational success. Tamara, how is this vision incorporated?

Tamara Cutrín (T.C.): First of all, to integrate this perspective, it’s necessary to work on a culture of well-being, starting from the highest layer of the company. Ultimately, the People and Culture figure dances in tune with the organization’s general leadership, not the other way around.

I believe it all starts and perpetuates if managers prioritize taking care of people in their roadmap. Undoubtedly, it’s the leaders who need to be comfortable with such culture to be able to convey and execute it. Once this is aligned, the Department of People and Culture acts as an orbiting figure to implement appropriate measures, measure their impact, design and select tools, data, etc.

So, how is a corporate culture with results implemented?

T.C.: Creating a culture of well-being is a joint effort: it’s hours of analysis, observation, and data collection. It also involves creating custom instruments to obtain that data. It’s a continuous improvement task where the concept of well-being needs to be adapted to the people who make up the work teams. Ideally, companies should have a well-being program. That is, an open and versatile document, in continuous construction, that encompasses all measures related to well-being.

And because what is not communicated, does not exist. Therefore, part of the success of a well-being culture is communication and transparency. Companies are responsible for constantly transmitting the pillars of our culture. Only then is it possible to thrive, create, recreate, and involve people in the culture.

Mental Health Challenges at Work

What are the challenges that most affect people’s mental health in the workplace?

T.C.: There are many. But each organization must be responsible for selecting the priorities, those that it must analyze and measure regularly. For example, challenges directly related to people’s well-being: work and personal stress, happiness, quality of life, emotional management, job satisfaction, general well-being at work, family reconciliation, equality, etc. And, on the other hand, challenges directly related to the company, such as culture, the quality of commitment, and the work climate.

Then, being these issues mostly subjective, how is appropriate monitoring done?

T.C.: Well, one of the most beautiful parts of human resources work is precisely being able to design custom tools to measure and analyze these challenges that impact people’s mental health. It’s about finding the formula to quantify people’s emotional states.

Currently, many studies show that happy or balanced employees are more productive. For example, according to a study by the University of Berkeley, balanced and happy people are more productive, more creative, more collaborative, better at pursuing long-term goals; it’s also known that happy teams are 20% more productive. And, additionally, the cost of replacing an employee ranges from half to twice their annual salary.

The data are very significant, but speaking from a more human perspective, one of the axes of every company should be to protect and take care of the people who work daily to achieve the company’s goals.

This care must be comprehensive, i.e., it must provide a set of techniques, protocols, programs, and plans that cover care in all areas of importance for the balance of people, with special focus on their mental health.

And how is this focus on well-being translated into the reality of the company?

T.C.: For example, at TEIMAS, we have a well-being program currently formed by measures that pursue 7 main objectives: taking care of the emotional and mental health of employees; reducing work absenteeism; increasing employee motivation and commitment; balancing work and family life; improving productivity in the company, fostering a good work environment, improving the ability to attract and minimize turnover, retaining people.

All this is translated into the day-to-day life of the company through various initiatives such as telework days, work flexibility, reduced summer hours, the training plan. Also work climate surveys, various team building actions and a customized mental health plan with free psychology sessions.

What does this mental health plan consist of?

T.C.: It’s one of the most innovative initiatives within our well-being plan. To implement it, we have the help of Mentiness, a startup dedicated to the prevention and care of mental health within companies. This plan is formed by two different actions: personalized psychological well-being follow-up and free psychology sessions.

Through Mentiness software, people at TEIMAS select objectives to work on: leadership, motivation, stress… Data is collected through periodic surveys so that users themselves can see their evolution over time. These metrics, which we obtain in the organization anonymously, are key to being able to do follow-up.

The other part of this plan is the free psychology sessions. Anonymously and through Mentiness, TEIMAS employees can start a therapy process to work on those aspects they need to improve on their mental health. These sessions, 100% funded by TEIMAS, have helped our employees in personal crisis situations.

But the most important thing is that the data confirms that we are achieving objectives that positively impact people’s lives and that reflect on the company’s productivity.

You Have the Right to Digital Disconnection

Are you one of those people who reply to emails or messages outside your working hours?

Do you turn off notifications when you leave the office?

Or do you always keep your email open “just in case”?

The Right to Disconnect

The right to disconnect is defined as: “the right not to connect to any digital device of a professional nature, company software, corporate mobile phones, emails, or other work-related platforms”.

In Spain, there are two legislations that defend this right. One is Article 88 of the Organic Law 3/2018, which regulates the right to digital disconnection. The other, more recent, is Article 18 of the Law 10/2021, which regulates this right for teleworkers. This law was born as a result of the presence of remote work during the pandemic.

But Spain is not the only country that has legislated something similar. In fact, in France, the right to disconnect is so present that there is a law that prohibits responding to or sending emails outside working hours.

But, why is a legal framework necessary to defend the right to disconnect?

The Other Side of the Coin

Technology should not be demonized. It is a tool, like many others, and we must know how to use it. There are already several studies that talk about how we have created tools to help us, that are causing us many problems.

Paradoxical, isn’t it?

But undoubtedly, a world as vast as the internet and new technologies requires responsibility. Individual responsibility, group responsibility, company responsibility, social responsibility… And not only that, but also legislation, programs, initiatives… things that protect us and help us manage the negative consequences.

But, what are the negative consequences of not disconnecting?

Here are some of the direct effects of not disconnecting:

  • Risk of addiction: like to coffee, alcohol, gambling… the internet as a whole is a very large world and technological devices undoubtedly generate an effect of “attachment”. That is, it’s hard to leave the house without a mobile phone (what is known as FOMO). We believe that if we do, we are missing out on something. On the other hand, there’s an “omnipresence” that causes carrying a mobile phone in the pocket makes us feel that we have many people “close” or “at hand”. That we are connected to them. All this combined with the characteristics of the Internet generates an effect: it’s hard to stop. It’s difficult to control its use and also… it causes dependency. If I don’t use it, I feel strange, bad.
  • The constant connection to work-related devices blurs a boundary: that of the workday. Wouldn’t you work 12 hours a day if it wasn’t compensated or there wasn’t a significant reason? Then, why do you open your email? Or why do you leave notifications on “just in case something happens”? This creates an effect on the worker not only of dependency on that device but of “being burnt out”. In other words, it relates to burnout. Because it generates what is called anticipatory anxiety, doing something just in case anticipating negative consequences.
  • Directly affects our cognitive abilities: it’s proven that a high level of dependency on ICTs causes alterations in our capacity for sustained attention, inhibition, and even in our memory. This means that the worker’s non-disconnection impairs their cognitive abilities and therefore, directly and negatively impacts their productivity and job satisfaction.
  • Creates unspoken rules of behavior: that is, it’s not written anywhere that it’s an obligation but “it’s taken for granted” that you’re going to do it. As if suddenly you arrive at a job where many unpaid extra hours are worked. You realize that although it’s not in your contract, everyone does it and therefore it’s assumed that it’s normal.
  • Negatively affects the ability to reconcile work life with family, social, or partner life. This means that it disrupts your leisure hours and also alters your routines not only for you but for the people you usually spend time with.

Disconnect, to Connect

In conclusion, the right to disconnect is necessary for several reasons. The first of them, directly related to the worker, their rights at work, and their own performance. It’s a reality that the “addiction” to the digital world in general has consequences such as lack of concentration, anxiety, sleep problems, stress, and other problems like obesity or alterations in our relationships.

The second, to connect with the real world, we have to disconnect from the virtual one. And the third, it is a matter of public health to legislate and act in favor of the right to disconnect. This is because it affects not only on an individual level but also on a group, organizational, and social level.

Do You Know What “Gaslighting” Is?

Have you heard of the term gaslighting?

Imagine this scene.

“Lara is a woman who works as an administrative assistant. In her company, no one supports or supervises the assistants’ work, and whenever there is an error, they are blamed. Moreover, the boss is constantly criticizing Lara’s actions. But not in a constructive way. Not even with evidence… rather, based on his personal opinion. Moreover, he seems to make an effort to make her feel excluded. They don’t notify her to go for coffee and during breaks, they are constantly whispering behind her back.”

What is the “Gaslighting” Phenomenon

The gaslighting phenomenon is a type of psychological abuse also called “gaslighting”. By definition, it involves a manipulation strategy that causes the victim to doubt their perception, judgment, or even memory.

This type of abusive relationship can occur in affective relationships as well as in other types. Among them is gaslighting at work.

In this case, it can be triggered by various agents (not necessarily a boss). From the manager, to coworkers, a competitor, or even a client. Moreover, it does not necessarily have to occur in the office context, but can also appear in online settings.

Characteristics of Gaslighting at Work

This type of abusive relationship has specific characteristics when it occurs in the workplace.

  • Constant allusions, comments, and negative reactions towards the victim: whether by bosses, colleagues, or others, there is a constant negativity towards that person. This negativity can refer to their personality, performance, work, or even their credibility. It’s important to remember that no objective evidence or opinions are shown, but this negativity is based on biased opinions.
  • Toxic or negative environment: filled with gossip, rumors, and gestures aimed at making the other person feel bad. These can be direct (such as public comments), or indirect (for example, being excluded from coffee breaks). Another indirect example could be blocking a promotion or favoring any other person over the said worker.
  • Sarcasm and cynicism: a way to express anger and hostility disguised as another type of comments. This aims to expose the person, marginalize them, or even manipulate them.
  • It may imply a status quo: for example, if you are a woman and notice the glass ceiling or are assigned tasks associated with “ordering and cleaning or caring” instead of “deciding, commanding, coordinating”. Or for example, if you are a person of color and you are not promoted, but your white-Caucasian coworkers are, even though they joined after you.
  • Persistent unfair treatment: it happens if not every day, almost every day. Moreover, it’s something visible and observable by others outside of that abusive relationship.
Red human figure surrounded by a circle of people. Leader Boss and leadership. Cooperation and teamwork. Outcast, hated opponent, criminal. Conviction. Discrimination and violence.

Consequences of Gaslighting at Work

Given that it is an abusive relationship, it entails a series of negative consequences. It is important to bear in mind that the ultimate goal of gaslighting is to nullify the victim, making them doubt their own words. And not only that… but to question the things that he or she has seen or experienced, given the reaction of the gaslighter. Therefore, we endanger not only their judgment but also their self-esteem. These could be some of the consequences:

  1. Constantly doubting yourself and your abilities or even your judgment
  2. Difficulties in making decisions since you doubt your own judgment
  3. Changes in the way you act or think to please the aggressor or for fear of their reaction
  4. Changes in your way of working to avoid mistreatment
  5. Decrease in productivity and attention difficulties given the negative load of the situation
  6. Increase in stress and therefore, all associated consequences.
  7. Feelings of insecurity, helplessness, indecision or even fear and guilt.
  8. Constant apologies in almost any situation even if you are not directly to blame for the things that have happened.

What to Do If I Am Experiencing Gaslighting

Given that it is an abusive relationship, the best thing is always to seek the help of a professional who can assist us. In that sense, a psychologist will help us not only to work on the effects it has had on us but also to prevent future relationships of this kind.

In addition, it will be best to distance ourselves as much as possible from the figure of the gaslighter. That means if it’s someone from our company, we keep our distance from that person not only physically but also in terms of sharing space and time. On the other hand, it’s very important to seek realistic, objective opinions. Not those biased by those who are gaslighting us. Remember that gaslighting occurs through subjective opinions. Therefore, maintaining objectivity in self-evaluation and surrounding ourselves with people who do not emit value judgments will protect us from this phenomenon.

The Monster of Distractions

Have you ever found that no matter how hard you tried, memorizing a paragraph was impossible?

Or opening an email but suddenly… not knowing what you were supposed to do in it.

Or letting several misspelled words or spelling mistakes slip into a text.

Strange, isn’t it?

Stress and Its Symptoms

Often when we talk about stress we automatically think of the most physical symptoms. For example, muscle pain. Or stomach discomfort.

If we delve deeper into its symptoms, it’s likely we’ll next think of the emotional ones. “She’s overwhelmed, or irritable”. But what we probably won’t initially think of are the cognitive symptoms.

Some of the cognitive symptoms of stress are the following:

  1. Difficulties in maintaining attentional focus

2. Memory failures

3. Alterations in decision-making capacity

4. Problems in prioritizing tasks

5. Feeling of “mental fog” or “brain fog”

6. Difficulties in inhibiting unwanted stimuli

7. Decrease in productivity, as a result of the above symptoms and others such as sleep problems or irritability

Cortisol and Its Excesses

Cortisol is necessary. Just like stress, fear, sadness, and so many other seemingly negative things, it serves a function. We need it to stay alert and defend ourselves from certain threats.

The problem (as almost always) appears when we talk about an excess of cortisol. From a stress reaction that doesn’t pass, leading us to be “flooded” with this hormone. When this happens, a series of cognitive functions are affected. Cognitive functions are those “higher” mental abilities we humans have. Like memory, attention, reasoning, planning… This is how stress affects these functions:

  • Memory: working memory is what we use when we have to “work with” data, such as memorizing a phone number to dial it, keeping in mind the digits of where we parked to enter them in the parking machine, or retaining the 6 numbers of an internet purchase confirmation code. When we are in a situation of significant stress or have been experiencing chronic stress, working memory is affected by the hormones we secrete. Therefore, we won’t be able to memorize lists, learn new things easily, or repeat a command
  • Attention: Attention is the basis of almost everything. If there is a high level of stress or chronic stress, our capacity for selective attention is damaged. That is, we cannot choose which stimuli to pay attention to, and therefore, we get distracted. Another type of attention affected is sustained attention, as under stress, the time we can pay attention continuously to something decreases. This is when we say we “have trouble concentrating”
  • Executive Functions: When we have a high level of stress we secrete cortisol. The excess of cortisol interferes with executive functions especially in:
    • Cognitive flexibility: we find it hard to evaluate alternatives, we become “stubborn”
    • Planning: difficulties in planning things or establishing task lists
    • Decision making: the normal process is altered, and we tend to make more hasty or less “rational” decisions. Another possibility is that we overthink what we want to decide, getting blocked

As you can see, stress is a problem that generates many other problems. Not only physical or emotional, but also at a cognitive level, in performance, and in our productivity.

That’s why we coin it under the name “the monster of distractions”, although they are not the only thing it causes us.

From the Burned-Out Worker to the “Bored” Worker

Have you ever heard the term boreout?

Have you ever felt bad because what you were doing didn’t interest or stimulate you in the slightest?

From burnout to boreout

As you probably know, burnout is a syndrome characterized by physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion resulting from work.

It’s one of the 12 work-related syndromes and a cause of work leave in recent years.

But today, we’re not going to talk about burnout. Today we’re going to talk about a syndrome that might be on the other extreme: boreout.

Boreout is defined as “a syndrome encompassing a series of symptoms that result in extreme boredom, underactivation, and a feeling of being ‘switched off.’ That is, being at a level of activation below what we should be. And also, feeling emotionally ‘disconnected’ or ’empty.’ Just like burnout, this syndrome is associated with the work context, so it must be related to work and its characteristics.

Causes of Boreout

Just like in burnout, in boreout we talk about causes external to the worker. That is, causes that come from the work context, type of task, or any other trigger that is not the person themselves. Only if it is the worker who is unmotivated and passive, could it be said that it is not solely the result of something external to them.

Some of the reasons a worker may develop boreout are the following:

  • Constantly monotonous tasks: such as copying data from one Excel sheet to another for several hours, every day.
  • Tasks whose level of training or skills is much lower than that of the worker: imagine you are a teacher but you can only correct spelling mistakes all day, every day, for a long time.
  • Lack of stimulation from the company: if there is no feedback, we don’t know where our work goes once we finish it, or we don’t receive a response from superiors, we can feel detached from the task.
  • No clear distribution of tasks and roles: when we are not clear on what we have to do or feel that our specialty or knowledge doesn’t matter.

The Why of Purpose

When all these circumstances (or some of them) occur, it’s very easy for the worker to enter a phase of underdemanding. That is, they don’t feel motivated, what they have to do doesn’t seem useful, and therefore, they adopt a passive attitude. This further increases the feeling of “extreme boredom” and further detaches them from their role.

That’s why purpose is so important. When we talk about purpose, we need to consider several aspects:

Knowing why you do what you do: what’s the meaning of the tasks you perform.

Understanding the journey or path of the service or product once you’ve done your part.

Feeling that you’re part of a team, something bigger than an individual working alone.

Seeing that you have a future in the organization, not just doing what you’re doing now but that you have the option to move forward.

Seeing that you can improve and grow professionally, that you won’t stay in the same place, doing the same thing, under the same conditions for 20 years.

How to Prevent Boreout

There are certain tricks to prevent the boreout syndrome. Here are some of them:

  • Offer positive reinforcements and feedback on the work done. This encourages us to see “sense” in what we do, and therefore, it has a purpose.
  • Try not to overload a worker or group with the same monotonous tasks always, as it tends to be the main cause of boreout.
  • Promote teamwork, as it improves cohesion and facilitates intrinsic motivation towards a task.
  • Offer training to workers.

Let’s remember that offering an emotionally safe work context is necessary. And not just to keep workers more or less happy, but for a matter of mental health.

The causes of many of these syndromes are classified as psychosocial stressors, so a prevention plan in the company is necessary to mitigate them.

New Year, New Life?

Going to the gym. Starting to read more books. Being less impulsive. Finishing your degree. Starting a new job. Losing weight. Gaining weight.

A Fresh Start

Every January 1st, in addition to the overindulgence that follows the end of the year, our planners and notebooks fill up with resolutions.

Resolutions about our physique, work, our way of being…

Resolutions and more resolutions that we take on eagerly at the beginning of each year.

But, what do most of these resolutions have in common?

In general, what most new year’s resolutions have in common, whether personal, physical, work-related, or otherwise, is the following… There’s a high likelihood they will end up in the drawer of unfulfilled goals.

If we think about these resolutions, we’ll see that most of them have to do with one thing: personal development.

Personal development involves changes in diet, physical appearance, our work life or context, or our relationships, whatever their nature may be.

The Three Corners of the Triangle

There are three things we need to consider to understand why new year’s resolutions often don’t work: SMART goals, the diffusion of responsibility, and the three Cs.

  • SMART goals: The first issue is the way we set new year’s resolutions. Generally, we tend to set goals that are not specific and are not operationalized, meaning they cannot be measured. And surprise… if it can’t be measured, it can’t be changed. For a goal to be useful and to actually serve a purpose, it has to meet a set of criteria.
    1. It must be specific, referring to something very concrete about our behavior.
    2. It must be measurable, that is, there must be some way to check if it is being accomplished.
    3. It has to be achievable. Realistic. Otherwise, far from helping, it will generate frustration.
    4. Relevant, something that has real importance.
    5. Time-bound. We need to set dates, days, and amounts. Not just “this year”… We need to schedule them.
  • The diffusion of responsibility: It’s important to realize that new year’s resolutions imply personal changes. Often, we believe that simply changing the year will close old chapters and open new ones as if turning the page of a book. In reality, the only difference is a change in the date. In fact, the majority of the responsibility for those resolutions lies with us, not the new year.
  • The three Cs: Commitment, consistency, and count. Commitment, because it’s not enough to convince ourselves that we want to achieve the resolution, it has to be something we promise ourselves almost daily. Consistency, because habits take an average of 21 days to establish by doing something every day. Imagine you move into a new apartment. The first few days, since there’s nowhere to put your keys, you lose them. You need almost a month of leaving the keys in the same spot every day to automate the habit. The same goes for new year’s resolutions. Finally, the C of count, since setting too many goals is often counterproductive. It’s better to start with one or two and progressively increase them as we achieve them.

From Idea to Action

We must not forget that a resolution may simply be an idea. But we need something more than an idea to achieve what we want. We need an action plan. Therefore, the ideal way to successfully achieve new year’s goals is what we’ve already mentioned: turning an idea into an action, following the SMART goals criteria, having us at the center of responsibility, and adhering to the rule of the three Cs.

Otherwise, it will just be another piece of wet paper among our goals set while we eat grapes and toast happily.

What is the Collective Intelligence Quotient?

“The whole is not equal to the sum of its parts”

“As an entity, a group cannot be smarter than its components, but it can indeed be less so”

Team = 1

Let’s move away from the concept of the individual. For a while, let’s consider the team as a single unit. A work unit. Like any unit, it is composed of several parts.

If we consider what is the most basic way a team works, it would be the meeting. If we are work colleagues, if we work together, we will need meetings. In these meetings, questions are asked and answers are given. In addition, synergies are generated and insights of knowledge are created. Essentially, everything related to the phrase “many heads are better than one”.

But we all know that just meeting is not enough. I am sure we have all had unproductive meetings. Meetings where time was lost and nothing tangible was achieved. However, in other cases, it took only minutes to come up with useful solutions and ideas.

The Key Ingredient

When we come together in teams, meet, or collaborate, what emerges is known as the collective intelligence quotient. This is, the inherent intelligence of that group. And here comes the key ingredient… contrary to what we might think, “academic” abilities or the intelligence quotient are not what condition this collective intelligence.

The key ingredient is emotional intelligence. Therefore, a sum of individuals with good emotional intelligence will make a good collective intelligence.

And of course, the greater the collective intelligence, the more productive and successful the group will be

“The collective intelligence quotient would be like the sum of the most human talent of its individuals”

The Best Part?

Daniel Goleman highlights in his book “Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence” a very interesting study. In this study, they analyze what has made certain individuals the best in their group. Considering that this group was composed of people with the best results in intelligence quotient tests, another factor had to be involved.

The task they were given needed to be carried out in a team. This task was related to designing and creating electronic switches that control telephone systems. None of them could do it alone, so they had to rely on the team.

When asked to select who had been the “stars“, the group agreed. Neither the intelligence quotient nor their academic performance were predictors of success.

A factor that all of them had in common was “networking.”

Networking

We live immersed in different types of networks with our surroundings.

One type of network is the formal ones. Typical within companies. Formal networks are slower, designed to solve simple problems. Normally, they depend on technical profiles and specialists.

Another type are the informal networks. These are all those we “weave” with our circle of known people. Friends, family, work colleagues…

The most successful people in this experiment had very good informal networks. That is, they had supports to turn to if they needed help. And not only that, having these supports allowed them to solve their problems more quickly and effectively, without waiting for an expert to come to the rescue.

In turn, these informal networks are of 3 types: communication, expertise, and trust. Communication networks include the people we talk to. Expertise networks are those more technical. Trust networks include our confidants.

The star profiles of the experiment maintain good relationships with individuals from these three networks. In addition, they show empathy and the ability to coordinate people. They possess qualities of:

  • Interpersonal and intrapersonal skills
  • Taking initiative, that is, showing motivation
  • Self-management

These three qualities respond to a construct, emotional intelligence. Therefore, it can be concluded that emotional intelligence is responsible for that collective intelligence.

And that a group of emotionally intelligent individuals will make a group with great collective intelligence.

The ultimate consequence of good collective intelligence is its impact on intellectual capital. Intellectual capital is all the intellectual knowledge of an organization, as well as the tangible information it possesses that allows it to produce value.

Because talking about only one type of intelligence is a thing of the past. And the smartest companies are starting to realize this.

The Christmas Blues

Twinkling lights, holiday vacations, turron, marzipan, company dinners, family meals, snow, more twinkling lights…

Christmas is that time of year so many love… and that many others claim to detest.

But… why can a season like Christmas sometimes generate unpleasant sensations or emotions?

Sad Carols

We’re talking about the Christmas blues, also known as white depression. The Christmas blues is characterized by a series of mood disturbances. These disturbances range from apathy or loss of interest in the festivities, to sadness.

But.. where does the Christmas blues come from? Why, in a time (in theory) perfect for being happy eating chocolate with family and giving each other gifts… do we get sad?

The “Mr. Wonderful” Smile

One of the reasons this phenomenon occurs is that we cannot fully choose when to feel sad and when not to. Therefore, regardless of the time of year, we can go through a less “cheerful” stage or experience more emotional difficulties.

If this happens, Christmas with its lights and smiles is seen as an imposition. A kind of “you have to be okay, pretend to be happy.” “It’s a happy time, don’t ruin it.”

Therefore, emotions that are not “in tune” with this time are minimized and invalidated. Moreover, since Christmas in our hemisphere is celebrated in winter, other factors influence it. These factors include the lack of light, the change of time, the cold, and the consumerist character of the holidays. Therefore, they can exacerbate any existing economic, emotional, or other kinds of difficulty.

Furthermore, going through a difficult time, whatever the area, generates a comparison effect. Automatically, seeing other people happy or not going through that difficulty only makes us feel worse.

And we cannot schedule emotions whether it snows, rains, or shines… and sometimes, Christmas doesn’t mean life is rosy

Symptoms of White Depression

Some of the symptoms of this “blues” include:

  • Apathy or loss of interest in activities that used to be pleasurable
  • Sleep and eating problems
  • Worsening of depressive or anxious symptoms
  • The need to return to an orderly routine
  • Avoiding social commitments and isolation

Clearly, each person is unique, and many factors can cause the “Christmas blues”. Anyway, it’s not categorized as a disorder. Still, it’s important to be aware that not everyone experiences these dates in the same way.

Therefore, instead of judging those who do not see Christmas with the same excitement as we do, we could ask ourselves a series of questions.

Is this person going through a difficult time?

Does making a gift pose an economic strain?

How has this person experienced Christmas in their family throughout their life? Is there a whole ritual around it?

Are they noticing the lack of light or excessive cold?

Have they gone through a grieving process or are missing someone?

These (among others) are questions we can ask ourselves. Because remember, we can’t schedule our happiness to celebrate the New Year with us. And sometimes, things are complicated even surrounded by turron and colored lights

Introducing the Mentiness Course on Stress

At Mentiness, we’re celebrating.

With Christmas and the New Year just around the corner, we’ve started a new section on our platform with great enthusiasm: learning paths.

In this first phase, we will have several learning paths that include an introductory course and several specific courses each. Each path aims to train you on topics related to psychology. All these topics will help you improve your well-being and that of your teams.

First Stop, First Path

This first learning path we’re launching is on the theme of stress. In it, you’ll learn everything you need about stress and how to manage it. It will also include specific courses on:

  • Bad stress and good stress
  • Stress and productivity
  • Relaxation techniques (with some practical surprises for you)
  • Mindfulness (which also brings a final gift to offer you a complete experience)

Our Purpose

And each of these specific courses will be loaded with interesting information. Their content ranges from scientifically backed relaxation techniques to curiosities about our brain or insights into the neurobiology of stress.

Have you ever heard the phrase “knowledge is power” or “knowledge takes no space”?

Surely you have, right?

In our team, we have those two phrases almost as a mantra that we try to apply constantly. Not only to recycle ourselves and train as professionals day by day but also to offer services and products that have a positive impact on the well-being of employees.

That’s why we have designed three different learning paths, with stress being the first. Because we know that often, risk behaviors, bad habits, or incorrect problem coping are not done just because. They are usually due to a lack of information and unawareness of more useful strategies and tools.

That’s why we provide you with materials from our Health Psychologist. So you can listen, take notes, and gather everything that seems useful to you and can be of help.

Stay tuned, we’ll be revealing more secrets in the coming weeks!

Are you interested in our course section and learning paths?

If you want more information about our work and how it can help your company, leave us your details and we will contact you!

Pablo Picasso’s Brain

26075

No, it’s not the Christmas lottery number (as far as I know).

It’s the number of works Picasso created over his 91 years of life.

Some even say that this number is false and it’s around 50000.

Either way, it’s a number that almost scares if we think about the amount of work he had to create in a week. Consistently. All the time.

Do you think Picasso had a magnet for creativity? Or is there something he perhaps knew and we… are overlooking?

Creativity on the left or creativity on the right?

Historically, we have thought that the right part of the brain is dedicated to being creative and that the right side is more logical. We’ve made that division and depicted it in all sorts of drawings and sheets with numbers on the left and butterflies and colors on the right.

Well… as of today we know that this theory is flawed. First, because localizationism (today’s fancy word referring to attributing a specific function to each region of the brain) no longer serves as an explanation. Second, because we know more and more about the differences between anterior, posterior, medial regions… That is, not everything significant is left or right, but there’s anterior left, posterior left, medial left… In short, a mess of locations.

Therefore, simplifying creativity to left-right no longer makes logical sense. It depends on processes above, below, in the center, on the right…in many places. It depends on circuits that are not as localized as we might have thought

Equal but different

The left hemisphere has fewer connections with itself and the rest of the brain.

The right side, has more connections with itself and the rest of the brain. Moreover, it has strong links with regions that our emotions “depend on”. Regions, such as the amygdala.

The right hemisphere is “mixed”. The left, presents stacked columns that allow a clear differentiation of brain functions.

And of course, being everything so complex and creativity such a broad process… well, it doesn’t depend only on the right side.

It is true that given the difference in connections, in a “flash” of creativity a new neural circuit emerges from this right part.

What Picasso knew

Is that creativity doesn’t appear when you’re sitting waiting for it.

If we get theoretical, the most known models about creativity talk about 4 phases:

  • Defining the problem frame. Asking questions to know what to be creative about
  • Diving deep into it. Gathering information until we are soaked with it
  • Go with the flow. Letting go, relaxing so that “chasss” that burst of creativity appears
  • Execution, carrying out the idea we have conceived

Theoretically, the model is “cool”. Of course, if you have to create 25000 works of art in your life, it might fall a bit short, right?

This is where Pablo Picasso’s example comes in. One of his phrases is that “inspiration and creativity” find you working. Therefore, you can’t just sit and wait, wait, wait…

The best thing is that you get to work (never better said) and know when to stop, where to disconnect, and in what place it will be easier for that “divine” inspiration to come.

Eureka

Brain studies tell us what happens in our brain at that moment of spark, idea.

There’s a signal, the “gamma” activity that tells us what we’ve been longing to hear. Neurons, initially very distant, have connected forming a nervous network and… Voilá, there’s a new association, there’s creativity. A new idea has entered our “consciousness”.

At this moment, the right hemisphere doesn’t waste time and uses its super connections to send that information to other regions. And it’s in that third phase, that more “chill” phase in which our brain prepares for the gamma peak of creativity. Even when ideas seem to be born on their own, it’s most likely they’ve gone through a previous “gestation” process.

And when the ground has been leveled, they are born.

Of course, as always, it’s very important to know oneself and understand how this process occurs. It’s not exactly a textbook process and it can vary from person to person, but what’s clear is that if Picasso painted so many paintings, he couldn’t have done it simply waiting for ideas to sprout.

“Discipline”, self-awareness, and a prior order to relaxation are needed for the light bulb to turn on

How Much Do You Like the Likes on Your Social Networks?

How would you feel if suddenly you were paid 5 euros?

How do you feel after having that coffee you really wanted?

How do you feel when you are praised for a job well done?

Positive Reinforcement

Well, you feel terrifically good. Because when we do something and are rewarded for it, a series of reactions occur in our body that we really like. It can even become addictive.

This is because everything that happens in the form of a reward (whether it’s money, words of recognition, food, or even a like) constitutes a positive reinforcement. As its name suggests, a positive reinforcement strengthens us to continue doing what we are doing because hey! there’s a reward.

That’s why we can say that likes are equivalent to an achievement, to reinforcement. Because the message they carry is something like:

“What beautiful photos from your last trip”

Or something like “you look gorgeous” or also “I love that outfit, it suits you so well”.

In all the examples, what we do is reinforced, whether it’s eating a pizza (and obviously, taking a photo), getting dressed or wearing a particular style, or posing to take 100 selfies before uploading one.

Therefore, a like is recognition, an immediate reward for doing what we do just like money, kind words, or a meal we like. And I say immediate because that’s why we check Instagram every 5 minutes after uploading a photo. Because we want approval and recognition now, here and immediately.

And of course… that’s addictive!

The culprit of pleasure

Receiving likes is the same as being “flooded” with dopamine. But, what is dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is present in various areas of the brain and is especially important for the body’s motor function “dopamine is important in all nerve responses related to the expression of emotions”. That is, it is a natural and necessary substance for humans, secreted by our brain in certain situations.

And of course, it happens to be that, being so linked to emotions, it is the hormone we generate when we feel immediate pleasure (for example, when eating, shopping, or having sex)

And we already know that likes are an immediate reinforcement. So, like = dopamine “for the body”.

And what are the effects of dopamine?

When receiving likes, eating chocolate, having sex, shopping, or using some drugs we secrete dopamine. Therefore, we feel pleasure. Our brain and body like this sensation and want more, so they seek and search for more of that dopamine.

Something similar to the sensation of having “withdrawal” from a drug like coffee or tobacco can happen with likes, as by repeating the behavior and the reinforcement occurring again, we need more of that substance that generates feelings of pleasure.

That’s why sometimes it’s said that likes or social media are addictive, because they trigger the release of dopamine and can make us enter a loop where we need more and more to feel good, as happens with drugs, shopping, and gambling.

Self-esteem

Inside or outside?

This is the most biological explanation. It’s true that there are other processes that influence having a real dependency on likes and image on networks. These processes have to do with “where we place our self-esteem”. If we base it on physical appearance, external aspects, or compare ourselves to others like “influencers and their perfect lives”, this will fuel the “addiction to likes” process due to dopamine. Because if there’s already a biological cause that makes us like likes and moreover, our self-esteem and self-concept increasingly depend on likes, we have the perfect cocktail for a real problem.

There is a very useful and simple technique to evaluate how important all the factors that condition our self-esteem are to us, such as physical appearance, success, romantic relationships…

Do you know the pie technique?

Stay tuned, posts about that cake called personal self-esteem are coming.

The Best CEO of All

He doesn’t wear a suit and doesn’t look like he’s always busy.

He has quite a few wrinkles, and in fact, the more wrinkles he has, the better he works.

He always takes control of the situation, and we all depend on him when it comes to work.

He makes the decisions, evaluates options, and organizes most of the things that need to be done.

Do you know who I’m talking about yet?

The Prefrontal Lobe

The prefrontal lobe, as its name suggests, is the part of the brain that is right behind our forehead. That is, at the front of the brain. This specific region, the prefrontal, is to blame (thankfully) for us having organizational skills, monitoring, inhibition of our behavior, planning, managing emotional reactions, evaluating scenarios and alternatives…

In short, a real gem.

The prefrontal lobe is responsible for something vital to human beings functioning well: executive functions.

Many functions, very executive

Executive functions, along with attention, memory, or language, are what we call higher cognitive abilities. In general, these skills are what allow us to behave, feel, and think the way we do.

In short, a good part of the reason humans are human is due to these higher cognitive abilities.

Well, within these abilities are the executive functions. These, in turn, are a set of very diverse functions that range from task planning to inhibition and behavioral control, through cognitive flexibility, achieving our goals, adapting to the environment, or decision-making.

Thanks to executive functions, we can do things like:

-Organize our tasks

-Monitor our behavior while frying an egg, avoiding getting burned

-Ignore the popup ad that opens in our browser when we enter some websites

-Switch to another restaurant if our favorite one is closed

-Plan those ideal summer vacations

-Anticipate that if we’re going to the beach, we’ll need flip-flops, sunscreen, several swimsuits for the whole vacation…

That’s why we say the prefrontal lobe is the CEO of our brain, as it plans, anticipates, coordinates, decides, and manages what we do with our lives.

When there’s an orchestra, but no conductor

Have you ever considered what happens if the prefrontal cortex fails? Or if there is an injury in that area.

Or if for various reasons, such as chronic stress, it is affected.

A person with an impairment in executive functions due to a problem in this part of the brain can exhibit numerous problems and difficulties. Some of them may include:

  • Not being able to plan the steps of a task, such as doing a job. Therefore, they will have many difficulties in organizing that project and starting it.
  • Perseveration errors, which translate as making the same mistake over and over. For example, imagine putting the accelerator and clutch pedals in the wrong place. If there is a perseveration error, it’s probably impossible to start the car as they would make the same mistake over and over again.
  • Behavioral disinhibition: this is perhaps one of the most striking since they can have erratic behaviors such as shouting in a supermarket, engaging in sexual behavior in public, or saying obscenities to strangers.
  • Problems with self-control which can be reflected as anger outbursts or exaggerated hostility reactions.

And a long (but very long) etcetera.

Do you now understand why this part of the brain is the best CEO of all?

If You Have Trouble Organizing, This Is Your Post

Have you ever heard of the Eisenhower Matrix?

One of the biggest problems we encounter when organizing ourselves is prioritizing the tasks we have to do.

Why? Because when we have pending tasks, we tend to see them as a threatening ball of work coming towards us and, oh my god! I don’t know where to start.

And suddenly, boom! Overwhelm and blockage.

A “wonderful” matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a kind of box matrix that divides your problems and tasks according to two different criteria: how important they are and how urgent they are.

Its characteristic name comes from a gentleman named Dwight Eisenhower, a high-ranking officer in the US military well known for his productivity levels. According to his matrix, you have to evaluate your tasks based on their urgency and importance to organize yourself in the best possible way.

Four scenarios, four combinations

There will be tasks that you absolutely have to do yourself and others that are important but not urgent, or urgent but not important, or…

Basically, draw two lines, one vertical and one horizontal. Write the words urgent, not urgent and important, not important. This will give you a 2×2 matrix, i.e., four squares. In this matrix, you will have the following situations:

It is important and it is urgent: aha! this will be the first task on your list, the priority one.

It is important but not urgent: great, you can plan it for later.

It is not important but it is urgent: delegate, if you have the possibility, to someone else.

It is not important nor is it urgent: wonderful, out of your list. Keep it aside for future task lists.

What are its benefits

  • Saves time when classifying your tasks and ordering them
  • Helps to not go through that initial overwhelm of feeling that you have a lot of work and not knowing where to start.
  • Improves your productivity since it allows you time for what’s really important: doing the task
  • Clears “mental spam”. When we have several things to do, we are putting our working memory to the test. This memory, also called operational, is dedicated to retaining necessary information to be able to work with it (for example, I have to do this, and this, and this…while I’m scheduling it). Basically, the matrix helps us not to overload this “mental spam”, making it easier to manage this information
  • Reduces mental load: one of the worst things about having several tasks is that it adds one more task, thinking about them. This is what is called mental load. That is, in addition to having to go to the supermarket to buy water and milk, we have to think that we need to go to the supermarket to buy water and milk. Ah, and don’t forget that you have to go to the supermarket to buy water… This mental load occupies space in our brain and, therefore, diminishes our cognitive capacity. As a result, it also diminishes our productivity.
  • Facilitates our organization in a group since it helps prioritize tasks according to our role.
  • Reduces work stress as it facilitates organization

As a result of all these benefits, two things happen: our productivity increases, and our motivation does too. Motivation is positively affected as it increases our perceived self-efficacy. That is, we see ourselves as more effective, we feel proud, and therefore, we feel more motivated.

Are you encouraged to try this recipe for productivity?

Fast Food and Psychology

We live in the age of speed.

Of instantaneity.

Of not being able to stand the delay of a screen when we click.

Of needing solutions here and now.

We live in the age of globalization and being connected. The age of finding out what’s happening on the other side of the world as soon as we get out of bed and having shopping, car insurance, your record, or CV just a click away.

When something hurts, we take paracetamol. If we want to lose weight, we search on Google for the fastest diets in the galaxy to lose weight. If I write to the person I would like to meet, I need to know if we will see each other and read a response immediately. Well, or check the blue tick just in case we’ve been ignored.

We live so fast, with such haste, and the need to have everything here, now, and easy that we don’t hesitate to buy in the most voracious way from large chains, instead of going to the local lady’s shop.

Who would want to spend two hours in the whole process of buying and cooking a hamburger when you can have it for a simple euro, in a paper bag, and with a napkin included at some fast-food chain?

What’s happening with psychology

The pandemic and the changes our society has experienced in recent years are leaving scars. The adoption of new technologies in our routine, along with all the problems derived from Covid-19 (among other factors), have opened Pandora’s box: our mental health is in great danger lately.

And obviously, we have to do something.

Mental Health begins to be a topic of conversation (and thankfully so). We are concerned about normalizing mental health problems, Twitter and Instagram have been filled with hashtags reminding us that there is no health without mental health. It’s even mentioned from the government that there might be a specific plan to help the population take care of their psychological well-being.

In short, the current context is the ideal breeding ground for the need that has been talked about in recent months: to have accessible mental health solutions for the population.

And these solutions, obviously, will go hand in hand with all the changes and advances that characterize the last decade.

Order of priorities

“Shopping at the nearby store is expensive, I always go to the supermarket”

“All my clothes are from large chains, I don’t have anything artisan or from small businesses”

“Changing my way of understanding food and the way I relate to it is too long a process. I’m going to try the diet a friend told me about that she lost 5 kg in a week.”

“I don’t have time to go to the gym, I’m too busy with my job (even though I spend on average two hours every day passively on my social networks)”

“The psychologist is expensive (but the latest generation smartphone is not)”

Nobody finds it strange to pay an average of 100 euros when they go to a specialist consultation. Really, we already know what we are getting into when we go to a professional that public health does not cover. Undoubtedly, mental health should be a right, and in a fairer scenario than the one we live in, we would all have access to a psychologist without waiting between 6 and 8 months for a 20-minute appointment in public health.

But the reality right now is different. In the field of clinical psychology, if we focus on the average price of a therapy session, it usually ranges around 50-60 euros per session.

In that session, we pay for the training, experience, knowledge, means and tools, the time, and the characteristics of a professional in this field.

What happens when the price to pay, behind the mask of making it accessible, is much lower?

And when the one receiving that money is not directly the person (who only perceives a percentage), but an intermediary?

Cheap, sometimes is expensive

In the field of psychology, costs can only be cut in two ways to lower the price of the product.

The first is to cut back on resources of time, quality, or means (for example, offering shorter sessions, without the need for face-to-face meetings and therefore without rental expenses for an office, with people of low training and/or experience, or without offering a previous assessment through official evaluation tools.

The second, if you do not work independently, is by paying little to the professionals who work for you.

In both cases, the result is the same: the quality of care dangerously drops.

Whether it’s because the professional is not well paid, or because we’ve cut back on means and lowered our hiring standard, the patient will always be the most harmed.

And this is very dangerous. Because mental health is not something to be taken lightly or trivialized. Because a bad experience with a psychologist can condition a person’s life, not only the course of a problem but also the likelihood of that individual seeking psychological help again.

That’s why psychology should not be turned into a fast food product. Because a 1 euro hamburger will never have the quality of a butcher’s hamburger.

Because a service that is normally charged at an average price, cannot be sold for half without cutting back on something.

Would you buy a car that they tell you is new and quality, but costs 200 euros? No, because you know it’s not possible to offer that price if the car is new, safe, and works. And if not, it could endanger your life

Because even though we live in a globalized world and have adopted a more comfortable way of living, this comfort should never come before our health or put it at risk.

For accessible, but quality mental health.

The One That Can Change Everything

When we think of the figure of a leader, perhaps the image of a person in a suit, appearing to have everything figured out and a high level of authority comes to mind. Or that of the typical man who has succeeded in business and now his story appears in books on how to succeed in life, like the story of Netflix or Google.

Or conversely, maybe the picture of Nelson Mandela giving a speech to thousands of people comes to mind. Or who knows, perhaps that of Angela Merkel at the head of the government.

There are as many definitions of leadership (almost) as people have tried to define it

There are many definitions of leadership. And of course, many types of leaders. This is because leadership is a phenomenon very conditioned by cultural, political, religious, social, and of course, psychological factors.

Years ago, about 50 years, if we asked someone from the Western context what a leader is to them, they would probably respond or define a figure closer to a boss than to a leader.

A figure probably male, with a lot of authority, a rather aggressive communication style, and very focused on results.

However, if we asked the same question in an Eastern country, let’s imagine India for example, the answer would likely be quite different.

So, what are we talking about when we talk about leadership styles?

Goleman and his six styles

One of the most well-known authors globally in the field of leadership is Goleman.

In his classification, Goleman talks about these 6 leadership styles:

  • Coercive or authoritarian: based on hierarchy, authority, and being above employees.
  • Visionary: these are the leaders who take motivation to another level, making it the main glue towards employees.
  • Affiliative: it’s based on creating bonds among team members since it considers group cohesion and belonging as key concepts of success.
  • Democratic: it’s based on taking into account the opinion and needs of others.
  • Helmsman: literally, it’s the helm that sets the course. It’s a quite protagonist figure and does not focus on the needs of others, but rather on following a previously designed route.
  • Coach: like a coach, this leader enhances the good part and minimizes the flaws. It places a lot of emphasis on training workers and helping them improve personally.

Transformative Leadership

Before, long before Goleman’s classification, there was already talk of a style of leadership that could wield a lot of power in organizations: transformative leadership.

As its name suggests, transformative leadership generates changes, transforms the structure and experience of the organization from the ground up.

This concept began more or less in 1973, by James V. Downton, a sociologist famous for his research on leadership. Years later, this definition expanded towards concepts that emphasize the personal characteristics of the leader, their projection, and both inter and intra-personal skills to generate changes. But, how does it differ from leadership styles such as motivational or helmsman, by Goleman?

The ABC of Transformative Leaders

  • One of its bases is making new ideas and possibilities a reality. Basically, materializing and giving shape to projects and concepts related to the organization that do not yet have their parcel in the real world
  • It focuses on how things are done and how changes are gestated. For this, it trains and mentors employees. It empowers them to make decisions and work autonomously.
  • A transformative leader is very clear about their core values: authenticity, cooperation, and open and assertive communication
  • They understand the importance of the organization’s culture and therefore promote interest and cohesion towards the goals and among teams within the organizational culture. This is achieved by not neglecting the values and priorities of the group
  • Like a coach leader, it aims to generate motivation and facilitate the development of all the positive aspects of people, also helping to improve difficulties.

We’re talking benefits

As you can imagine, transformative leadership is an ideal tool for working on a lot of things in the organization. In addition, it intrinsically carries a series of positive consequences of its implementation

  • It fundamentally affects the culture of the organization, having the capacity to mutate it. Thus, it generates changes in what not only the work carried out in the organization means but also its values and therefore, its identity
  • It is closely linked to satisfaction since it not only generates motivation and therefore, engagement, but also improves factors as important as the work climate, the efficacy perceived by employees, or the reinforcement and culture of feedback.
  • It’s a trump card for organizations to be prepared for all changes. The digital age, teleworking, globalization… all are new challenges for which we need a figure to guide us, and transformative leadership is all set to be that beacon

Multi-Skilling: The Perfect Match for Companies

The concept of multi-skilling refers to the set of skills, knowledge, experiences, and aptitudes that enable a person to perform different jobs or roles within their company.

Why we want it in our company

We are accustomed to a labor market where the trend towards hyper-specialization is the order of the day. A career, a master’s degree or a postgraduate degree, and several courses to perform that small parcel within what would be our job role. This type of knowledge falls within what is called hard skills or specific technical knowledge to carry out such work.

On the other hand, the concept of soft skills is also starting to resonate, which, conversely, refers to a series of competencies and characteristics in relation to personality and both intrapersonal and interpersonal traits of a worker. Intrapersonal traits refer to the relationship with oneself, how much one knows oneself, and how one regulates oneself. Interpersonal, to everything that has to do with the relationship with others.

Within this soft skills/hard skills dichotomy, multi-skilling refers to both technical concepts and those “personality” skills, facilitating the development of different positions and roles within a company. Therefore, it increases what we know as the “human value” of the organization.

Human value in a globalized environment like ours is starting to be a must-have. With increasingly specialized profiles, jobs or roles that did not exist a few years ago but simultaneously a growing trend to focus on the human and its needs, multi-skilling is posed as a very attractive option to foster among employees. Thus, it begins to position itself at the top of the list when attracting new talents.

Two great benefits of attracting people with these characteristics to our organization, or fostering them among employees, are:

Increased productivity and efficiency: since an organization where a person can carry out various tasks, streamlining and energizing the work flow and achieving more goals in less time, will always be more productive. Of course, without this agility affecting the quality of work.

Exponential growth: both for the company and the employee, since it allows for the expansion of work areas, products offered, or the company’s action plans when we do not focus on a single skill or specialization. On a personal level, it is a very good opportunity for the employee to undergo a training and development process within the company, increasing engagement and satisfaction levels towards the entity.

Imagine a brain. Simplifying the issue a lot, a brain is composed of neurons connected to each other. Imagine now that each of those neurons is extremely good at processing only a tiny part of information in great detail. It does not know how to communicate with other neurons nor adapt its nature to process different signals if necessary. Would this brain be functional and useful?

How is multi-skilling achieved?

It’s important to remember that, like all learning, we’ll need to plan the objectives we want to achieve when training our employees in different skills. These objectives must be measurable, referring to operable, evaluable behaviors.

In relation to multi-skills, this translates into teaching everything from knowledge to values and skills that allow the employee to increase their capacity to take on more tasks and roles than strictly related to their job position.

According to Guy le Boterf, an expert in competency management and internationally known, acquiring a new competency depends on these three fundamental components:

Knowing how to act: includes the more technical knowledge related to the competency to be acquired. Theoretical training and more cognitive skills.

Wanting to act: related to the motivational component and is closely linked to the worker’s perception of their competencies and the feedback received.

Being able to act: related to personal characteristics that, together with technical knowledge, are a decisive and differential factor when distinguishing oneself from the rest. Specifically, they would be the last link in multi-skilling.

Once these three factors are clear, the ideal is to develop a list of competencies to be acquired for those worker profiles we believe could comfortably move in multi-skilling. Thus, we will have a kind of “matrix” where we can cross and compare that person’s competencies at each of those levels, and the objectives to achieve new skills and competencies in knowing how to act, wanting to act, and being able to act.

Multi-skilling is a very interesting concept given the current context. It values human capital, functions as a talent attractor in a company, and generates more human organizations where, in addition to a title and knowledge, the personal characteristics of the employee are leveraged.

The Queen of the Deck: Emotional Regulation

“I feel overwhelmed by any setback. I’m drowning in a glass of water.”

“Every time I have a problem, I avoid it. In the end, I end up having two problems: the original one and all the guilt for not having done anything sooner.”

“Lately, everything feels like a drag; I’m tired of this situation. I find it hard to control my emotions so they don’t overwhelm me.”

“I can’t stop dwelling on bad things. It’s as if there’s only room for negative thoughts in my head.”

You may recognize these phrases or even have felt identified with them. Often, we go through bad emotional periods due to factors such as grief, job instability, economic crises… And what happens in the world, affects us—and how!

The pandemic and other fatigues:

It’s no wonder terms like “pandemic fatigue” have emerged to refer to that feeling of tiredness and discouragement, stemming from a situation of chronic stress, with measures that limit the positive reinforcements we usually have. With positive reinforcement, I mean meeting with friends, having a coffee break at work, being able to see our family, or going on that much-desired vacation trip we’ve been saving for.

Modulating our reactions to life

I’m not telling you anything new if I say that we can’t change the events that happen to us or reality itself, right?

What we can change is how we face that reality. No, don’t worry, I won’t force you to have a smile glued to your face or to think that if it rains, it’s because confetti is falling from the sky. I’ll just talk to you about a term: emotional regulation.

“Emotional regulation is defined as the ability to consciously regulate the emotions we experience, when they happen, and how we express them.”

Does this mean we can control our emotions?

No, emotions are not controlled. They are identified, recognized, managed, or mitigated.

But then… can I decide which emotion to feel?

No. Emotions have biological, social, and learning significance. They arise from our interaction with the environment (we generate them), serve to communicate, and help us learn which behaviors are valuable and which are not.

In short, they help us survive.

That skill

Therefore, emotional regulation is that skill that we can work on to better understand ourselves, our emotions, and the way we express them at any given moment.

It’s responsible for ensuring we don’t drown in a glass of water, that we have reactions adapted to the context, and that, despite everything bad happening, we can continue with our day-to-day life with some “normality”.

Of course, negative things will continue to happen, and we will continue to feel sad or anxious, but if our emotional regulation strategies are good, we’ll mitigate all those negative processes without denying them, but without letting them harm us excessively. Basically, we learn to live with them without our mental health suffering along the way.

Event, thought, emotion

When an event occurs, it generates a thought or belief. This belief, in turn, will lead to an emotion and some behavior.

For example, if my supervisor asks me to redo a report because there were errors, I might think I am useless, that it always happens to me. I will feel discouraged and probably make another poor report due to lack of motivation or anger for having made a mistake.

If I continue dwelling on how bad I feel, I’ll magnify that sensation. On the other hand, if I look for an alternative solution, I’ll probably improve my emotional state.

Great, but what are the strategies?

There are many strategies that help us regulate our emotions. The most well-known are the following:

  • Active coping: actively facing the problem instead of avoiding it or procrastinating.
  • Seeking social support: there are emotions like sadness that are not negative (surprise, no emotion is!) but direct us toward certain actions. In the case of sadness, it indicates that we seek help or take some time to rest. Therefore, paying attention to this positive intention is to regulate our emotions.
  • Changing the focus of attention: have you seen the classic video of a group of people passing a ball, while a man dressed as a bear dances in the middle of the group? Excuse the spoiler, but this video deals precisely with the importance of the focus of attention. It’s so important that if we don’t pay attention… WE DON’T SEE IT! The same happens with those unpleasant sensations; if we focus our attention on them, they become bigger and bigger. Ideally, we should shift our focus to a task that is interesting or demanding enough to engage us, keeping us entertained so we don’t think about the negative (for example, doing a sudoku, writing or drawing, talking to someone…)
  • Positive reinterpretation: let’s go back to what we explained a few paragraphs ago. Instead of having catastrophic thoughts, let’s look for another interpretation. One that helps us make the emotion that follows more bearable or easier to manage.

It’s important to remember that when we have a certain level of discomfort or believe there’s something about ourselves we’d like to change, it’s ideal to seek a mental health professional.

These are some examples of emotional regulation strategies. There are more useful strategies, but I invite you to try some of these for a week and tell us how the experience went.

Are you up for it?

Pandemic Fatigue

About 600 days have passed since the state of emergency was declared (for the first time) in Spain.

What we know as the new normal has stealthily slipped into our daily routines, leaving behind a phrase that increasingly echoes in our ears: “pandemic fatigue.”

What they mean when they talk about pandemic fatigue

The term pandemic fatigue refers to our reaction to the measures derived from the pandemic, characterized by a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion resulting from the health crisis caused by the appearance of COVID-19 (WHO, 2020)

There are a series of factors that converge to cause so-called pandemic fatigue

  • Continuous exposure to a stressful situation such as the presence of the virus
  • Fear and uncertainty: the predominant emotions in recent months that generate that feeling of tiredness
  • Rules and restrictions that limit the amount of positive reinforcements: being away from family, not allowing meetings of cohabitants, nonexistence of cultural activities or social events

We all react differently

Each person has their own way of coping with stressful situations, such as avoidance, denial of what generates stress, or social isolation.

Although each person reacts in a different way, when a stressful situation occurs, we go through three phases in which the organism tries to adapt to the situation:

Alarm phase: when we perceive a danger, the first phase always generates similar reactions such as muscle tension, anxiety, negative thoughts, or restlessness

Resistance phase: it is the phase in which our organism assumes that “there is no other option but to adapt.” Therefore, anxiety levels usually decrease, and a series of processes aimed at accepting the situation appear

Exhaustion phase: occurs when the stressor does not disappear or when our attempt to resist the stressor fails. This is where psychopathology emerges. Without going any further, this is the phase in which we would place the current moment since we have already gone through the initial state of alarm, there has been, in most cases, an attempt at resistance by our organism, and finally, exhaustion arrives.

The result of this whole process, according to the WHO, is that demotivation to follow the recommended protective behaviors that appears gradually and is affected by various perceptions, emotions, experiences, and cultural influences

What can we do to mitigate pandemic fatigue?

One of the keys, as we mentioned before, is the feelings of uncertainty derived from the situation we are living. One thing we can do is not focus on things we cannot control. It’s like trying to predict the future and getting frustrated every time something happens that we couldn’t have predicted.

Another suggestion is to maintain a healthy lifestyle that helps us have restorative sleep, eat well, and try to stay healthy both physically and mentally.

An interesting piece of advice is to limit the number of hours we spend exposed to pandemic news. Just like with celebrity gossip or horror stories, the news related to COVID-19 generates that need to be constantly informed and to know more given the novelty of the topic and its impact at all levels of society. This means we can watch TV or stay updated on the situation in our city, but we should limit the amount of information we receive about it since it magnifies negative emotions and obsessive thoughts.

Finally, although it may seem obvious, it’s very important to maintain social relationships, whether with the classic coffee among friends or through any platform that allows you to talk to your family and friends. Maintaining these types of bonds provides a positive reinforcement that will significantly improve your mood, and also allows you to express emotions and mental states with people close to you.

Humanocracy

“We wrote Humanocracy because we believe, as societies and as individuals, we can no longer afford organizations that waste more human capacity than they use.”

Gary Hamel and Zanini

HumanoWHAT?

You may recognize the name Gary Hamel, a reputed management “guru,” named by the Wall Street Journal as the most influential business thinker in the world. He is an economist and professor at the London Business School and Harvard University Business School. Moreover, he owns his consulting firm and publishes several articles annually in the Harvard Business Review.

But, why has this term made him famous?

Humanocracy is the title of a book he has published with Michelle Zanini, also a writer, consultant, and international speaker.

Humanocracy refers to stopping the waste of talent in organizations governed by bureaucracy. It’s about leveraging the treasure that employees’ skills represent. Focusing on a model centered on maximizing the employees’ contributions to the company.

Bureaucracy is based on control, the slowness of processes, and the existence of a form for everything. Humanocracy, on the other hand, values creativity, agility, interpersonal skills, flexibility, and how people can drive each and every organization forward.

“Creating organizations as amazing as the people inside them”

Times Change

And so do the needs of organizations, as well as the world in general. Pandemic, telecommuting, jobs with very high specificity, new technologies, multidisciplinary teams, evidence of the need for so-called “soft skills”…

Each and every one of these phrases are changes that have occurred in recent years and call for a need to change the model. Moving from a rigid model to one that empowers the individual, that enhances the worker who knows how to do their job well and possesses that “know-how” (that is, all the knowledge acquired throughout their work experience on how to perform their job). A model that does not pose a barrier between each hierarchical level but functions more like a network that simplifies, facilitates, and humanizes processes.

Gary’s 5 Key Points

Without giving away any spoilers about the book, the 5 main points of Gary and Zanini’s work are as follows:

  1. It´s time to kill bureaucracy (it’s time to kill bureaucracy)
  2. There are alternatives to the bureaucratic status quo (there are alternatives to the bureaucratic status quo)
  3. To bust bureaucracy, start with new principles (to end bureaucracy, start with new principles)
  4. Anybody can hack management (anyone can hack management)
  5. Every job can be a good job (every job can be a good job)

It seems that changes are here to stay and that it’s time to respond to new needs not only as individuals but also as organizations.

Humanocracy Has Appeared

What is Technostress?

There are books, movies, and series from more than 20 years ago that are frightening for how well they predict the future.

In this case, we are not talking about The Simpsons and their prophecies, but about a 1984 book that talks about how humanity suffers for not being prepared to use all the technology it has created.

Not because this technology is evil or has rebelled, but because of the lack of personal skills to manage the consequences of its daily use.

“In the book The Human Cost of the Computer Revolution (Brod, 1984), it is defined as an adaptation disease caused by the lack of ability to deal with new computer technologies in a healthy way”

What is Technostress?

According to an article published by the College of Psychologists of Madrid, various authors define technostress as “the negative psychological state, related to the use of technology or its threat of use in the future. This experience would be related to a series of emotions such as anxiety, fatigue, and lack of productivity along with an excessive and sometimes compulsive use.

“Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental”

As in other aspects of stress, technostress implies that there is an inequality between the demands of the environment and our capacities to cope with them. That is, the environment demands more than we can manage. In this sense, its consequences, as can be seen, are similar to those of other types of stress, such as work stress.

The peculiarity of technostress is that it refers to the discomfort derived from the use of any technology device. Not specifically from mobile phones, social networks, or a computer, but from technology in general.

Technostressors

Just like with other types of stress, we have to define what the stressors are that, in this case, exceed our ability to cope. We can divide them into two blocks: environmental demands and lack of resources.

Specifically, the demands refer to the consumption of resources that technologies entail both in terms of time, as well as attention or other cognitive resources, or the excess of information to manage (not always useful when working with it) On the other hand, many times we do not have the necessary resources to face them, thus creating an imbalance.

How can we intervene?

It should be noted that in cases of stress, intervention will always be easier if the stressor is eliminated or mitigated.

If that is not possible, another option could be to apply a series of therapies at an individual, group, or organizational level.

At an individual level: the first thing is to apply techniques that allow lowering the levels of anxiety and activation. It is also recommended to organize habits in relation to technology: reduce the number of hours of use, schedule when they can be used or not, use screens that protect the eyesight, or maintain a prudent distance from it.

At a group level: therapies focused on techniques such as mindfulness can be applied to improve anxiety and strengthen the connection with the present or even adopt a more supportive format in which activities are proposed where no technologies are involved, to promote habits such as sports or social play.

At an organizational level: one of the bases are disconnection policies. Allowing employees not to use technological devices related to work outside their working hours. Another intervention would be directly related to the preventive measures that a company has to minimize the impact of ICT. Another would be the training of employed personnel to avoid that lack of resources we referred to earlier.

Technology is here to stay and it has many good things. But like any other tool, it requires knowledge, skills, and attitudes to use it positively. We have to prepare ourselves to adapt to all the social, relational, work, and personal changes that it implies. Otherwise, the fantasy of the book The Human Cost of Computer Revolution will become our own story.”

Mentiness, the startup that takes care of mental health within the company

The Galician startup Mentiness launches the first Spanish platform dedicated to the prevention and care of mental health within companies. Motivated by the increase in cases of anxiety and depression due to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Javier Serrano, CEO of Mentiness, has launched an online platform with which he wants to eliminate the barriers to accessing mental health.

Although there are not yet official figures, both psychologists and human resources experts have warned of the increase in cases of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress in recent months. According to data from IQVIA reported by El País, during the first months of lockdown, the consumption of psychotropic drugs increased by 20%, a situation that is aggravated by the difficulty of accessing mental health professionals through Social Security, which postpones people’s psychological problems until they become unsustainable.

Mentiness aims to help companies prevent leave due to depression and anxiety, improve relationships within teams, and provide executives with tools for responsible leadership. This platform includes individual sessions, group workshops, and online training adapted to the needs of each client and led by mental health professionals.

For Javier Serrano, “it is fundamental to eliminate the barriers to accessing mental health for the entire population, and we believe that Mentiness can help in this regard. When creating our platform, we not only thought about people who feel they have a problem but also about helping to resolve work, family, or personal situations that may interfere with their daily jobs.” 

Creating a safe environment for mental health care

One of the pillars of Mentiness in helping workers achieve psychological well-being is maintaining the anonymity of the people using the platform at all times. Companies will be able to access anonymized reports on the number of users using Mentiness, as well as qualitative and quantitative data, with all guarantees that no data from the consultations will be disclosed, as indicated by the ethical code of the College of Psychologists.

In October, the WHO already warned of the need to increase the budget allocated to mental health and Mentiness aims to be a tool to achieve this. Through this platform, companies will be able to offer employees the psychological treatment with which they feel most comfortable, through 100% online individual sessions, group workshops, or distance learning taught by professionals.

If we want to avoid leave due to anxiety and depression, it is essential to act as soon as possible through prevention mechanisms and psychological reinforcement. Mentiness offers companies those tools so that their employees feel good in a safe environment adapted to the needs of each case.