Lived experience inspires workplace wellbeing

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Entrepreneur Nick Shewring connects with nature every day during work hours as a daily reminder that his mental health is worth looking after.

It’s the Vitamin D from the sun hitting his skin, the endorphins and the general good feeling that makes him do it. Even on the busy days.

Nick is the co-founder of BizDojo, a co-working space provider located in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

“Getting outside and exercising gives me some time out from the stressful conversations or the problem-solving. In that time when I am outside, away from the desk and with my phone turned off, my brain can slow down and just soak in the Wellington waterfront or watch the dogs sunbathing outside the cafes,” he says.

"It kind of feels like a revolutionary act when a year ago that self-worth and that self-investment was so diminished.”

Anonymous survey reveals surprising results

Nick lives with depression, and he hit breaking point last year and tried to end his life.

“BizDojo was in the midst of growth mode. We were adding team members, setting up new locations and getting ready for the launch of new projects.

“As a founder, I was under immense pressure, which I met by working harder, taking on more, and devoting less and less time to looking after myself.”

He's since recovered and now lives really well. He’s formed better habits; prioritising healthy eating, mindfulness, sleeping better and exercising to cope with the challenges that he faces as the founder of a start-up company.

After taking time out last year, Nick began to see more and more entrepreneurs who were also experiencing mental illness.

“There is this saying that when you own a yellow car, you start seeing yellow cars everywhere.”

He penned a LinkedIn post sharing his tough experience and asked people to fill in an anonymous survey.

One hundred founders, entrepreneurs and business owners responded – 95% of whom said being an entrepreneur had affected their mental health, 71% experienced anxiety, 40% identified as being depressed and over 50% did not seek help even when facing mental health issues.

The reasons respondents were struggling varied - 38% of people were affected by scaling their business, 14% by investor pressure, 26% by the need to sustain growth in their business and 32% by the process of capital raising.

The added stress that comes with being a business founder clearly takes its toll.

“In many cases you move from a person with an idea and your personal savings on the line, to someone with a team, partners and investors, and all the added responsibility that comes with it.”

Healthy wellbeing habits start with management

BizDojo has a free and frank culture when it comes to mental health. At management meetings, each manager does a stress check-in, using a scale from one to ten.

“From a management level, we try to model healthy habits to our team. Things like making it visible that we are taking lunch breaks, or leaving the office on-time…Doing this shows in a very clear way that taking care of yourself, taking time out, and keeping your work life and home life in balance are valued and important.”

BizDojo has wellness programmes throughout their five New Zealand locations, which include meditation, mindfulness sessions, social soccer, healthy food clubs, and massage sessions. They’ve also just created Founders Central, an initiative to support entrepreneurs so they’re able to work through the stress of a start-up and come out the other side with a successful business and a successful life.

But Nick says they’re not perfect. BizDojo has been in the thick of growth mode and this has put a lot of pressure on their team.

“The things we had put in place to support our team last year when there were 17 of us, were not working as well with 40 of us.

“There was a really positive side to this; the openness and culture of sharing we had built within BizDojo meant that when our team support structures began to fail, our team told us. They voiced their concerns and we have been able to address, regroup and work towards solutions.”

Along with Sustainable Coastlines and Bikes and Bends, BizDojo are holding a Takapuna Beach Clean-up for Mental Health Awareness Week 2017. The aim is to boost everyone’s mood by getting them outdoors doing yoga and community work.

Read about Mental Health Awareness Week