Get Centered, Get More Done

Posted on Jan 6, 2014 | 3 comments

As a creative agency dedicated to making peoples’ work lives better we strive to make work work for us. Sometimes that means we work off-site, or on the patio overlooking the creek at the back of the office. Usually it just means you’ll find us running around with no shoes on, hopped up on Starbucks, and jamming out to Miley while we work. In an effort to keep things fresh last week we installed a mindfulness browser plug-in from the Plum Village monastery. Every hour it chimes to remind us to breathe in and breathe out three times. It took us a while to stop giggling when we’d stop mid-conversation to breath, but we quickly came to love this minor adjustment in our workdays. Yesterday, the chime went off during a client call and rather than ignore it, I explained to our client what he was hearing and asked if he’d like to take advantage of the reminder to stop and take three deep breaths in and out. Much to my delight, he did! So there I sat in my sock feet meditating with a senior human resources manager halfway across the country. The meeting reconvened with laughter and gratitude. We wrapped up the remainder of our call having covered all of our agenda items with fifteen minutes to spare! Who’s to say that the chimes were responsible for getting us off of our call earlier? I don’t know that they can take full credit. It’s certainly not the first time a client call took less time than we had planned. But I can say that the rest of the call was effortless. We both found ourselves agreeably divvying up our tasks and responsibilities and eager to move on to the next agenda item. This week I’m meeting with all of our team members to talk about their intentions for 2014. This is NOT a performance review. This is NOT a goal-setting session. It is NOT a “check-in” or a “touch-base.” It’s a sacred time that we’ve set aside just to envision what each member of our team wants in the year ahead. It’s our way of taking a deep breath and getting in touch with what makes work work for us. What will you do to get in touch with what makes work work for you? If mindfulness is at the top of your list (or if you just want to giggle at how silly it makes you feel to close your eyes and focus on breathing every hour), you can download the Plum Village Mindfulness Bell here. Share...

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WHO Takes a Mental Health Day to Deal With Depression

Posted on Oct 10, 2012 | 0 comments

On October 10th the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World Mental Health Day by promoting awareness of mental health issues. This year, the focus of the day is depression. In yesterday’s post we discussed the affects of mental illnesses on a company’s workforce. Today, in recognition of World Mental Health Day, we invite our client Betty R. Wood, M.S. to share her expertise on the subject of depression. Betty has maintained a private psychology practice in Atlanta since 1989. Over the years, an increased awareness of the personal needs of her clients has led to a shift in the focus of her practice from clinical treatment to the prevention of pathology in children and adults through personal coaching and educational consultation.  Tips for Understanding and Treating Two Lesser Known Forms of Depression—Dysthymia and Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms and treatment options for major depression are fairly well known while the general population has limited knowledge of dysthymia and seasonal affective disorder. Both can become chronic, insidious, conditions that slowly wear away at an individual’s life until it comes to a halt.  Individuals often do not seek treatment or delay treatment since they think that the feelings of depression will pass when their lives improve in other ways. Dysthymia does not quite fit the ‘conventional’ depression pattern.  Individuals have fewer and less intense symptoms than in major depression, but the whole episode has a longer duration.  They are depressed for most of the time for at least 2 years and often suffer from what may be described as a low-grade depression throughout life.  It is quite common in younger individuals, but its onset may be difficult to identify accurately since there may not have been a specific event that triggered the depression.  Despite the less severe symptoms in dysthymia, there is still an increased risk of suicide. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is caused by insufficient exposure to bright sunlight. SAD is nonexistent in the tropics but is reported in northern latitudes during winter.  It is thought that light sensitive neurons in the brain that are part of the circuits involved in the hormonal regulation of the circadian sleep-wake cycle do not function normally and their resulting dysfunction is the source of the depression. Depression affects most of us at one time, or another. Unfortunately some people struggle with it for a lifetime.  Understanding the diathesis-stress medical model provides an opportunity for the layperson to hopefully, become more open to diagnosis while letting go of the guilt and shame often associated with treatment for depression. In the diathesis-stress model, an inborn and genetic vulnerability or predisposition (diathesis) interacts with the environment and life events (stressors) to trigger behaviors or the expression of a medical condition. The greater the underlying vulnerability, the less stress is needed to trigger the behavior/condition. Conversely, where there is a smaller genetic contribution greater life stress is required to produce the particular result. The diathesis–stress model suggests that some people possess an enduring vulnerability factor (a dia- thesis) which, when coupled with a proximal (recent) stressor, results in a diagnosable medical condition. Neither the diathesis nor the stressor alone is enough to lead to symptoms – both must be present. Diatheses and stressors can be defined broadly. For example, a genetic or biological predisposition to depression might be the diathesis, and troubled relationships could be the stressor; or a dysfunctional pattern of thinking about the world can be the diathesis, and a major life event the stressor. Being depressed can make you feel hopeless and helpless.  Along with therapy and sometimes medication, there’s...

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Making Room for Mental Health in Your Employee Benefits Plans

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 | 0 comments

Employers know that mentally healthy workforces are more productive, miss fewer days of work, and have lower medical costs. As businesses, we value the return on our investment in our workforce’s health. Yet most employers stop short of offering comprehensive benefits that adequately address mental health issues, focusing instead on physical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma that are often compounded by undiagnosed mental illnesses. In an article published by the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, the following facts build a powerful case for including mental health benefits in your lineup: Less than one-third of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder receive treatment in any given year; Mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10% annually (accounting for 30% or more of the typical employer’s disability claims); and Individuals who are depressed but not receiving care for the condition consume two to four times the healthcare resources of other enrollees. Despite these staggering facts, many employers continue to offer mental wellness benefits as either part of a suite of optional benefits, or not at all. And few employers take the time to offer employees the education and guidance they need to take full advantage of the benefits available to them. How Can Employers Provide Better Mental Health Services for Their Workforce? Chances are that if you’re researching the impacts of mental health on your workforce’s productivity and engagement then your company is on the right track to making an improvement in its benefits programs. You may even already provide key services that your employees aren’t using to their full advantage. Here are some tips and tools to help your company reduce the costly expenses associated with untreated and undiagnosed mental illnesses in your workforce: Evaluate your current mental health benefits and services: assess exactly what services fall under your plans and understand how to use the health services that you currently provide. Compare your current offerings to other available options in the marketplace: The National Business Coalition on Health has developed a comparison tool to help you do just that. Develop strategic programs that complement your benefits plans: employers commonly offer financial incentives for participating in biometric screenings that help employees assess their physical health—but not their mental health. For tips on offering anonymous mental health screenings for employees, visit www.mentalhealthscreening.org. Screening results should alway be followed up with professional on-site counseling, educational materials specific to any results received, and explanations of how the company’s benefits program can offer support services and access to care. Market your benefits and support programs: This is where so many employers miss the mark. It’s not enough to offer even the best benefits in the industry if you’re not helping your employees understand how to use them. According to a study by ADP (Automatic Data Processing, Inc.), 60% of employees don’t understand the benefits programs offered by their employers. Currently, most employers are in the throes of communicating the changes to their new benefits plans in preparation for the new year. While enrollment education is critical in helping employees to choose the benefits that will serve them and their families in the coming year, we must also help employees to understand their benefits so that they can better use them throughout the year. Lab Monkey Design specializes in internal health and wellness communications for employees. We produce internal benefits brands, open enrollment communications, educational healthcare marketing, and a variety of customized wellness campaigns to help your employees make the most of the benefits you offer. When your employees are able understand and use the benefits you provide, your company will thrive...

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Positive Impact – Communicating Mental Wellness to Diverse Audiences

Posted on Jul 5, 2012 | 0 comments

Positive Impact describes themselves as “a community-based, volunteer-driven organization that provides comprehensive mental health care and prevention services to individuals, groups and families affected by HIV.” Their mission statement further clarifies the term “comprehensive,” identifying their aim of providing “culturally competent” mental health and prevention services. Their mission is—in a word—complex. When the agency received funding specifically earmarked for use in the development of marketing materials, we were consulted to facilitate a number of meetings aimed at discerning the best use of the funds. Our initial meetings with the organization revealed that the employees had a variety of needs and desires for the development of a printed piece that explained the organization. Some departments needed a brochure that spoke to patients in need of services. Other departments needed a brochure that would effectively market the entire organization to prospective donors. Still other departments were charged with securing volunteer support to keep the organization’s day-to-day operations afloat. Each department had a particular role in furthering the success of the agency and they were passionately committed to fulfilling their specific charge. Partnering with staff at Positive Impact, we began to craft a message that focused on two points: expressing the critical importance of their mission and services; and, requesting specific means of support from the community. Because of the sensitive nature of the organization’s services, we felt compelled to balance the business aspects of the message with personal anecdotes of the employees and clients. The effect was the humanization of mental illness and HIV.  By lending the voices and images of clients, volunteers and professional counselors to the project, we began to defy the stigma associated with HIV and mental illness. Our graphic solution strengthens the agency’s visual identity as well as their mission by building upon elements in the logo and incorporating photos reflective of a broad cross-section of ages, genders and ethnicities. In addition to physically diverse attributes, photos were selected for the range of emotions they express. We intentionally avoided the use of stereotypically blissful stock photos, in favor of a realistic portrayal of varying states of mental health. The cover of the brochure simply proclaims the organization’s name and reflects the populations they serve. The design cements the organization’s brand in the mind of its audience in a number of ways. Designed as a 7-inch square, the brochure is a literal translation of the shape of the agency’s logo. Gradients lifted directly from the logo span the top and bottom of the interior panels as a means of segmenting the messaging within. Additional photos are interspersed throughout the brochure as a means of further characterizing the agency’s client-base. Finally, small squares of color are interspersed in the layouts to provide visual balance and to echo the shape of the logo. By listening to the variety of needs facing the employees and clients of Positive Impact we were able to develop one comprehensive brochure that serves them both. View the full brochure here. Share...

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