Mental Health At Work: How Sports Industry Is Influencing The Viewpoint

Naomi Osaka, one of the best players in the Women’s tennis circuit, didn’t participate in this season’s French Open, citing concerns of her deteriorating mental health. Sports superstars, including Usain Bolt, Serenea Williams, and Michael Phelps amongst others lent their support to her. Calm, a mental wellness app went a step ahead and announced that they will cover the fines that are put on Osaka for sitting out of the tournament. Simon Biles did a similar thing by not participating in several events in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics. And when such big superstars take such actions on mental health, it is bound to cause a stir in the world of sports and mental health at work.

Similar to sports, serious discussions around mental health at work have also started to take place in organizations, especially after the pandemic. The mental health of employees suffered greatly due to the stress and uncertainty brought up by the pandemic. This is the reason many organizations are making necessary amendments to the health and well-being policies of their employees. The leaders at organizations can take lead from the sports industry and prioritize mental health at the workplace. There’s a lot that can be done to support the mental health of the distributed workforce of today. 

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Athletes and the sports industry have started working together to ensure that the priority of every athlete remains their mental health and well-being. Discussions around areas that could jeopardize the mental health of athletes have started to take place more often. Athletes are now made aware about the effects of constantly working to achieve perfection, huge pressure that comes from public expectations, need to beat and perform better than arch rivals, and injury on the duration of career. 

The mental health movement in the sports industry has given organizations a great blueprint that they can follow. One thing that this movement has made amply evident is that success in a particular sport or for that matter profession doesn’t really mean success at the mental health level. Those are two different things altogether. The people that suffer the most due to them being at the center of almost everything that an organization does is leaders. Most of the time, they are living in isolation, have to deal with a lot of pressure, have to undergo scrutiny at all times, and are still the ones that are required  to be at the top of their game all the time.

This is what happens with sports stars too. When they finally make it and people start recognizing them on the streets, they could end up being in the loneliest place on this earth. Fame usually takes away the ‘normal’ life that they were used to earlier. Leaders experience the same and this is where organizations should come in and help them handle the pressure and load of expectations by giving them time off every now and then and getting executive coaches to work with them. Just like leaders, employees deal with a lot of stress. Organizations need to ensure that they have mental health and well-being programs in place to help them improve their mental health at work. 

Reference: Athletes Are Shifting the Narrative Around Mental Health at Work | Harvard Business Review | Alyson Meister and Maude Lavanchy | September 24, 2021

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