Eight experts in well-being and mental health took part in the third International Symposium of the INECO Foundation. The analysis of neuroscience in the face of diseases of the mind and their impact on people, teams and companies

Well-being as a skill that is learned and built; practices to promote wellness at work; the impact of mental health on business; the leadership of the future; mental health and well-being from a gender and generational perspective; new technologies that are allies or enemies of well-being; the concept of digital wellness; and diseases of the mind and their impact on the world of work. These were, among others, the powerful topics that were discussed at the 3rd International Virtual Symposium on Neurosciences and Well-being of the INECO Foundation, which took place last Thursday and with the intervention of renowned national and foreign specialists under the theme common: “Cultivating well-being and mental health from work and daily life”.

Dr. María Roca, Scientific Coordinator of INECO and Director of INECO Organizations, was the one who made some introductory words. There she highlighted the importance of emotional health, stress management and managing emotions. This happens even at work. “We are approximately a third of our life or more in our job, hence the importance that this has if we think that another third should be resting,” said Roca.

And she continued: “Work can be a source of stress and challenges, but simultaneously it can also be a source of well-being. From the neurosciences, what is said is that our brain is prepared to adapt to these changes, but that they and well-being are also built and that there are particular ways to do it”.

The experts indicated that the brain will adapt and understand the new forms of work and the new jobs of the future

The experts indicated that the brain will adapt and understand the new forms of work and the new jobs of the future

But what is considered wellness? Science defines it as a skill that is cultivated and built but, like most human skills, its construction requires the investment of time and effort. The construction and care of well-being must become a habit that is cultivated not artificially, but immersed in our daily reality.

Dr. Roca was conclusive: “In order to compete for talent, companies and individuals will have to make changes by incorporating mental health into their policies, practices, measures and benefits. This change includes the efforts of all institutional actors, who must also take ownership of the issue to serve as allies, fostering an environment of transparency and openness, and a culture that favors well-being”.

The Symposium began at 2:00 p.m., focused on the construction and development of well-being in everyday areas, particularly at work. Free of charge, it was aimed at the entire community and professionals from different disciplines interested in the subject.

Their interventions began with prominent professionals such as Jacqueline Brassey, from the McKinsey Health Institute, Martina Rua, the speaker, coach and consultant Alejandro Melamed, Barry Schwartz, emeritus professor of psychology at Swarthmore College and visiting professor at the Haas School of Business in Berkeley, Pennsylvania, Marisa Salanova, professor of Positive Organizational Psychology and director of the WANT team (Psychosocial Prevention and Healthy Organizations) at the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) in Spain, among others.

The future of work

Alejandro Melamed, General Director at Humanize Consulting, was the one who started the exhibitions. The Infobae columnist argued that trying to connect mental health with organizational health is an interesting path.

“Until a couple of years ago, the world was called VICAH (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous and hyperconnected). Everything was constantly changing and it was believed that hyperconnection enhanced this phenomenon. There is a new normal, which we are going through, which invites us to understand that there is a process of change in 3-D, 3 dimensions. Change is pervasive (multiple areas of our lives change at once), it is perpetual (it changes all the time), and it is exponential (the curve of change is accelerating more and more),” Melamed said.

The expert argued that by 2025, 85 million jobs will be eliminated, but 97 million opportunities will also be created. “Many of the people who are in the positions that will be eliminated do not have the skills developed to try to capture the opportunities that are generated. For this reason, those who have little chance have less and less, and those who have more opportunities have more and more. Many people are looking for jobs, while there are organizations that are not finding candidates for positions that they have open,” he said.

The triggers of this new dynamic that we are facing in the world of work, and that have had an impact on it, are called “the double disruption”: automation and the pandemic. Melamed detects two issues: “First phenomenon, the anguish of robots is common among people, regardless of the activity they carry out, due to the fear of being replaced. For that, it is necessary to see a balance between what robots are good for and what we are good for (we have ethics, conscience, criteria and passion). We are on our way to an era of complementation between the two. Second phenomenon: Covid 19 has left a legacy in the world of work. Long-term projections became a reality in a few weeks and months. Impact on workers, workplaces and work structures and dynamics.

Until 2019, in any company it was practically forbidden to talk about mental and emotional health. “It was considered that they were not issues to address in the company. Currently, there is not one that is not thinking about the mental and emotional health of its collaborators,” said Melamed, who highlighted two impacts: “Impact on workplaces, we switched to working from home. Currently, we are on our way, from working from home to working from anywhere (from anywhere in the world). Substantial change that is here to stay; and impact on labor dynamics and structures. They went from control to trust, by working from different places they cannot carry out control all the time. It is a change of mentality and point of view”.

Melamed closed: “The future of work is going to be for those people who can constantly adapt”

Table 1, which was moderated by Fernanda Giralt, coordinator of the 2021 well-being symposium and current operational deputy director of INECO, sought to address the purpose of work in our lives, showing how work works in our culture and how we can find our own road to happiness at work

Barry Schwartz, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore College and Visiting Professor at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, was one of the guests. Author of the book of his authorship Why we work – Why do we get out of bed every morning to work?, he maintained: “Most of us spend half of our lives or more working, because we have to earn a living, but is it just that? Of course not”.

And he continued: “There is a list of non-monetary reasons that make people do their jobs: satisfied workers are committed, they feel challenged, they feel in control, they seek experience, learn new things and work with people, it is an opportunity for social commitment and consider that what they do is significant”.

For the majority of the population, work leaves much to be desired. “What happens when the job recruits people with intrinsic motives and not just instrumental ones?” Schwartz wondered. “Studies show that workers are happier, there is better mental and general health, better quality work is done and the company has higher income. What fosters good work? Highlight aim and purpose, give employees autonomy, make work challenging and varied and flexible,” he said.

And he continued: “What discourages you in front of a job? That it be routine, that there is a lot of supervision, that there is no challenge or support and that there is no system of prizes and rewards”.

The pandemic left many people asking why do I keep going to this job? “It generated a revolution with respect to the workplace,” said the expert. And he closed: “There is a trend that says that if you go to your job with a good attitude, you can turn a bad job into a good job. But that is not entirely true and puts the entire burden of work on the worker, since there are workspaces where it is easy to find a purpose but there are others where it is impossible. The only positive effect of the pandemic was that a new ideology of work emerged. From now on, companies will feel that they can transform themselves”.

Mental health at work: new challenges

Marisa Salanova, doctor in psychology. Professor of positive organizational psychology and director of the WANT team at Jaume I University, she participated in this table and asked herself: Why is mental health important at work? “For economic, psychosocial, political and scientific reasons,” she said. “The GBD estimated that COVID generated a 28% increase in depressive and anxiety disorders, and a collapse in health systems. The director general of the WHO declared that this was a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to the problem of mental health, ”she maintained.

Another effect of the pandemic was “The big quit” where many workers left their jobs. “Among the three key challenges are: anticipating and managing change in the new world of work; improve the prevention of work-related illnesses and accidents and increase preparation for possible future threats to health”, said Salanova

In turn, she expressed, we must pay attention to digitization and how this is affecting the world of work. “Be more aware of the environment and continue promoting psychological well-being. There is a special need to take into account work environments for women: protecting their mental health, highlighting the positive aspects of their work and helping to solve their problems. According to the World Economic Forum, organizations should invest in health promotion programs. This reduces absenteeism, accidents and healthcare costs,” she said.

The scientific reasons for improving well-being at work include reducing burnout and promoting work engagement. “For this, work overload, ambiguity and role conflict must be reduced,” she explained.

And she added: “Not only do we have to invest in reducing demands but also invest in increasing resources. Well-being leads to success in the workplace as people gain more security, access to better jobs, greater social support, make better decisions, work better in groups, have greater resilience and improve their performance.

To close, she wondered what the challenges for science are. “Mental health must be considered in its entirety and not just as the absence of mental illness. Invest in measures based on sound research. Positive psychological intervention protocols should be developed. We must ensure that we generate healthier and more positive organizations. Mental health is not only a responsibility of HR, it must be conceived as a value in itself and not as a means to an end”, she closed Salanova.

Mental health and well-being from a gender and generational perspective

Table 2 was called: “Focusing on specific actors. Mental health and well-being from a gender and generational perspective” The moderator was Dr. Julián Bustín, coordinator of the 2021 well-being symposium and current Head of Gerontopschiatry at INECO. Bustín spoke with María Pilar Matud Aznar, PhD from the University of La Laguna.

“Gender refers to the roles, behaviours, activities, attributes and opportunities that any society considers appropriate for boys and girls, and for men and women. In addition, it refers to the relationships between people and can reflect the distribution of power within those relationships”, began Matud Aznar.

For the expert, gender not only supposes a division of men and women but also a hierarchy. “Normally, men are attributed more power and authority than women. Bárbara Risman argues that gender is more than just a personal identity. Gender is a social structure, which has consequences for people, to the extent that we internalize and include in our identity those characteristics that society attributes to us, but also in interpersonal interactions and in social institutions and organizations, where we still differences can be found in the rights and responsibilities of women and men (for example, men earn more money on average than women even if they have the same job category)”, she said.

For Matud Aznar, one of the clearest and most persistent differences is the division of roles between women and men. Traditionally, women were assigned family roles and men work roles. “Faced with these stereotypes, empirical research has not shown that the division translates into greater adjustment or well-being, neither personal nor social. Family roles are not only unnatural, but can be a major source of stress for women. The multiple roles are beneficial for men and women (for example, a man involved in the work and family role has better physical, mental and social health, just like women). This goes against classical theories,” she expressed.

Despite different advances, a series of myths still persist that try to justify and normalize the differences between women and men in family and work roles. “The happy housewife, the ‘breadwinner’ husband, boys and girls must be cared for at home by their mothers,” she exemplified.

When talking about stress, she argued that it is a global problem, and can lead to physical and mental illness. “Regarding work stress, men and women are similarly exposed to stressors such as work overload or lack of job security. Women are more exposed to sexual harassment at work as well as the stress of occupying lower positions in the work hierarchy. As they are also involved in family roles, women remain stressed and do not have time to physiologically recover from work stress,” she said.

“The work does not imply greater pressure for women than for men, although for both it is high. According to the results obtained, work stress does not seem to be closely associated with mental symptoms, but it is associated exactly the same between men and women. It was found, when evaluating other areas, that women showed more chronic non-work stress than men, especially related to the family. And they deal with stress in a less adequate way, focused more on emotion. In addition, women had more somatic, depressive and anxiety symptoms, and spent more time on domestic and care tasks than having fun or doing their favorite activities”, added Matud Aznar.

And he concluded: “Work stress does not seem to pose a greater threat to the health and well-being of women than to that of men, although there is inequality and greater risks to the health and well-being of women in non-work areas.”

Florencia Nicolet, Co-Founder of SeniorITy, spoke about the transformation of the world of work and the adaptation of employees. “In the early 1970s, and up to the present, we began to experience the third, fourth, and fifth industrial revolution: first, information technology (which allows great processing capacity) arrives, then digitization (industry 4.0, in which technology appears). Internet of things), and the fifth revolution begins to appear, which is that of empowerment (people and robots begin to work collaboratively). What happens is that these revolutions appear in a very short time, all together”, she began by saying.

“From the perspective of work we are going to continue to see accelerated modifications, we don’t know what or how, since the technology is being created. We are not seeing the end, but the beginning. The changes are going to be more and more accelerated, ”added she Nicolet.

For the expert, the different industrial revolutions, with each of their techniques, coexist and will continue to coexist in the world of work. “Mechanization, electricity, computing, digitization, and robot-human empowerment. That will co-exist in every industry we work in,” she said.

What about people from the generational aspect? “Each one of us is born at a historical moment from the sociological point of view. At that moment something happens from the technique and from the technologies, and we learn certain techniques and technologies to be able to operate in the world in which we are born and in which we live socially and at work”, he said.

“Each generation (builders, baby boomers, generation x, generation y, generation z and generation alpha) accompanied and created each of the technologies of that historical moment. Generation Y, millennials, centennials and the alpha generation are already digital natives, they grow up as digital beings. Line that separates us because we come slower in the acquisition of technological knowledge in terms of work. On the other hand, in the social sphere we are acquiring it. For example, we use WhatsApp”, he asserted.

How to make the greatest begin to acquire all these techniques? “These paradigm limitations must begin to be diluted, since it is the first time in history that all these generations are going to begin to coexist strongly in the world of work, due to scientific advances regarding health. It is going to be necessary to incorporate these digital skills, both technical and mental models, in order to coexist, just as the Y or the Z must acquire skills from previous industrializations. Greater complexity in acquiring subsequent industrializations”, said the expert.

She then asked herself two big questions: “Can we people who were born in other previous generations, those over 40, be digital? Do we have the skills and abilities to be? “Through a program that was carried out, it was tested how the skills of people +40 can be evaluated in 2 aspects: digital and natural. From there, she guided them to the best place in the digital world, matching the skills needed in each of the IT orientations. Later, she accompanies them in the development of those skills and their reintegration capabilities are seen. The results are very promising,” she said.

New technologies, allies or enemies of well-being?

The experts propose to have the technology but sometimes dose all the tools so as not to use them at the same time

The experts propose to have the technology but sometimes dose all the tools so as not to use them at the same time

Table 3 proposed to address the following theme: “New technologies, are they allies or enemies of well-being? And on the other hand, the concept of digital well-being was analyzed. Moderated by Pedro Beckinschtein, Research Director of the INECO Foundation, Martina Rúa, columnist for Diario La Nación, stated: “The era of digital well-being has to do with how technology advances. The rate of change is exponential, what we can do today in 18 or 24 months we will be able to double it, we will be able to do twice what we can do now. We talk about exponential technologies when we talk about technology such as Artificial Intelligence and others that are beginning to profoundly modify lives and our jobs”

Very recently, a group of scientists from Scotland said that digital well-being is the extent to which a person perceives that the use of digital devices is aligned with their goals. “Together with Pablo Fernández, we expanded the definition and proposed this: digital well-being requires a plan for the intentional, conscious, critical and balanced use of technology as a tool to achieve other different objectives,” said Rúa.

And she went on: “What does it mean? We have to play an active role in building the digital environment, we have a responsibility as digital citizens. So how can anyone tell if he had a balanced collectivity? It can measure different parameters: how autonomous I feel in the content I consume through the screens or if I really feel that I entered to consume something and fell into a black hole where I am consuming things that I don’t even know how it happened.

The expert detailed the tools that she uses to think about digital well-being plans: “Obviously the value of breaks, schedule daily breaks in an agenda with moments of disconnection and there we will achieve long-term digital well-being. So I choose what I am going to ignore, where I am going to be able to work and that is where I put all my focus to move forward, ”she said,

“The phone comes with all the notifications turned on. I invite you to put the phone to work in your favor: turn off notifications that you do not need, leave only the applications that help you do things in view. To all those who are working all the time with screens, let’s put limits on the day, until now it’s time to work on the computer: now is the time to cook, to be with my friends, with our children, to go out and play sports “, he added.

And he closed: “Think of a safe area. We have a lot to do and we need a safe place to return to. Therefore, you have to have an area to build it, communicate and take care of it. What is a safe zone? For example, eating with your children after school without having devices on the table or it can be on Wednesday mornings, not having virtual meetings, etc.”

Mental health and its impact on people, teams and companies

The last table set out to address the moments in which well-being has been lost and talk about mental health and its impact on people, teams and companies. Moderated by Dr. Marcelo Cetkovich, Medical Director of INECO, the table was attended by Dr. María Laura Lupano Perugini, from the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), University of Palermo, University of Buenos Aires. Also participating was Jacqueline Brassey, Chief Scientist for People and Organizational Performance, McKinsey & Company and Senior Fellow at McKinsey Health Institute, who spoke about mental health at work

Lupano Perugini shared the results of different studies that she was carrying out as a CONICET researcher. The studies were based on two main lines of approach, derived from positive psychology: positive organizational psychology and the model of healthy and resilient organizations. Importance of working from these lines of approach because it complements the negative variables with the study of positive aspects that can occur in workers and organizations.

“An organization is positive not only when satisfactory profitable results are obtained, but also when its employees have well-being, and the well-being of workers within the organization can be increased,” the expert began. Regarding the organizational factors that can contribute to well-being, according to the employees, “there is a combination of two types of characteristics in a positive organization: material/instrumental (such as flexibility at work and remuneration) and on the other hand, the social factors (human resources)”, he said.

“According to these characteristics perceived by the employees, it was found that those who perceive themselves with a low level of job satisfaction and performance due to job performance, tend to notice as the predominant positive characteristic, especially characteristics of a material or instrumental type. . On the other hand, in those who perceive themselves as having a medium or high level, they notice the combination of both characteristics, not only those that refer to having a good salary, but also those that have to do with rather social resources (respect for diversity , good working environment). The levels of satisfaction and performance coincided among the employees, depending on how they perceived themselves”, said Lupano Perugini.

In Argentina, according to the expert, there are 3 of the 6 original organizational virtues: support and respect (feeling of collaboration and camaraderie), meaning and inspiration (the work one does has meaning for the organization) and forgiveness (constructive work on the mistakes).

“It is not only important to work in a place with a good climate and a work team, but also that the role one plays makes sense for the organization. Importance that the employee considers that what he does contributes to the objectives of the organization, ”she said.

Regarding the individual factors that contribute to well-being, he expressed that people were consulted about positive and negative characteristics of work colleagues. “As for the positive, it was highlighted what has to do with collaborating with a good work environment (being supportive, kind), and also those characteristics that allow the achievement of objectives (efficiency, proactivity). Regarding negative characteristics, what has to do with inefficiency and irresponsibility prevailed, since it not only affects the employee’s own performance, but that of the entire work team”, said Lupano Perugini.

Jacqueline Brassey, Chief Scientist for People and Organizational Performance, McKinsey & Company and Senior Fellow, McKinsey Health Institute spoke about mental health at work

The McKinsey Health Institute is an NGO that aims to explore and analyze, to add years to life. The mission is to catalyze the effect to be able to provide this service of generating years of life. “We have a number of exciting areas including: infectious diseases, healthy living, equity and health, workers’ ability to access health, healthy aging, and sustainability and health. These areas are part of our investigations,” she said.

And she added: “Mental health across the population is in decline. The data in general reflects a challenge and a lot of work ahead to improve the statistics. We must pay more attention to wellness in the workplace. Earlier this year, a survey was conducted in 15 countries, representing 70% of the world’s working population, including some countries in the Latin American region. We found that 1 in 4 employees experience burnout symptoms.

What is happening within each company? “A survey was carried out that analyzed the different levels of a company: the leaders, the senior employees, and an analysis was also made at the individual level of the workers. Positive and negative results were found. Symptoms of exhaustion were seen. Dimensions were analyzed to represent well-being: working with the energy of the work environment, focusing on the work environment. There is a vector structure throughout all the countries analyzed. It was possible to estimate 36% of variables in the negative results and 55% in the positive ones. So we have to work on the positive elements,” Brassey said.

As for the negative aspects, “several of the symptoms of this type are seen through behavior in a toxic work environment. It is important that there is an environment of inclusion, in which people can feel respected, with sustainable work”

What can be done to try to reduce the symptoms of burnout? “Those who experience a high level of toxic work environment cannot do anything to reduce those symptoms, because there is so much bad energy that it is very difficult to do anything. So all the additional activities will also lead to a poor performance of the worker, but if we manage to work it, all the actions will consequently also be more positive, and the employees will be able to deal better with stress”, he concluded.

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