“How was work today? Some good things happened, some great things happened, some challenging conversations happened. Tomorrow may be tough, but I’m ready.”
We believe that every day at work can be a bit better. Every person, every team, every workplace can improve, bit by bit, towards bigger cultural changes.
How? At Fika, we think the secret sauce is mental fitness.
But what is mental fitness?
You know physical fitness. You train, you practise and you keep getting better. Well Fika trains mental fitness. And much of the same ideas apply. (Robinson, Oades, Caputi, 2015)
You wouldn’t drag yourself and your colleagues out to run a marathon without training. You’d put a lot of strain on the team, risk hurting yourself and most likely a few of you would need a few days off! We know in sports, it's necessary to train ahead of challenges and big events, we learn new skills, grow those muscles and build sustainable, shared behaviours that will make us more likely to win, and come back to win again. So why, when it comes to big deadlines, high pressure situations and complex work, do we not prepare ourselves mentally? Or acknowledge that there’s skills we can learn to improve our chances of success (and reduce our chances of injury) in that situation?
Just like your physical fitness is made up of different structures and systems (e.g. cardiovascular, respiratory), your mental fitness is made up of the 7 skills of mental fitness. There are lots of ways to improve and build these skills. You can train individually or together so that you and your team can be at your best, more of the time.
The Fika community believes in five key things. We believe if we can do these things, we might just change the world…
1 Mental fitness is for everyone
We all have a pretty good understanding now that 10,000 steps a day is good for us, right? Even if we don’t quite all get there, we all have our own fitness journeys and our own techniques we’ve found most useful, as we strive to be fitter. Fitness isn’t just achieved by running marathons - it should be simple, accessible, lighthearted, fun and varied for all of our different personalities. And that’s even more necessary when it comes to mental fitness!
Mental health still holds a lot of stigma and negative connotations and we think a new narrative is needed - one that opens up conversations, reduces the pressure on them, makes them more positive and includes us all. Yes, even you. And your parents, and your friends, and even your boss. We know mental fitness can make you feel good, strong, help you support others better and give you the confidence to grab those opportunities in your life - don’t we all deserve that?
2 Fitness is built one small step at a time
Daily habits. Small and incremental. Consistency over intensity. We’ve all heard these things before - but for some reason it’s easy to overlook the small stuff every day, the stuff that’s directly in front of us, and just look towards the big things ‘over there’. “Oh if we only overhaul this entire process, then we will be successful”. “Oh that person has everything figured out - I need to change my life to be like them.”
Let’s move some of that energy into the things we are actually already spending our time on each day. Yeah, we really do think the way you respond to your colleague’s ‘good morning’... that decision you make in your next team meeting… that 5-minutes on the bus… that meeting you’ve got at 11am… even the socks you put on in the morning… those are all opportunities to train, to grow, to celebrate. They are the nuggets of real change, and we think they’re bloody gorgeous.
3 True change, happens together
It’s obvious isn’t it really? We know we rub off on each other, we motivate and support each other, we adapt to group norms. And yet when it comes to personal development and mental health - we tend to think of this as a solo endeavour. Especially when we’re under pressure, when there can be a natural tendency to retreat into your shell and think “oh it’ll be easier if I just deal with this myself.”
Performance psychologists know that the most successful teams and the happiest people lean on each other when they’re struggling. So we say “let’s all muck in!” After all, we all affect each other each day, even if we don’t mean to. The tone of an email p***ed you off and you went into your next meeting in a bad mood. You’re feeling stressed, so you gave direction a bit hurriedly to someone, which made them feel small.
We need to work as teams to agree what good workplace practices look like. Then, like taking up any new behaviour or habit, we get better by using the people around us to motivate us, hold us to account, and collectively improve. Think of Fika like a group gym class, at work.
4 Skip the theory - just do it, feel it and get better each time
No one ever became physically fit by talking about going to the gym - you actually have to go to the gym and do the work. It's the same with mental fitness. And look, we’re all busy, right? We don’t have time for endless theory, 100-page strategy documents or academic pontification. We say that taking the 7 hours you spend at a manager training workshop, and doing just 10-minutes of Fika a week with your team throughout the year, is a much better return on your energy. Practical over theory, action over words.
The training that sticks is done in context and you feel the impact immediately. You don’t need to be told why it works, you just feel it and the behaviours follow. So, rather than learning about the theories of inclusion and collaboration at an off-site event - why not simply use a Fika exercise in your team meeting tomorrow and get everyone included? Let’s just get started.
5 Down with abstract concepts - let’s fix the real problems at work
We’ve all seen and experienced the box-ticking, sticking-plaster efforts. A 1-hour debrief on wellbeing strategy is not particularly useful when the boss is texting during it asking for overtime. It's even less useful when the conclusion is that your team needs to be 'more engaged.' What does that mean and what can I do about it?
We're here to promote real change. We do this simply by asking, “how could things look slightly better for you and your team each day?” Let's stop pretending that the wellbeing of a toxic organisation can be solved by everyone learning how to meditate. While we love meditation at Fika, it's not fair to ignore systemic problems and place all responsibility on individuals.
Fixing systemic issues takes more than abstract concepts. It requires us to look beneath the real root causes behind ‘poor workplace wellbeing’, ‘low engagement’ and burnout and focus on the things within our control: improving communication, ways of working and workload within a team.
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