Maybe it is due to the gloomy weather taking over the northern hemisphere at that time of year, but October was chosen for Mental Health Day, and it is quickly followed by November, which is also Movember.
Movember is a movement that started in Australia 20 years ago to break stigma and silence around men's prostate, and testicular cancers as well as men's mental health.
What does this have to do with Team retreats you ask?
Not only do many of us in the Campfire Company team have prior experiences within the tech industry, but we also work with a lot of tech startups and scaleups. An industry known for its hustle culture.
Mental health is a topic close to our hearts as we watch teams come together in nature throughout the year and the positive impacts it brings on the individuals as much as the group.
The Hustle culture in the tech industry
the cost of chasing the unicorn
If you are in the tech industry you are aware of the chase. The dream of becoming a unicorn. We are not talking about metamorphosing into the otherwordly white animal resembling a horse (even though that would be really cool) but a privately owned startup valued at 1 Billion.
To get there, you need to "try fast, fail fast, learn, and keep hustling".
To the point where everything can be excused in the name of productivity. Many bootstrapping startups have few employees who have no choice but to put in long hours, be always "on", and work on short deadlines in a very competitive industry. They are passionate people who believe they will rest later.
A survey in the UK shows that 54% of tech industry employees work more on weekends and evenings than before COVID and struggle with their work-life balance.
Repeated for a long period of time without being addressed, these behaviors can lead to burnout and mental distress.
Boys will be boys they say.
While there are more and more women joining the tech industry and amazing initiatives around the world making sure it keeps happening. The tech industry has long been dominated by men. And as the saying goes, men will be men. What does that really mean? We should not be surprised that they act rough and energetically. They will act according to the stereotypes of society: strong and brave. With no fear or shame.
Sadly these internalised preconceived ideas can come at a very high cost.
Breaking the stigma
One of the main actions of the Movember campaign is to fight the stigma around men and mental health problems.
A UK study shows that men working in tech are 5 times more likely to get depressed and that they are less likely to seek mental health support.
Why is that?
Despite a lot of progress in recent years, there is still a lot of stigma around how men should behave and those seem to be stronger in the tech industry.
- "Make it or die trying" stigma around masculinity and the need to be tough enough to work in a specific industry
- Lack of awareness: it may come as a surprise nowadays but many people normalize "stress at work" and are simply not able to recognize the symptoms of mental health issues. And if they do, they do not often know where to go for help.
- "no time for that" the focus in on the growth and personal matters can be dealt with later
- fear of repercussion: "what will that mean for my career?"
Nature's healing power
Of course, we are not here saying that taking your team on a week workation in nature will fix the hustle culture or cure burnout. But it can help. Nature helps. We see it every day through:
the natural stress reliever that being surrounded by greenery and trees brings. It is proven that has been proven time and time again that being surrounded by nature helps lower our stress hormones.
the physical activities. During our retreats, teams have numerous opportunities to move and spend time outdoors doing yoga, running, hiking... activities that improve the mood and reduce stress.
The digital detox. Even if teams come here to work, they have so many more moments off the computer: long lunches under the trees, morning yoga, afternoon walks, outtoor workshops...
Feeling part of something bigger. When people spend time together in a relaxed environement doing activities and sharing meals together, there is a deeper sense of connection and the creation of shared memories that will build trust and collaboration.
The power of nature over the mind: when in a beautiful natural environment it is difficult not to be in awe and feel more mindful, more attentive to the little things, and more reflective.
Taking your team into nature for a workation is a great way to show that slowing down does not have to mean being less productive. It means that you understand the importance of mental health and believe that being more connected, to each other, to the goal of the company, and to oneself is key, for both a healthy team and a healthy company.
------------ Disclaimer: we are not here to perpetuate stereotypes. Of course not all startups, not all men are "victims" of this culture but data show that this remains a problem and we are happy to help our clients break those negative habits.