Taking Care of Your Mental Health at Work

While workplace stress is nothing new, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated it for all types of workers. From the added stress of working from home (and now for some, anxiety around returning to the office again) to the millions of essential workers who had to put their own health at risk during the pandemic — everyone has been impacted in some way and to varying degrees. If there is one silver lining though, it’s that these challenges have brought mental health to the forefront of the national conversation and shone a light on existing problems.

A recent Household Pulse Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 37% of people surveyed reported feeling anxious or depressed. (That number was just 11% in 2019.) On top of that, in their 2021 report: Mind the Workplace, Mental Health America (MHA) found that nearly 9 out of 10 employees report workplace stress that impacts their mental health.

Overcoming burnout

Burnout had become a hot topic of conversation long before the events of 2020, and has become even more prevalent over the last year. In their survey, MHA found that nearly 83% of respondents felt emotionally drained from their work, and nearly 1 in 4 employees experienced severe signs of burnout, including reduced professional efficacy and cynicism towards coworkers and their jobs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has even added burnout to its International Classification of Diseases. According to the WHO, burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, and is characterized by three dimensions: 

 

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. Reduced professional efficacy
  3. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job

 

Aside from factors related specifically to the pandemic, other common factors that contribute to burnout include overwhelming workload, long working hours, staff shortages, an aggressive environment, and lack of support from management. If left unaddressed, burnout can cause lower productivity and quality of work, job dissatisfaction, low organizational commitment, absenteeism, and ultimately, turnover. 

While any employee in any company can experience burnout, there are some jobs that are at higher risk. Even pre-pandemic, employees in the medical field were at higher risk for mental health challenges. A 2019 study by Medscape found that 44% of physicians reported feeling burned out. Many physicians pointed to long hours and increased administrative tasks as a major source of burnout. One family physician even said, “All that paperwork sucks all of the enjoyment out of being a doctor.”

People in other types of high-pressure jobs, like sales, are also at risk of burnout and other mental health challenges. According to Sales Health Alliance, dealing with constant worries about hitting sales goals and dealing with constant rejection can make the sales environment a very difficult place to maintain mental well-being. Their latest survey of sales professionals showed that 43% struggle with their mental health.

Managing Zoom fatigue

For people working from home (and even many who don’t) video conferencing has become a huge part of our lives. While the ability to connect with colleagues, friends, and family members from the safety of our own homes has been invaluable in many ways, constant use of tools like Zoom has also caused very real mental health challenges for many.

Stanford communications professor Jeremy Bailenson recently shared with CNN Business the four causes of Zoom fatigue:

 

  1. ‘Fight or flight’ survival. A video call “smothers everyone with gaze,” so though your just staring at a camera, it simulates a confrontation and triggers your fight-or-flight instincts.

 

  1. Non-verbal internet cues. We’re not used to socializing in a virtual environment and our brains don’t know how to pick up non-verbal cues in the same way.

 

  1. Constant mirror and self-evaluation. The self-evaluation that happens when seeing yourself on video can make you stressed, and the effects are even worse for women. Bailenson mentions a study that shows long periods of self-focusing can “prime women to experience depression.”

 

  1. Stuck in the box. Zoom fatigue traps us in a box, which can limit our mental ability and cause our minds to act differently than when we’re able to move around.

 

Video conferencing may become less necessary as the world opens up, but it’s not likely to go away completely. But according to Bailenson, we’re not sentenced to Zoom fatigue and there are some things we can do to combat it.

“Collapse that self-image box so it’s out of view… it will be like a weight taken off your shoulders. Use an external webcam or opt for more phone call meetings — so you can get up and think out of that Zoom box,” he says.

Create boundaries and take mental breaks

Dr. Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis, told NPR there are ways to spot the signs of burnout and regain some control. One of these ways is to tune into how you’re feeling at work each day.

“It can even be helpful to sort of note your mood throughout the day,” says Gold. “Like, ‘Every time I have a meeting with so-and-so, I feel horrible, and then every time I’m with this person or doing this thing, that’s where I find the most meaning.'”

Ron Friedman, author of the book, The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, tells Harvard Business Review that burnout often stems from a lack of understanding about what it takes to achieve peak workplace performance. “We tend to assume that it requires trying harder or outworking others,” he says, “which may get you short-term results but is physiologically unsustainable.” 

Friedman recommends taking regular breaks to restock your mental energy. “Take a walk or go for a run. Have lunch away from your desk. Stepping away from your computer gets you out of the weeds and prompts you to reexamine the big picture.”

Speak up and ask for help

As more people speak up and speak out about mental health, more employers are starting to pay attention. A 2020 Business Group on Health survey found that nearly half of large employers now train their managers to recognize mental health issues and an additional 18% plan to start in 2021. Plus, 54% of employers will offer free or low-cost virtual mental health visits this year. 

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of burnout or a more serious mental health condition, you are not alone and help is out there. Many employers offer an employee assistance program (EAP), that provides you with free resources, many of which include access to virtual counseling or therapy. You can also talk to your primary care doctor or ask them for a referral to a mental health professional. Or, you can search for qualified therapists in your area on the Psychology Today website.

Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are also available for help and guidance. (You can also call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.)

To learn more about strategies for managing your mental health at work, you can also download Mental Health America’s Workplace Mental Health Employee Support Guide: https://mhanational.org/employeesupportguide.

 

*Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and not intended to provide any clinical advice. It is only intended to provide general education and research around mental health in the workplace and provide links to available resources.

Tribute to Women

This year we celebrated the 45th anniversary of AKPsi allowing women to join the fraternity!  But did you know, it took several years before the opposition was finally defeated?

In 1972, President Nixon (and AKPsi brother), signed Title IX, which states that no person, on the basis of sex, can be excluded from participation, or denied benefits, under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

A Title IX exemption was introduced and in 1973, the Fraternity Alliance for Inalienable Rights, a 17 member organization which AKPsi was a member, was formed to oppose Title IX for professional fraternities.

During Convention in 1975, Alpha Kappa Psi initiated a fundraiser to combat Title IX, and a write-in campaign to attempt to sway legislators also began. A committee for female membership was created and proposed the Fraternity should bar women due to the Title IX exception legislation.

However, when it became apparent that non-inclusive legislation would not be approved, it was actually the Board of Directors that voted on August 7, 1976, to admit women into the Fraternity.

“Given the exposure we had to the business community-at-large, we could no longer deny women the same right to learn as we had learned.” John Eppinger Jr, Jacksonville ’75 Life

The Fraternity’s growth is directly linked to the admittance of women and makes up roughly half its membership. Women are chapter Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Pledge Educators. They are Chapter Advisors and Regional Directors. In 1985, AKPsi elected the first Female Fraternity Vice President, in 1991, the first Female Foundation Chairman, in 2003, the first Female Fraternity Chairman, and in 2007, finally, the first Female Fraternity President.

 

 

A Mindset of Abundance with Phyllis Ginsberg

In this episode, Desiree and Chrissy take a deep dive into mental health and the importance of positive thoughts while chatting with brain researcher and therapist Phyllis Ginsberg. This touches on anxiety, depression, EFT tapping, and positive psychology. If you’re looking to take a step toward thinking of what’s possible, this is number one.

Phyllis Ginsberg is known and beloved by lots of happier, healthier, and less stressed working professionals as their Survival to Thrival Expert. She’s the author of two books:Brain Makeover – A Weekly Guide to a Happier, Healthier, and More Abundant Life,” andTired and Hungry No More – Not Your Ordinary Guide to Reclaiming Your Health and Happiness.” Her 30 years of experience as a marriage and family therapist, and expertise in positive psychology, brain research, and EFT tapping, give her clients an edge in making lasting, profound changes in their lives. Quickly, they shift their stressful thinking to achieve calm, clarity, and creativity. That means that the quality of their lives and work gets better – often in a moment. 

External Links:

Connect with Phyllis Ginsberg

Website

FREE GUIDE: Cope with Stress and Overwhelm in 5 Minutes or Less

The AKPsi Operations Plan

Dear Brothers,

Re: Academic year 20-21 plans and programs

Introduction

First, we’d like to express our well wishes to you and your families as we all continue to collectively navigate the Covid-19 outbreak.

For the AKPsi volunteer leadership and the professional staff, our challenge has been to determine a path ahead for our fraternity in this uncertainty.  Although this letter is somewhat lengthy, it sets a course for the fall academic term, provides transparency on several aspects, and outlines the resources available to achieve the plan. Several perspectives have been heard throughout the process, including those who represent the management team, the fraternity professional staff, current students, and the fraternity board of directors.

The main concern is our members health and well-being. With the coronavirus situation, there are many campuses being closed, or partially closed, and there will be a significant number of students who decide to forego the semester and wait until the situation starts to normalize.

Related to our focus for this semester, and perhaps the entire school year, AKPsi experience for most students will be virtual.  This will make it difficult for many chapters to keep brothers engaged and potentially impacts many chapters ability to survive.

Especially in times of uncertainly and crisis, it’s an opportunity for local chapters to rely more on the “AKPsi” to provide more resources and programs – to provide local brothers with reasons to stay engaged and to provide local chapter officers with tools for operational continuity. (“AKPsi” in this context is what many may sometimes call “international” or “national.”  “AKPsi” is the whole organization, including the vast network of volunteers and the professional staff.)

In order to better assist local chapters and student brothers, there are several items being rolled out or adjusted for this semester (and perhaps the entire school year):

  1. Brotherhood Unbounded – several programs and events to assist you in getting the most of your AKPsi membership through unique opportunities you can only access through AKPsi.
  2. Chapter Operations Resources
  3. Policy and Procedure Adjustments

The sections below will explain each item in more detail:

  1. Brotherhood Unbounded

AKPsi will be providing several new offerings to students for this academic year, thus reducing the burden on the local student chapter officers to deliver professional development opportunities in an ever-changing environment.

Many of these programs will be focused on the current challenges students are facing — stress management, career planning, time management, and include the following:

  • The Birkman Survey – access to the comprehensive tool utilized by many executive search firms to identify work styles, preferences, team dynamics, and stress behaviors. You will gain insight into the ways you process information, solve problems, manage stress, and work with others.
  • Birkman Small Groups – AKPsi will have dozens of volunteers and staff trained to lead small groups (groups will be based upon your ‘profile.’ (e.g., are you a second-year student looking for an internship, are you a 4th year student soon to be graduated, etc.). Groups will meet virtually but can also meet in-person if permitted.
  • Institute of Business Leadership – a virtual leadership development conference with speakers and panelists. Because the in-person PBLI will not be planned for this year, we will hold two virtual conferences.  The registration fee for these events will be free for dues-paying members.
  • Fraternity-wide virtual keynotes – one-hour Q&A with executives and leaders in business and other professions – the current plan is for these to be monthly events. The registration fee for these events will be free for dues-paying members.
  • The MyAKPsi app — available in the Apple and Google Play stores – provides access to the functions above through any handheld device. (More information on MyAKPsi is below.)
  • Principled Business Leadership Certificates – to be rolled out in MyAKPsi later this year, the certificates will be awarded to members as they achieve milestones along their principled business leadership journey through our Brotherhood Unbounded programs.
  1. Chapter Operations Resources

The Management Team and the professional staff have been working on many tools and resources to assist chapter officers:

  • Virtual Chapter Operations Guide – A comprehensive guide providing student officers with the tools to plan for virtual operations. This guide can be found in the Knowledge Base in MyAKPsi
  • MyAKPsi Groups – Do you want to grow your network? In MyAKPsi, each chapter has a “group” for all members, including alumni and students. This gives generations of AKPsi brothers the opportunity to connect for mentorship, job-related opportunities, etc.
  • Groups also give you the opportunity to contact any AKPsi member (as long as they have registered in MyAKPsi) in any industry in any location in the world.
  • Knowledge Base – A library of professional development and chapter management resources.
  • Volunteer Central – Chapters can find volunteers who are willing to serve as speakers, panelists, judges, etc. Volunteers can sign up to serve in a variety of roles to advise students or other alumni.
  • Events – Local chapter events can now be organized and managed via MyAKPsi, including local chapter meetings (virtual or otherwise).
  • New MyAKPsi app – as mentioned above, this will give additional access to resources and opportunities for networking
  1. Policy, Procedure, and Operational Adjustments

This semester will be a challenge for student brothers and student chapters overall.  In addition to the items mentioned above, a comprehensive review of policies, procedures, and operations has been conducted.  There will be several changes for this term (and perhaps the year):

  • Chapter Minimum Expectations have been changed to reflect the current campus environment and the challenges of coronavirus – the expectations are designed to assist chapters in creating their goals for engagement and sustainability. Resources are provided for the chapters to achieve these goals (see sections above – Virtual Chapter Operations Guide).
  • Flexible payment plans – AKPsi will not charge late fees for chapters for billing through Nov. 30, 2020. This gives the chapters the flexibility to spread out member dues payments over 4 months (Aug-Nov, ~$15-20/month for insurance, dues, fees)
  • LOA-Extreme Hardship – many brothers are struggling financially, so even with the program opportunities coming this fall, there will be those who do not have the time or money to participate. Update your rosters as soon as you can in order to ensure billing is accurate. Please note your RD ask that any requests for LOA-Extreme Hardship include if it is due to Covid-19.
  • The professional fraternity staff costs have been reduced by 20-25% compared to last year, temporarily reducing expenses
  • In-person events and meetings will be substantially decreased, temporarily reducing cost for planning, facility, meal, and travel. This includes PBLI.  We will not plan PBLI for this year.  Instead, the Institute for Business Leadership will provide opportunities for brothers to connect with speakers and panelists in a virtual format.
  • The registration cost for the Institute for Business Leadership and the Virtual keynotes will be free for dues-paying members. Although ‘going virtual’ may imply the events can be conducted without costs, it is still necessary to budget for speaker, staffing, curriculum, & technology costs for these events; therefore, there will be a registration fee for any non-dues paying member.
  • Insurance and related expenses – The HC staff manages several insurance policies for the organization, including policies that protect chapters from embezzlement, provide liability coverage for student chapter officers and volunteers if an incident occurs outside of their control, and several other polices for events, governance, the HC building, and the Member Accident Protection Plan. These coverages must be maintained and managed. The current insurance charge is $30/student (annual), which is paid in the fall. For this year, we have negotiated a reduction of $3/student, which will temporarily lower the cost to $27.
  • Student member dues are currently $60 per semester per person. For the fall semester, member dues will be reduced by 10%, to $54 per person. 
  • The Convention Savings Plan was to be increased to $350 this term. That increase will be suspended for the fall semester. The Plan will remain $250 for fall term.  If the Convention currently planned for August 2021 is postponed, the pool will be suspended entirely for the 2021 winter/spring term.

Overall Fraternity Impact & Outlook

The reduction in dues and fees and the subsequent offering of additional programs and resources represent an investment in you and your chapters. The changes above will result in an overall budget shortfall for the organization of $700,000 for this fiscal year.

This budget also includes a budgeted reduction in pledges of 20% compared to last year.  The overall pledge goal for this year is 6,100 compared to 7,500 in FY20, which heightens the importance of every chapter making a good faith effort to attempt virtual recruitment.

Because local chapter activities will be limited, it’s even more critical for AKPsi to provide the activities and experiences at the fraternity-wide level to provide brothers with the opportunities to continue their principled business leadership journey.

It would help decrease overall budget deficit for the organization if each chapter would make a good faith effort to utilize the Virtual Chapter Operations guide in order to keep AKPsi active on campus and to recruit potential members. 

From a programming and networking perspective, the vast opportunities in AKPsi are not replicated by any other student business organization in the US or beyond.

We are brothers because of our long line of commitment others have shown throughout the years. The challenges of Covid-19 are real, but we will remain the oldest and largest fraternal business network in the world for generations to come. Being part of something bigger than ourselves is what has drawn many of us to AKPsi from the beginning.

Finally, please see below a break-down (in a ‘typical’ year) of dues and fees.  Although the table below accounts for specific items, there are many other general activities dues and fees enable AKPsi to do:

  • To continue developing and delivering new business leadership development opportunities for AKPsi members.
  • To more broadly, through programs and communication, further the tenets of principled business leadership.
  • To maintain the organization as a professional entity with 501c7 non-profit status – legal, fiscal, regulatory.
  • To provide the infrastructure for chapters to be rejuvenated or restarted when circumstances cause a temporary ceasing of operations on a specific campus.
  • To actively manage the AKPsi brand as a symbol of integrity, longevity, and continuity.

Membership Dues and Fees- contributed to AKPsi by members – Cost Breakdown of Dues (student member dues and insurance) in a ‘Typical Year’ (from official audit documents)

The information below provides the percent breakdown of costs and a summary of the cost items in each category.  The categories and costs are examined and validated by an independent auditor, in compliance with the oversight set up by the AKPsi Board of Directions.

(The audit for 2020 (fiscal year) will not be completed until later this year; however, for FY19, the functional expenses were distributed within the following categories.)

Member Dues  $            60
Insurance (only charged in the fall semester)  $            30
Convention Savings Plan*  $              5
Total Dues & Fee per Student Member  $            95
* Convention Savings Plan = $350/semester, Avg Chap Size of 71
Fraternity Expenses Breakdown FY 19 Dues
Member Services
(ex: awards, certificates, membership database and technology – Salesforce, etc)
32.2%  $       30.57
PBLI, PAFAC, and Other Meetings
(ex: meeting space rental, meals, travel, material, A/V, technology-related costs, the Diary, insurance, etc)
32.1%  $       30.47
Volunteer Services
(ex: meeting space rental, meals, travel, material, A/V, curriculum design, technology-related costs, insurance, etc)
10.2%  $         9.68
Education
(ex: training for students, volunteers, & staff, incl. materials, curriculum design, dev., delivery, and assessment, partner fees, etc)
11.1%  $       10.63
Management and General
(ex: accounting, audit, legal, insurance, facilities, technology infrastructure, consultants, agents, CPAs, attorney, etc)
14.4%  $       13.67
Total $3.7M  $       95.02

Overall budget shortfall for the organization of $700,000 for this fiscal year (FY21).

Please feel free to send questions & clarifications for the items above (Brotherhood Unbounded, Chapter Operations, Policy & Procedure Adjustment, or the Fraternity Outlook) to communication@akpsi.org.

Again, thank you for taking the time to read the information above. With Covid-19, we hope you and your families are staying healthy and have been adjusting as well as can be expected at this time. We also hope you will continue to utilize the tools and resources AKPsi provides as a critical part of your personal life and your academic and professional careers.

 

In U – and I –,

 

Steve Hartman

CEO

Thomas Tran

Fraternity President

 

Alpha Kappa Psi Inclusivity Statement

Dear AKPsi Brothers,

As our fraternity celebrates the end of another academic year and the accomplishments of our members and chapters from across the world, there are those also experiencing the tough reality of lives lost to racially motivated violence. Recent incidents across the US have caused feelings of sadness, frustration, hopelessness, and anger throughout our membership and in our wider communities.

Words will not and cannot reconcile these emotions, but at the same time, we do not feel it’s right or just to remain silent. We feel it is important to affirm publicly that all humans have value and that we must stand in solidarity against injustice, racism, and violence at all times, but especially when our fellow brothers and families are suffering.

We must acknowledge and respond to the negative effects which injustice, racism and violence have on our organization, on our brothers, on our families, and on society as a whole.  In AKPsi, we aspire to be principled business leaders. In order to be true to our values – brotherhood, integrity, unity, knowledge, service – we must find ways to enact those values at this critical time.

To this end, we are organizing a task force to develop a plan of action for our fraternity to be a model of inclusivity and equality. By doing so, we will aim to be a model for other organizations who aspire to spurn injustice, discrimination in any of its many forms, and violence.  The work will begin immediately and the initial draft plan of action will be released within the next 30 days.

We understand our words and our call to action may not lessen the current emotions; however, we are committed to taking the first step toward long-term change in our organization on behalf of our members and beyond.

If you are interested in sitting on the task force or being kept up to date on progress being made, please sign into the MyAKPsi Community and apply through Volunteer Central (https://akpsi.force.com/myAKPsi/s/volunteer-central). Please choose the preferred vacancy “Inclusivity, Equality and Diversity Taskforce member” and complete the information requested. You can mark the “I am interested in learning and leadership development positions” checkbox of Special Interest Project.