Movember in the Workplacesuzette
We are almost at the end of the month of November which may seem quite unbelievable for most. “Where has this year gone?” is something we tend to ask ourselves annually when we reach this point of the year. While we all prepare for the year-end rush and festivities, let us not forget the present moment. You may have been seeing a strange increase in the number of interesting-looking beards and moustaches and wondered what is happening. Perhaps you asked and received a “It’s Movember” kind of response, without knowing what that meant. We hear it and see it every year, but do we actually know the meaning behind “Movember”?
WHAT EXACTLY IS MOVEMBER?
“Movember” is a charity that was founded in Australia in 2003, which is centered around calling attention to men’s physical and mental health. “Movember” commenced as a means to bring awareness and discourse to testicular and prostate cancer, and has since expanded to include overall men’s mental health. The movement attempts to challenge existing stereotypes surrounding men’s health, and promotes men enjoying healthier, happier and longer lives by addressing key health issues men frequently experience, oftentimes silently. Getting involved in “Movember” is not just about showing off some great facial hair, but there is also the financial side of things, where participants and organisations wanting to get involved can make donations to the movement. Through the “Movember” movement, funding is raised for cancer research as well as mental health support programmes. More information about fundraising and the activities to raise awareness can be found on the “Movember” website.
The “Movember” movement highlights the importance of continuing to encourage open communication about men’s health issues. Through a societal history of pressure placed on men to be stoic and traditionally masculine, there has been a tendency for men to not pay much attention to their own health, which has been demonstrated by statistics. Traditionally, in many societies and cultures, men are expected to be strong, aggressive, resilient, unemotional, independent, in control, self-sufficient and successful, all while maintaining jobs that can sustain their families and meet societal expectations. A study conducted in 2021 demonstrated that only 47% of men had routine medical check-ups within the previous 12 months.
As per the objectives of “Movember”, their aim is to promote routine medical check-ups for men as a means to prevent (or result in early identification and treatment of) prostate and testicular cancer, which impact approximately 7% of men. Secondly, the movement encourages open and continuous discourse about men’s mental health issues. Since there is still a high stigma surrounding mental health issues, especially for men, there remains a reluctance to seek treatment, resulting in further health complications and symptoms such as increased stress, burnout, mental and physical fatigue, anxiety, depression, etc.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE WORKPLACE?
Dealing with both physical and mental health issues alone or in secret can be extremely challenging for an individual. The issues people are faced with on a daily basis can be rather isolating and there can be a tendency for people to feel as though they are facing their struggles alone due to a perceived lack of support. Physical and mental health struggles are tough enough to deal with on their own, however, people are still expected to be model employees and contribute to the workplace significantly. The stress and expectations of the workplace and one’s job can sometimes exacerbate these struggles which the everyday person, who may not have the resources or tools to deal with it appropriately, faces daily.
Organisational support need not always be overt or financial in means. Merely having someone to listen, engage and share stories with can make a world of a difference to someone going through personal struggles. Decades of psychological research on burnout demonstrates that not dealing with and managing one’s personal struggles in an appropriate and timely manner, can result in job dissatisfaction, high instances of absenteeism, tardiness, presenteeism, workplace injuries, reduced job and task engagement, increased physical and mental co-morbidities, elevated turnover rates and especially important (with regard to the purpose of “Movember”), increased instances of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.
With the above in mind, it becomes pertinent for organisations to support causes such as these that actively promote the improvement of people’s health. It is always mentioned that employees are an organisation’s biggest asset, but do employers do enough to take care of these assets? Are employees living healthy lives, both inside and outside of the workplace? The implications thereof can be seen in employees’ engagement, motivation levels and overall work performance.
The impact of participating in “Movember” could include:
• Bringing people together and sharing stories.
• Starting sensitive, yet necessary discourse surrounding such topics that are vital for individual and organisational health.
• Gaining a deeper understanding, knowledge and appreciation for each employee, and their physical and mental struggles.
• Understanding and reducing the guilt and shame surrounding men experiencing mental health issues.
• Encouraging better health and regular physical check-ups to aid in early identification and treatment of such illnesses.
• Demonstrating to employees that their organisation and colleagues care for and support them.
• Engaging in corporate social responsibility and investment opportunities by giving back to aid organisations raising money to support the cause.
Participants of “Movember” are challenged to grow out their moustache (and/or facial hair) for the month of November to stand in solidarity and show support for men’s health issues. Participating in “Movember” need not only center around men not shaving their facial hair as this may not be practical for all organisations, given various factors such as the need to wear Personal Protective Equipment. However, it does not mean that other activities cannot be scheduled in an effort to promote the cause for which the movement was established.
Perhaps “Movember” is not a workplace practice or something that your organisation can currently support, however, there may be individual employees supporting the cause. In this case, it may be beneficial to relax existing policies on shaving facial hair temporarily in November, as it ultimately supports a good cause. While we understand that not everyone is comfortable or equipped to deal with discussing sensitive and private matters with employees, we advocate for employers to always exercise compassion towards their employees in this regard. If you’re not sure what to say or ask, here are a few conversation starters:
• What does your sleeping pattern look like? Have you been getting enough “deep sleep”?
• What do you do during your downtime?
• Are you consuming a balanced diet?
• Have you been able to exercise or engage in a physical activity this week?
• Have you scheduled / had a medical check-up?
• Do you feel overwhelmed at work?
• Is your workload too much?
• What can the company and your colleagues do to support you?
Employers are also encouraged to make available resources or avenues, such as health screening, discussion forums, hosting awareness workshops or support groups, or access to a workplace counsellor, to aid in the continuous discourse surrounding such matters. It is important to bear in mind that one never knows the challenges that others are facing, therefore, it is always important to take some time to encourage this kind of communication and promote supportive efforts within your organisation. Like every organisational matter, taking care of your employees starts and ends with effective communication. Take some time to review your organisational policies surrounding health and well-being, specifically in terms of employee health screening, discussion forums, the kind of support made available to employees, leave provisions and awareness campaigns.
Article written by Keilah Paul