Melissa Lopez Of Onyx Offsites & Trainings On 5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees
An Interview With David Liu
Team building activities and events. Team building offers an opportunity for businesses to train their teams, allowing them to grow as individuals and within the organization. This is both a personal and professional strategy as employees who feel they have growth opportunities at work will remain engaged and stay with the company for longer periods. These activities often provide an opportunity for employees to develop a feeling of trust and support with their team outside of day-to-day tasks, leading them to feel happier and more secure at work.
As a part of my series about the “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Lopez.
Melissa Lopez currently serves as the CEO of Positive Adventures and CEO and Co-Founder of Onyx Offsites & Trainings. Since joining the team in February 2020, her background expertise in the digital space, as well as her executive leadership skills have proved crucial, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lopez was able to successfully pivot the company’s team-building programs into the virtual space, and within less than two months, Positive Adventures was successfully offering virtual team building and training programs on a global basis to corporations and schools. It was during this time that Lopez, alongside the executive team, recognized the need to adjust to accommodate a new set of challenges for the global workforce, creating the launching pad for Onyx, a new company that elevated Positive Adventure’s existing portfolio of programs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Right after graduating from the University of San Diego, I dove head-first into the advertising field. I worked my way up from an entry-level account position all the way up to VP of Client Services. I then spent some time running several different marketing and advertising firms, when it dawned on me that there were so many inefficiencies at all of these agencies that I would never truly be able to remedy without being on the ground floor of the organization. So, a couple of colleagues and I left to form our own digital media firm in 2013, Katana.
It was in this venture that I truly felt I was establishing a clear vision of how I wanted to operate as a leader. My business partners and I built our agency from the ground up into a multi-million-dollar success with no financial backing. In early 2019, we decided to sell to a private equity firm. With the experience of developing a successful business from scratch under our belts, we knew we were ready to take our skills outside of the agency space to pursue the individual dreams and aspirations we all had.
I wanted to take a step back after the sale and invest some time into my family. For years I had felt like I was running on empty in an attempt to create success for myself, and it was only when I allowed myself to slow down that I realized I didn’t have to be running myself ragged to achieve that. Moving forward, I wanted my career to providing me with a greater sense of purpose. I wanted to contribute to my community and humanity, waking up every morning feeling appreciative and knowing that I am providing some sort of positive outcome to others.
It wasn’t until my friend, Ryan Shortill, approached me with an opportunity to help scale and breathe new life into his company, Positive Adventures that I knew I was ready and this was the next challenge I would take on.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I think the most impactful experience in my life since I started my career was my journey to find balance as an executive. Specifically, I needed to create a space where I could recognize my impact and success in business while allowing myself the opportunity to become a mother. This journey wasn’t what I had dreamed it would be. In fact, it was plagued with several years of lost pregnancies, a lot of pain and struggling and a tremendous sense of reevaluating my purpose in life. I finally allowed my guard to be let down and through the pain of those losses I accepted vulnerability into my life. I had to rebuild my confidence and stamina and work daily not to allow myself to take on a victim mentality or to feel like a “failure.” For three years as I struggled with loss and hardship, I continued to put on a brave face in my professional life until I finally recognized that part of my healing had to be allowing myself to feel vulnerable. Fast forward, and I am now the proud mom of two amazing boys, ages 10 and 13. In retrospect, I applaud myself for my strength to fight through adversity, conflict and pain and never give up on my dream of becoming a mother. Even more so, I’m proud that I could still succeed as a businesswoman and amazing mom at the same time!
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Burnout is inevitable, even if you’re spending every day doing what you love. What’s important is recognizing when you’re approaching that threshold and taking a step back to take care of yourself when you are. Leaders must prioritize their mental well-being just as much as they hope to prioritize their team’s.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
To truly thrive, it is vital that companies focus on meaningful and sustained change. As we continue to encounter changes to the corporate landscape and disruptions to the corporate “normal,” leaders should seize these opportunities to redirect their focus on their employees’ wellbeing and happiness.
Successful employees feel connected to their team and looked after by their employers. Leaders can cultivate these feelings through activities that encourage communication and care. Creating a culture of teamwork and support can help employees feel healthy and happy, allowing them to inherently deliver a higher level of performance than if they were to feel disengaged. Leaders should look to focus on a unique approach to corporate wellness that prioritizes bringing their staff back together and this will continually increase employee engagement as we shape this new era of work.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
This quote has always stuck with me:
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
We all hit low points, valleys in our lives, and it is during those moments that we begin searching for a better sense of fulfillment and are willing to take risks. These are the times that we look to change our mindsets and become emotionally, physically and mentally better human beings. This rang true for me when I realized I wanted to create my own path forward, professionally. In my dream of having my own business, I allowed my inner passion of becoming an entrepreneur to come out. I tested my wings to see if I could fly, and I did!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Team building activities and events.
Team building offers an opportunity for businesses to train their teams, allowing them to grow as individuals and within the organization. This is both a personal and professional strategy as employees who feel they have growth opportunities at work will remain engaged and stay with the company for longer periods. These activities often provide an opportunity for employees to develop a feeling of trust and support with their team outside of day-to-day tasks, leading them to feel happier and more secure at work.
2. Development and training opportunities.
Similar to teambuilding activities, development opportunities do work as a professional strategy as employers can help their team learn, grow and become more productive. However, development opportunities also provide immense benefit to the individual employee, as they offer ways for team members to gain new skills and stimulate the need to continue learning and growing through life.
3. Flexible schedules and work environments.
Giving employees freedom, purpose and autonomy creates a healthier, more productive work environment for both leaders and their staff. Walking away from the rigid structure of the traditional workday and office environment can provide employees the opportunity to work around their schedule and needs, allowing them to live a more balanced, fulfilled life and ultimately leading to higher productivity overall.
4. The integration of mental health as a factor in overall health.
Recognition that time to nurture one’s mental health is just as important as resting up when recovering from the flu has been a long process. Employers who want to support their team’s mental wellness should actively work to break down the stigmas around discussing mental health needs and prioritizing taking the time they need for their mental health.
5. Renewed importance on employee engagement.
Employees who feel engaged in their workplace and connected to their team are happier, healthier and more productive. The businesses that get it right moving forward will focus on taking care of their teams through initiatives that foster engagement and connectivity.
These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?
Leaders need to remember that it is simply within their best interest to prioritize their employees’ mental wellness. If a work environment is draining an individual and is not providing opportunities for growth and connection, not only will they lack productivity, but they simply will not stick around. The new normal requires an investment in people and an awareness of people’s needs in order to retain and develop talent.
From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious or having other mental health issues? Can you explain?
As an individual, all we can do is stay connected with the people around us and pay attention to the way they’re feeling. Achieving mental wellness is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and many services, initiatives or activities won’t work for some while they’ll work wonders for others. When it comes to the mental health of those around me, I do my best to listen and offer my help when I can, but I also know when to recommend help outside of myself. Part of breaking down the stigma around mental health is not just talking openly about it, but also removing the shame that may come with seeking help.
This might seem intuitive to you, but it will be helpful to spell it out. Can you help articulate a few ways how workplaces will benefit when they pay attention to an employee’s mental health?
Happy and engaged employees are simply more productive employees. One of the easiest ways to maximize your ROI is to create a work environment that leaves your team feeling invigorated and excited about what they’re doing. This will also help you retain talent and avoid the unnecessary time and expense of a non-stop hiring process.
Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?
I practice inward and outward breathing and meditation exercises regularly. This isn’t something I necessarily do every day, but every time I am preparing myself to go into an important meeting, situation or moment that requires my full focus, attention and control. It helps me tremendously in both my professional and personal lives. These practices allow me to recollect my thoughts, focus on entering a situation with a clear head and solutions-focused mindset and avoid saying things I may later regret.
I work in the communications industry, so I’m particularly interested in this question. As you know, there are a variety of communication tools such as video conferencing, phone, text, and push-to-talk. What changes or improvements would you suggest for these technologies to help foster better mental health?
I feel we have all become too reliant upon texting, emailing and instant messaging. We have lost focus on the value of over-the-phone or face-to-face conversations. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly added to this already challenging phenomenon that has catapulted our society into the mindset of “write it out” instead of “talk it out.” Wouldn’t it be awesome if the technology we used had more prompting to jump into a video or in-person chat? It is often easier to hide behind technology rather than using our communication skills in personal interactions to solve problems, ideate and build stronger, longer lasting relationships with others.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Given the state of our world today, I would love to find a way to bring solidarity and peace amidst the chaos of war taking place in Ukraine. Everyone wishes for world peace, I know, but perhaps we could bring about some sort of opportunity to focus on children in care homes in Ukraine that have been waiting to be adopted by U.S. citizens. Those children are currently trapped in Ukraine and there are citizens here that desperately want to provide them with safe and secure homes in the United States. What can we do to make this happen?
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
You can learn more about Onyx at onyxteams.com. Also, feel free to follow our social channels where we are continuously sharing our client program experiences, our team highlights and much more:
Facebook: Onyx Teams (@onyxteamsca) https://www.facebook.com/onyxteamsca
My Personal LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissajaycoxlopez/
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!