Effective working relationships are paramount to business and personal success. So, what makes for building, achieving, and maintaining effectual working interactions and partnerships? After analyzing published material from professionals, experts, and authorities on the topic, we discovered that mental and physical health is the primary factor.

The Marriage of Mental and Physical Health

If anyone claims that mental health does not affect physical health (and vice versa), it would certainly require serious challenging. Basically, it’s impossible to separate the body from the mind. When mental health suffers, so does the body. Conversely, the good news is that when we nurture physical or mental health, the other improves and thrives as well.
Mental and physical health go hand-in-hand. In their mission, the World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing. For the purpose of our case study, we can consider the marriage of mental and physical health as one entity—one factor. It is one factor and the primary factor that helps create and establish effective working relationships.

Characteristics of an Effective Working Relationship

In this analysis, we are focusing on the crucial presence of positive mental and physical health in order for relationships at work to be their most effective. While we’re examining these important factors, it would also behoove us to understand that these are essential elements for any well-functioning relationship. This would include relationships with coworkers, bosses, clients, and customers, but also family, friends, and romantic partners.
Here is a compilation of several characteristics necessary to an effective relationship:

  • Trust is essential for honesty and quality. Each individual needs to be able to openly discuss strengths and weaknesses. Everyone needs to be receptive to information in order to learn and grow.
  • First and foremost, respect yourself. Coworkers need to respect one another. Entrepreneur mentor, Martin Zwilling, remarks that in business, there needs to be “respect for every customer, investor, and employee.”
  • Exchange ideas. Ask for feedback on your work or ideas. Employ trust and respect and be willing to change how tasks are handled. Offer constructive criticism.
  • Again, this is taking verbal or physical action keeping in mind others with whom you are working. It also requires that you tend to specific tasks at hand with presence; take care not to run on autopilot.
  • Task-related and social-oriented relationships do not need to be mutually exclusive. Finding enjoyable common ground (aside from work at hand) can enhance the overall relationship.
  • Effective Communication. Knowing when and how to communicate is imperative. Some discussions can be brief messages, while others should be face-to-face. Choosing an appropriate time and venue is important to healthy communication and interactions.

These characteristics, when utilized in the workplace, allow for efficient working relationships. However, achieving success utilizing these traits requires one more element. That key element is mental and physical health.

Up for the Mental Challenge?

Working relationships cannot be fully effective if one’s mental state is compromised. Once more, we need to revisit the natural connection between the body and the mind. If one is faltering, the other is sure to be negatively impacted as well.
One example of the link between mental and physical states was observed in a study conducted at Bangor University in Wales. Researchers discovered that a mentally tiring task actually affected the participants’ physical performance. It wasn’t that their bodies were actually fatigued; it was that their brains automatically perceived the physical activity to be tiring.
We’ve been pretty versed on how our physical behavior can affect our overall health. For example, lack of proper diet and/or exercise increases one’s risk of:

  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease or incidence
  • High blood pressure
  • Some types of cancer
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Fatigue

These are only a few cases in point. Many people who struggle with health problems can also struggle with social situations. FamilyDoctor.org claims that many with mental health illnesses are twice as likely to avoid social interaction. With this type of statistic, it would seem that an effective working relationship would be difficult to achieve.
Taking care of our bodies can help improve the strength of our minds.

Mind Over Chatter

Our emotional lives play a tremendous role in our mental health as well. If we are upbeat and positive, we can motivate others to feel good and perform well. Creating and practicing healthy daily habits can help keep our minds happy and clear. This would certainly facilitate obtaining a productive working relationship.
On the flip side, poor mental health can lead to:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Addictive behaviors
  • Weakened immune system
  • Asthma
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Premature death

Other symptoms of waning mental health can be: chest pain, heart palpitations, extreme tiredness, loss of libido, noticeable weight gain or loss, and trouble sleeping
None of the above symptoms seem conducive to forging any type of healthy relationship. But, fret not. There are tried and true ways to improve mental health. Some of them are:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. Recognize the emotions you are experiencing and try to figure out why they are with you. Are you able to understand the source?
  • Talk to someone. Express your thoughts about your feelings to a friend, family member, counselor, or other trustworthy, supportive ear. It’s important to seek help sometimes; there is no shame—it is brave.
  • Practice gratitude. Think about the things in life you feel grateful for, no matter the size or quantity. Relinquish worrisome thoughts and focus on more positive ones.
  • Make time for yourself. Create more balance. Replace one stressful thing with something else that relaxes you—something you enjoy.
  • Practice coping skills. Explore new strategies on how to feel better when you become emotionally stressed and strained. Find a group, a therapist, a new hobby, and adopt a promise to choose a positive perspective.
  • Calm your mind. You can achieve this usually doing something creative. Perhaps try: writing, drawing, painting, playing music, or imagining yourself in a fabulous, relaxing setting. There’s also always meditation.

Working a Health Plan

In order to achieve the status of an effective working relationship, there are practical steps everyone involved must take. As we are continuing to discover, the primary concentration is on getting mental and physical health in its best shape. Psychiatrist Anne Marie Oberheu explains that this process requires more than just taking care of the mind.
Your mind and body both require attention and care in order to improve physical and mental health. Suggestions from many experts include:
Eating a Healthy Diet. Anxiety and depression have been linked to a poor diet. Some unhealthy foods include: processed meats, sugar, corn syrup, and bad fats. These foods cause inflammation in the body (joints, muscles, and organs) and in the brain. One cannot expect to think clearly when his/her brain is inflamed and foggy.
Foods rich in Omega-3s, good fats, whole grains, organic lean meats, fruits, and vegetables nourish the body without adding toxins. Some examples of these foods are: fresh berries, avocados, coconut oil, quinoa, salmon, broccoli, spinach, walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
Exercising Regularly. Try and think of exercise as something you build naturally into your day. Aerobic exercise certainly has its benefits on your heart. Weight training is great for your bones. Yoga is amazing for your focus, calm mind, and flexibility.
Regardless of the exercise you choose, it will come with benefits that keep giving. Your metabolism will boost from any type of cardiovascular movement you engage in—whether it be running, cycling, dancing, or even having sex. Your mood will improve from chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that release with a bit of a workout. Look at the world like a big playground or gym. There’s always a way and a place to move your body.
Dr. Felipe Barreto Schuch, an exercise scientist and co-author on a publication in Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, had this to say: “People need to be active to improve their mental health.”
Sleeping Regularly. Sleep is a necessity, but good, regular sleep is a health luxury not worth cheating yourself out of. Many adults brag about how well they can function on six or less hours of sleep per night. They may seem functional, but internal damage is being done, and they are not delivering their best performance.
Adults are recommended seven or more hours of continuous sleep per night. Dr. Brandon Peters writes, “Sleep deprivation may result in decreased alertness, excessive daytime sleepiness, compromised daytime abilities…” How can a person do his/her share in a working relationship if he/she is experiencing any of those symptoms?
Setting a strict bedtime is the number one suggestion. Make your bed and the environment a comfortable place to fall asleep. Peaceful lighting, music, and pleasurable reading before bed can help relax the mind. Meditation and clearing your head of worries and woes of yesterday and tomorrow can help you get the sweet rest your mind and body needs.
Socializing. Surround yourself or visit with those who lift your spirits. Become part of a like-minded or personal support group. Being active with others can create a mutual sense of motivation of encouragement.
Psychologist and author, Angela Troyer explains that there is accumulating evidence that socializing is advantageous to brain health. Combining physical activities with mental stimulation can be a bonus. Some suggestions are:

  • Visiting a museum with a friend
  • Gardening or garage cleaning with a neighbor or friend
  • Joining a local walking/hiking/biking group
  • Join or organize a card or board game night
  • Walk, swim, or go to the gym with a friend

Participating in any of these activities with a coworker or anyone in the circle of your working realm can be a positive relationship builder as well.

Physical and Mental Health: The Essential Puzzle Piece

If creating and maintaining effective working relationships is the goal, then, again, prime physical and mental health (as a united entity) is a primary factor.
Ultimately, we all want positive and productive experiences and results from our working relationships. Our jobs are far more enjoyable when we have good relationships with others with whom we interact. A Gallup study of the American workplace revealed that close work friendships boost satisfaction by 50%. “Those with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.”
The experts at MindTools.com, a management and leadership training program, offers some valuable insights as well as tips for applying some of the positive elements we’ve covered in this case study. We are reminded that good relationships allow us time to focus on opportunities. Instead of spending energy on overcoming factors in negative relationships, we have the freedom to progress forward in a positive fashion.
Also, as mentioned in the characteristics of effective working relationships, trust and collaboration are essential. In a healthy relationship, with these elements present, individuals are more creative and innovative. They are also more likely to go along with changes.
Developing people skills are possible when good mental and physical health are in order. Getting along with others is a learned skill. It’s a fact that not everyone is for everyone. If there’s someone who you don’t get along with, find a way to maintain a pleasant working experience. Make an effort to get to know the person—and try not to be too guarded. Let trust enter the relationship.
Last, but certainly not least, let positivity reign. Positive people and energy are contagious. With a healthy mind and body, positivity can rule. And with those in place, effective working relationships can be created and thrive.