May Day is coming!

What’s “May Day”?  May Day might just have more meanings to people around the world than any other holiday of the year. It’s a celebration of Spring. It has been a day of political protests, a neopagan festival, a saint’s feast day, and a day for organized labor. In many countries, it’s a national holiday. There have been poems written about May Day, traditions surrounding May Day with May Day baskets, flowers and cards. People will evencombine the words Mayday to signal distress oremergencies.

However, if you work at Aspire, you may think of something else altogether when you think about May Day. For all of our new staff members at Aspire, May Day constitutes an afternoon of a lot of creative fun and food that is all about celebrating who we are and what we do. It’s a day we celebrate each other. We celebrate work anniversaries and we honor our staff memberswho go above and beyond every day to serve our consumers and one another.  

 I remember the first Aspire May Day I attended. It was the day that I began to see how our newly-merged company was really coming together. We began to see ourselves as more than just “former CMH” people or “former BehaviorCorp” people. We all came together on a hot, sunny day at the farm. It was there that I met coworkers from Willowbrook, Carmel and Noblesville whose name I had only heard before, so it was really nice to start to put names and faces together. We had a real outdoor barbecue that day. Our plates were piled high with corn on the cob, barbecue chicken and desserts! People were square-dancing and we saw skits that made everyone laugh. Barbara Scott inspired us with her new American Sign Language (ASL) skills.  Five years later, she is proficient in communicating in another language and now, ASL has just become a part of the Aspire culture.

Other memorable May Day events featured staff members who are really talented. Our Aspire Medical Records team, for example, has given us some truly memorable jingles during their skits! And let’s not forget the costumes! Each May Day a loyal committee puts together a theme for our Aspire May Day celebration and we can dress according to our theme. Last year, we were movie stars who strutted down the red carpet with photographers flashing their cameras at us. I can hardly wait to see what this year’s theme is going to be!  

All in all, an Aspire May Day is just an afternoon on a Friday before a holiday weekend that we can take time to appreciate, laugh, and celebrate who we are as an agency. We have jobs that can be complicated and serious at times and there are days when we may feel discouraged, but when May Day arrives, for a few hours we can just relax and enjoy being together for no other reason than to eat, play and have fun.

I really hope to see you there!

LOL in the Workplace?

The number of change efforts Aspire is currently undergoing is unprecedented! There seems to be nothing left untouched by our disruptive innovation. Every facility, every department, every service, every staff member is feeling the stress of change on top of already very difficult jobs!

On a daily basis direct service staff witness all social ills such as: domestic violence, trauma, addiction, mental illness, poverty, discrimination, suicide, abuse, neglect, crime, bullying, homelessness, and infectious disease. Community-based staff do this while driving 760,000 miles a year!

Support staff work diligently to run the business operations of a not-for-profit that has huge administrative burdens from insurers, payers, state and federal programs, accreditation bodies, grants, contracts, legal counsel, etc.  

Our management staff are expected to function as summa cum laude MBA graduates understanding budgeting, marketing, HR, accounting, finance, facilities, and operations as well as serving as coaches to their large teams.  Clinical DMS are also expected to provide state-of-the-art evidence-based practices and provide outstanding customer service while making sure our consumers are getting better.

Our communities are drowning in heroin and opioid addiction at levels never seen before, which is taxing our intake and treatment programs.  Our physicians are being faced with the reality of offering medication assisted addictions treatment with medications that are dangerous, highly misused and controversial.

The Aspire workplace culture can be compared to that of the 1970s TV show, M.A.S.H., where military personnel of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital cared for the injured during the Korean War and used humor to escape from the horror and depression of the situation.  Our staff including physicians, nurses, clinical staff, residential, community, management and support staff are on the ‘front lines’ every day.  Just like the show, we are sometimes working in deplorable conditions.  We are constantly understaffed, underfunded and under the threat of ‘incoming’ 24 hours a day.  As Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) stated, “Joking about it is the only way of opening my mouth without screaming.”

I cherish the humor in our Aspire culture.  We have an undying need to laugh together, at ourselves and at each other.  I often tell new hires that if you’re not being made fun of around here, you kind of feel left out.  Laughing out loud at oneself is a social equalizer and a quick way to get people to join in!  I have succeeded in being equals when a staff member or a consumer can tease me out loud, in public!

I encourage all of us to lighten up!  Become a bit irreverent at times!  Make fun of yourself!  Laugh out loud! Giggle!  Laugh with abandon! Snort!  Laugh til you cry!  Have a rip roarin’ time and a full belly roar!  Do this not to minimize the hard work that you do; do this to survive the hard work that you do!

As one of theAspire Value Statements reads, laughter is truly the best medicine!  Now, go…have yourself a good laugh!

About the Author: Barbara Scott is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Aspire Indiana. Learn more about Aspire Indiana on Facebook.