First Aid for Mental Health Education

#42 Powered by Human Connection – Joel Ramirez, Founder, Wiise / Financials for Office 365 (s02ep18)

Oct 7, 2022

Joel Ramirez has always been an entrepreneur. As a very young boy, he found himself needing to contribute financially to the family after they immigrated to Australia from the Philippines and couldn't find work. At the age of 21 he stated his first IT business, then went on to co-found Wiise, a tech company which he sold to KPMG in 2018. He was also awarded the Young Entrepreneur of Year Award for his region. Joel recognises that while a business has to make money and reach goals, it also needs to look after its employees whole being, and he breaks this down into four pillars for us.
" What's important for employees in the workplace is a better relationship with my colleagues and a better relationship with my manager. Feeling valued, feeling heard, feeling acknowledged, feeling supported. If you do all of those things, people will work above and beyond, you don't even need to tell them."
- Joel Ramirez


  • Joel’s 4 pillars of Care in the Workplace.
  • Using resilience that he learned from his Father to help manage the bigger picture in his life.
  • The differences between growing up in a “Collective Society” vs. an “Individualistic Society”.
  • How you go about creating the right culture in business. How to move from being a transactional leader to a relational leader.


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Transcript from the interview

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Graeme Cowan, Joel Ramirez

Graeme Cowan 0:04 

It’s a real pleasure to welcome Joel Ramirez to The Caring CEO. Welcome, Joel.

Joel Ramirez 0:12 

Hello, Graeme. Thanks for having me. How are you?

Graeme Cowan 0:15 

Very well, thank you. Very well, thank you, Joel. It’s been a while since we shared a coffee. But we must do it again soon. 

Joel Ramirez 0:21 

I do miss that. Yes. Thanks for having me. 

Graeme Cowan 0:24 

My pleasure. Joel, what does care in the workplace mean to you? 

Joel Ramirez 0:31 

Good question. I think care in the workplace is multi-faceted. I believe that care happens when the individual’s whole being needs are being looked after. And, and I would describe it in four pillars. The first pillar, I believe is Financial Health, we have to remunerate people at the right jobs. And provide financial assistance where we can if we have employees who are going through a crisis. So, the second one is around Mental Health. Obviously, as a caring organization, we need to provide a psychologically safe and healthy environment for our peers and for our employees. And also access to those mental health services that people might need along the journey. The third pillar is Physical Health. And that could be providing people with discounts at certain health and gym studios or providing access to exercise programs that happen in the workplace. But I think the fourth pillar for me, which I find to be non-existence. In a lot of organizations, or even in corporate organized organizations, where I’ve come from, is around Social Health and Well-being and I think it’s a topic that has been shone a light on ever since COVID happened when employees, all of a sudden, were in lockdown, and people had to work from home. And all of a sudden, they lose that connection with others, especially for solo dwellers. So, I think caring about our employees is multi-faceted. But I think financial is a given, psychological health and safety is given, encouraging people to exercise is given. But I think now with what’s happening around the world with as a result of the pandemic, that’s come around is how do we socially prescribe to our people, so that they feel reconnected and engaged once again?

Graeme Cowan 3:11 

Yeah, so recently, it was a study by Deloitte, and they were looking at the C-Suites perspective of, of well-being and mental health and the employees. An interesting thing is they looked at four different dimensions of health, very similar to yours. But in every one of the four examples, the C-Suite, very much overestimated the well-being their employees, and probably the biggest difference was in financial health. You know, we’re the C-Suite thought that everything was great. And it wasn’t so that, you know, multifaceted approach you’re talking about? It really makes sense. But, you know, we also have to make money. So how do we, how do we have that balance between, you know, taking people, taking care of people and also performing?

Joel Ramirez 4:13 

Yes, you’re right. At the end of the day, the business has to make money and while providing a psychologically healthy environment, you still need to set clear responsibilities and mutually agreeing on things like KPIs and goals and holding people accountable to their jobs. That’s– you know, ultimately, that’s what people are hired for. And unfortunately, I think, I think a lot of people these days, thanks to, you know, COVID are beginning to reassess their lives. As a result of the pandemic, because you know, this whole time it was all about, it’s all about hitting those numbers and hitting those, those company goals. And then finally realizing, well, that’s only an element of my life, you know, there’s got to be something bigger than just the company’s goals, there’s got to be something else that we can cling on to. Whatever that is maybe a vision or a mission that’s, that’s more than just about doubling numbers each year.

Graeme Cowan 5:32 

Yeah, very much so. And I think people are very much looking for a purpose, looking for meaningful work. And I think that’s a, that’s a very, very good thing. We work better when we do believe in what we’re doing. We feel we’re making a difference. It’s, it’s a very, it’s an important element. Joel, you have a interesting life. You grew up in the Philippines. Would you mind just giving our listeners a quick overview of, you know, growing up there, coming to Australia, and an overview of your career today.

Joel Ramirez 6:08 

Yes, sure. So, I grew up in the Philippines, my family decided to move to Australia when I was 10, I had– I have a dad, who was, he was a barrister in the Philippines, he was one of five barristers in his family. And then we arrived in Australia, and all of a sudden, they couldn’t get jobs. So, my parents went on the dole– and so from a very young age, from the age of 11, I had no choice but to help the family and work in factories, actually, you know, my first job was, in very early teenage years was working for a Jewish Fish Factory. And, you know, you would be cutting, cutting the hearings into the jars and put the labels on them and, you know, goes to places like I think calls and whatever was the thing that, you know, the– which shopping centers were available at the time. And then, so that was my teenage years, you know, I was going to school. While I was working to help the family. And then at the age of 21, I had my first IT business, set up my ABN and, you know, so that was good for a while. And then at the age of 29, I was a co-founding member of, of a company, which is now publicly listed with 50 employees. And then at the age of 34, I co-founded a tech business, now called So that’s W-I-I-S-E which we sold to KPMG. In 2018. At the age of 35, I won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for my region. And then at 38, I started to write a book. And yes, by the age of 42, I finally became an author. And the book was really written around mental health and loneliness, which I’m happy to share more about with you.

Graeme Cowan 8:24 

You’ve raised so many interesting points there, Joel. I’d like to explore if ever. It must have been hard coming to Australia and have your dad to be the barrister. And then not being able to practice. What, what was like coming to terms with that, it must be difficult for your father.

Joel Ramirez 8:46 

That was, that was very, that was very difficult for the entire family coming into that realization, knowing that you have a wife and three child children, you know, it’s funny, I’m 43 years old now and I think my dad was 42 when he arrived in Australia, you know, he’s, uh, he’s a guy of many talents and, and I respect him a lot. But what it has done is if you think about it, when you are uprooted from one place and move to a new place, if that’s not cultivated, you’re like a plant. And, and without the support structure, without that stability, it’s not easy and in fact, as I outlined in my book, my mom went through severe depression. And it was difficult for us kids and you know, for someone like me who was never went through hardship before, to all of a sudden having to work to help the family, the, it became really complicated to the point where, you know, I would go to school and not wanting to come home because I was afraid of what mom would be like when I got home. And meanwhile, my dad was trying to keep the whole family together and making sure that we’re– no matter what happens, we’re a single unit, and he, you know, I believe he’s achieved that today, actually. And that shows a lot about the person when you go through a lot of struggles, it really shows what kind of person might come out. And thankfully, he had– he was stable. And he had self-regulation. And you know, he was– he’s a man of faith. And I think that carried him through to be quite honest.

Graeme Cowan 10:47 

What, what real lessons, leadership lessons did you learn from your dad?

Joel Ramirez 10:54 

Talking about my dad. Yes. Well, as I mentioned, you know, when we arrived in Australia, I felt people look down on him. On my dad’s. You know, this, this guy was highly decorated man, highly respected family that he’s come from. And so, you know, I asked him, Dad, why do you allow people to do that to you? You know, you were– you had a great job, you’re a barrister, you know, you’re, you get elected as president, everywhere you go. And whether it’s an institution or a group or a community place, because you’re a leader. And, and I remember it to this day, and he said, he looked at me, and he said, you know, Joel, I don’t really worry, I don’t, I don’t have time to worry about what people think of me, or the clothes I wear, or how much money I make or don’t. And for him, what matters is what God thinks, what God thinks of me. And that really resonated with me how, regardless of whether I believed in it or not, the fact that someone had stability from something, and that carried his character all the way through, and made him resilient. Because in life, a lot of things can come our way. And, you know, whether we feel like where, you know, we’ve been shunned from the community, or we feel like we’ve been excluded in a group or in the environment, or you’re not feeling like you’re feeling validated. All of these things can happen to us, you know, it can be a crisis with finance, it could be a relationship crisis. And so, for me, what I learned from that is, you know, what is that thing that I could hold on to, and remind myself that, you know, you know, what’s happening around me is only an element of my life, I think of a spoke, or a wheel in a, in a car. And if you look at the hub, the hub has many spokes, right? In so for me how I manage stress, for example, is a stressful situation could be our– my analogy would be a spoke on that hub. But if you think about it, that’s only 10% of my life. The other hubs represent different things in my life. So, I could focus on that 10%. Or I could be reminded of the other nine things that make up my life as well. So that helps me stay resilient and think about the bigger picture. So that’s how I shift. Yes.

Graeme Cowan 13:54 

Remember, in a previous conversation, we had you mentioned that, you know, the Philippines is a much poorer country, but very socially strong, and a strong sense of community. And you felt loneliness coming to Australia. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Joel Ramirez 14:15 

Yeah, you’re right. From a culture perspective, Philippines is what you would call a, a collective society, as opposed to an individualistic society such as Australia. So, what does that mean a collective society. As the word suggests, it’s about the group not about the individual. So, in the Philippines, you would know, not just know all of your neighbors but you share food with them. You celebrate the same festivals as them. If all the kids, if the kids are playing basketball, the parents would come and watch the kids play if there was a, if there was a blackout everyone would go outside and talk and build dialogue and tell each other stories. And when someone is struggling, others will come to the rescue. And I guess, I guess they have a shared pain, and that shared pain gives them awareness of the situation. And through that shared pain comes compassion. And through that compassion builds trust and respect and support for one another. What I have found later on coming to Australia, being an individualistic society, generally speaking, it’s not about the group, it’s not about the community, it’s about the self. So that’s very difficult, because being also a masculine culture, it’s this culture of, if I’m struggling through something, I’ll go figure it out, I don’t need to tell anyone else, I’ll take a teaspoon, and I’ll, I’ll fix it, you know, I’ll make it out of this. But truthfully, you’re not meant to fix things on your own. We’re as social creatures, we’re meant to help each other with, you know, as the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem have. And unfortunately, when you’re not sharing that burden with others, there’s no room for dialogue. There’s no room for deepening of relationships in the process. So that’s what we’ve, what I’ve found. And it wasn’t until I started writing the book that all of that came out. And through my research, I realized, oh, my goodness, it’s actually a really big topic that we could be talking about.

Graeme Cowan 16:42 

We’re going to be talking a lot about that soon, Joel. But before we get into that, you know, money wouldn’t have been plentiful when you were 21. But you decided to start your own business. Why?

Joel Ramirez 16:57 

Well, I was studying IT at the time, and I was working as a tech support for telecommunications provider. And you know, that building had 1000 people in it. And as a third level support when I was 20 years old, I was going up and down and meeting people and fixing their computer problems, fixing the executives, computers and things like that. And I realized, I like dealing with people. And some– coming from someone who’s more introverted. I, when it’s my choice to go and meet people, I actually really enjoyed it. So, what I did was on the weekends, to get some extra part time money, I worked at a computer store outlet in Melbourne. So, I’m from Melbourne, I’m in Sydney now. And I would open up at 9am. And, and finish up at 12 o’clock. And the two guys who owned that business said, Joel, you make us more money in the three hours that you’re here, than all of our salespeople working full time for the whole week. How the heck do you do that? And maybe that could be a story for another day. And then I–

Graeme Cowan 18:19 

Now, tell me. Tell me the secret behind that.

Joel Ramirez 18:22 

I think the secret behind that is, if you think about this mouse, for example, right? You go to Harvey Norman. Someone wants to buy this mouse. So, then you then you say you get the mouse and then you get their card. And then you say thanks, and you move on, and the next person comes, right? I don’t work like that. Firstly, I say hey, welcome. You know, I build a relationship. But I’m not interested in what you’re buying. I’m actually interested– have you heard of the latest technology? Have you seen this Toshiba laptop that’s just come out, or this Microsoft Office ’98 that’s just come out. And all of a sudden, they came in to purchase a $15 mouse and they come out with a $3,000 purchase of printers and laptops. And– so it’s a, it’s about building up relationship and trying to understand their situation. And I think a lot of people miss that opportunity in life when someone is saying– when someone is presenting something where– sometimes we’re not adding value because it’s highly transactional. But I don’t want to be transactional. I want to be relational and through that relationship, you realize that you know what this people– this person might actually need my help on something in that situation, it just happened to be in IT hardware. So, then I realized, hey, I can actually do this for myself. I don’t need to work for someone else. And that was the start of creating an ABN and helping businesses and said you know, it’s funny, you know, you they initially they want a laptop for 10 employees. Next thing you know, they’ll say, can you network our office? Can you give us internet? Can you give us Voice over IP? It just shows my age Voice over IP. So yeah, so that’s really how I started as an IT reseller at the age of 21.

Graeme Cowan 20:21 

Amazing. And then you went on to build a couple of very successful startups and grew them very substantially. What were the, what were the important foundations you put in place to cope with that, because startup is a very volatile area. You know, it could be raining on one day– There’s a desert the next sort of thing. It’s– So how do you go about creating that right culture?

Joel Ramirez 20:56 

How do you go about creating that right culture? Yeah, that’s a good, that’s a good question, I was actually gonna give an example of a situation that that happens. But you do have to have the right, the right people. And I think to build the right culture, people need to understand that you care about them, first and foremost. To build a successful team, it will only go so far, until they realize that you’re transactional. So how do you move actually from being a transactional leader, to a relational leader? Someone who inspires confidence, but also is not afraid to roll up your sleeves. So basically, I wouldn’t get people to do things I wouldn’t do myself. So, they need to see that from the top. And if you turn your cheek away, when there’s a cleaner, cleaning the floors, then that’s the kind of example that you’re setting. But you know, as a startup, you have to be the cleaner, you have to be the guy or woman who does marketing or sales or, or the books or the bookkeeping, or picking up the phone and being your own personal assistant. And as you build a team around you, that I guess, that’s the kind of example that you’re setting is that in the startup phase, there is no set role. Really, you know, we’re small enough to be agile. And we’re small enough to carry each other through. And that’s why a lot of people actually prefer to be in, in smaller businesses, because they feel like they’re part of a family, they feel connected, you have a direct relationship with the person who owns the business. Where it gets complicated is when you start working for 10,000 employee business or 100,000 employee business, you know, there’s pros and cons to growing so large. And I guess that’s why Australia is made up of 4 million small businesses, or 2 million businesses hiring, you know, 5, 6 million people, right? Because we love, we love connection, whether, you know, ultimately, it’s about connection. And if people feel connected, everything else will follow. If you feel connected, that is going to be stronger than money. You know, people don’t go into startup because they get paid well. If you look at the research out there, why? What are the most important things to employees in the workplace? In the in the top 10– Actually, in the Top 3, the key ones are not more money. In fact, more money is like number 10 on the list of importance, but what’s important for them is a relationship, better relationship with my colleagues and a better relationship with my manager. Feeling valued, feeling heard, feeling acknowledged, feeling supported. If you do all of those things, people will work above and beyond you don’t even need to tell them.

Graeme Cowan 24:15 

Yeah. With Wise, you’re also able to establish a good relationship with KPMG and in fact, eventually saw your business to KPMG what was that? How did that process unravel? How did that progress?

Joel Ramirez 24:34 

Yeah, that’s a, that’s a good– that’s a good question. So, we initially started before it was called Wiise, at the time, that was back in 2014. We were speaking with Microsoft, and you know, Microsoft like– you know, Zero has done to the market, and help businesses get into the cloud for their accounting needs. And, you know, they said, we have this software that we can also deliver to the growing businesses. Anyway, cut a long story short, within four years of establishing that, that startup in partnership with Microsoft, we were, you know, getting 20,000 site visitors a month on our website across, maybe 50 countries making inquiries. And that’s when we knew that we had something, something good, something big that we realized, actually, this is not just a gap that we were filling in the Australian market, but it seems to be a gap in a lot of countries. And at that point, when you’re growing a tech startup, the cost of developers is actually quite high, the cost of research and development is quite high. And we didn’t have that kind of money to grow the business, you know, we were, we were on a shoestring budget, and you had to be very creative, in terms of how you market the business. But more importantly, clarity on why you exist, you know, the market doesn’t need the neck, you know, there’s already got 1000s of software application, doesn’t need another one. So, you really need to be clear, with your mission, like, what are we trying to achieve? And what is the gap that we’re trying to fill? And who are we helping? When you can define that and be very clear of how that’s going to look like long term, it’s not difficult to actually find people who appreciate what you’re trying to achieve, and they want to help you and one of them was KPMG. And when, you know, initially, what we wanted was 51% stake in the business and they get 49%, right? And, you know, after 12 months of, you know, conversations that didn’t work out, and they said, you know, why don’t we just have 100% of the business. But if we come into this, we want Microsoft to be in on this, we want, you know, Commonwealth Bank supporting this, you know, so we kind of hit a trifecta, you know, having one of the largest firms, the largest software vendor and largest Australian bank, you know, banding together and in helping us was really a luck of the draw, probably sometimes you could have, you could have the right business idea at the wrong time. And sometimes you could just have an idea at the right time. And KPMG said, you know, we would like to, you know, we have offices across the world, you know, I think KPMG today may have 200,000 employees, and, you know, we can help us replicate how you’re doing this in Australia, and you know, we’ve got the money and the people to go and do it somewhere else. Right? And, you know, I guess the claim to fame is, it’s the first tech company that KPMG purchased in their 150-year history. There’s pros and cons to that, you know, being a firm dealing with a tech business. That was fun. But that makes them innovative. Right. Like, it’s, you know, you have to be sometimes– well actually, there’s the growth happens when you’re, when you’re in that uncomfortable zone. And that’s where innovation happens.

Graeme Cowan 28:54 

Lots of success in your in your life, Joel? And I’m sure lots of challenges along the way. What was the book that you wrote? And why did you choose to write on that subject?

Joel Ramirez 29:07 

Yeah, sure. The book is called, ‘Better Together’. And ‘Why Loneliness is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It’. So how did that come about? So, okay, so we sold the business to KPMG 2018. And I had a bit of a midlife crisis, I lost a bit of an identity because you know, once you sell your business and change management, and the next company takes over, it’s like, who am I? What do I do now? And so, I was speaking with my wife, and, you know, we were talking through, what is my purpose? What am I? What do I want to fulfill in my life outside of business? You know, I think I’ve achieved that. I have nothing to prove, I never tried to prove anything it was, it was really, you know, the businesses that came– they both came about through my own personal crisis. And it’s funny how crisis can give you opportunities, you know, for another day, but some, and I said, two things– And she goes, what, what is it? And I said, well, I think my purpose– I know my purpose, my purpose is about relationships and to connect others. Because I went through chronic loneliness and depression coming to Australia. And so initially, I was writing a memoir, I wrote 15,000 words of what I went through, and I wanted to share it with my kids one day. So, they know what their parent went through and how he went through real challenges, and how he overcame them. But then after about 15,000 words, I realized I could put this into a book. And then next thing, you know, I wrote 70, 80,000 words on mental health on the first year, but then I looked at the underlying theme, and in all my research and all the experts that I spoke with, and all the interviews I’ve done of people with depression or whatnot, the underlying theme I could not, I couldn’t escape it. And it kept telling me that this was all about relationships, or lack thereof in people’s lives. So, I pivoted, you know, I had a coach who said, Joel, mental health, I think, in Australia, we’ve been talking about this for 7, 10 years now. So, if you think, if you think that issue is the lack of connection, then you should talk about that. And that’s my friend, Michael McQueen. You know, people may have seen him on, on Channel Seven, he’s a futurist and is a prolific writer himself. And so that’s how we started, and I pivoted to writing about– and I was scared at the time, Graeme, you know, you’re a, you know, a published author, you’re a highly successful author, and, you know, my, my heart rate went up, because I’m like, what do you mean, I need to change the book? That means I need to research again and have a completely different– it’s like writing a second book, to be quite honest. But then, I said, why me? Why me? What, why me? And Michael said, Joel, don’t doubt yourself, you’re the right person at the right time to write this. You have a lived experience. He goes, Joel, when I write, when a lot of people write, we write from the head, because we’re the experts in whatever that field is. But with what you’ve told me, you spoke from the heart. And really, I think a lot of people crave authenticity. And people want to be able to associate themselves. And I realized, oh, my goodness, you’re right, I, I have a lived experience. So, the book is really about loneliness and social well-being. A narrative coming from my story of lived experience and drawing on the insights from experts and research data, while interviewing people has been through what I went through, and speaking with those experts to back the evidence, back the stories and my thoughts that I explained in the book.

Graeme Cowan 33:33 

What you obviously had your own experience, what did you learn? What were the important lessons you’ve learned about loneliness with your research?

Joel Ramirez 33:44 

What did I learn? Yes, first of all, initially, I thought, the stigma around it was high. And I felt like I was the only lonely person in the world. And so, what I learned from it was, don’t be ashamed. Because we are ultimately built as social creatures, we live together to survive. So, what I was going through was a normal, physical feeling that I kept to myself for a long time that, maybe there’s some– there is something wrong with me, maybe I don’t deserve to be surrounded by people. So, I started not liking myself for a lot of things. And it was self-doubt and lack of self-confidence. It spiraled down to the point where I got very depressed, and that’s not good. What I also learned about loneliness and social creatures is that it’s akin to say thirst or hunger. So, if you know when you’re thirsty, you, your body’s telling you to drink water. When you’re hungry, your body’s telling you need to go and eat. So, when you’re feeling alone or lonely, so not feeling alone, but you’re when you’re feeling lonely. That’s your body’s way of saying you need to go and reconnect. It’s– you need it. So finally, one thing that other thing that I learned is that loneliness, the word loneliness is not a bad word. Mild loneliness is okay. But as Dr. Michelle Lynn who I interviewed for the book, she you know, she’s an expert in the field of loneliness. She said Joel, mild loneliness is okay but when it prolongs to the point where it becomes chronic, that is something that we need to combat, and we need to prevent, because when that happens, a whole cascade of mental ill health conditions and issues will arise. And that’s not good for the human, the individual. And it has an impact, a dominant effect to your job, to your relationships, to your community. And it has an economic impact. In fact, I read last week, and I can’t give you too much details on it, because I still need to read it. A recent research showed that loneliness is costing us as Australians $2.7 billion every year. So, someone’s finally been able to put a number on that figure. Many years ago, I think through KPMG, they did, they released a report that says, you know, mental ill health has costed us, you know, 12 or so billion dollars a year. So, to actually put 2.7 billion of that into loneliness is people finally realizing we need to be talking about this issue.

Graeme Cowan 36:51 

Yeah. And as you’d be aware, in the UK, they have a ministry for loneliness. And, Michelle, you just mentioned, Michelle Lynn’s part of the coalition to end loneliness in Australia. What– so the ones that are chronically lonely, how do we fix that?

Joel Ramirez 37:14 

How long do we have in this past? Look, that is– that is not simple. At that point, I think, I think what we need to work on is prevention solutions around prevention. And yes, I’m glad to hear that the UK has acknowledged the problem. And in fact, you know, they’ve had a few ministers now for loneliness in the UK. I think the first one was Tracy Crouch. And they’ve learned a lot from that. And I think Japan actually has one now as well. So those are the two countries perhaps we could use one of those as well. But I would call it something else, not minister for loneliness, but something else. I– Yes. Sorry. The question was around chronic loneliness, we need to get to a point where we start preventing nature. But even before we even talk about that, the issue is actually bigger. Because if you look at Australia, there is no funding bucket, specifically for loneliness in Australia, not at the federal government or not in the state government. So why don’t we start there, there is a bucket for mental health. But I think if you want to solve chronic loneliness, there needs to be, of course, the awareness and education. But we also need to get some of that budget, that funding to actually assist those organizations, those communities, those individuals, to assist in preventing chronic loneliness. And that is not a simple one to solve. I also talk about in my book, how our Australian culture has a part to play in that which doesn’t help and being a wealthy country doesn’t help. Generally speaking, because when you’re wealthy the way this goes, Graeme is, you know, you and I both have friends stay in Mossman and Balmoral beach, and, you know, you’ve got this big house of this big mansion and maybe you’re divorced and you’re the only person living in that house. And but because you’re rich, you don’t need– you have no need like the Filipinos to go and knock on your next-door neighbor’s door for help. So, the only time you get to see your neighbor is when you push the beans out and you say hello to them. Right? So, being a wealthy country, it’s like, you know, getting a wish from a genie in the bottle, you know, you can be rich, but you’ll also have to be lonely.

Graeme Cowan 40:19 

I said both wouldn’t have been on set but– with that experience what you learned; you had personal experiences spoke to lots of people. How does that inform how you lead in a business?

Joel Ramirez 40:40 

In reference to mental health?

Graeme Cowan 40:43 

Yeah, or just knowing about this social need of people, like, it’s a basic human thing, isn’t it, we want to feel that we belong.

Joel Ramirez 40:54 

Yeah. But and that’s, and that’s really important. And, you know, especially now, if, you know, depending on the, the who did the research, let’s just, let’s just say, pre-pandemic, you know, one in four Australians are considered to feel lonely, and 50% of that have bouts of loneliness in a given week. But, you know, during the pandemic, and now, some numbers are saying, as high as three out of four people are feeling lonely, so all you need to do is go into an organization, and you can just calculate if there’s 20 people here, you could, you could say, 16 of my people feeling disconnected. And I just trying to cope passively. We are not that, at that stage of awareness but in a way COVID is good and bad. Good in that it’s– led us to talk about an issue that we should have been talking about to begin with. And it had to take a pandemic, to realize that it’s actually an issue that we need to be talking about. And so, so really, that’s, that’s what I would say, to a lot of organizations who want high performance out of their employees is, before you start figuring out how to get the best out of people. First, we need to show that we care. We care about them as a human being, we want to add value to them. We want them to feel supported. But there’s only so much that we can do as leaders of a business. What we can be doing is providing awareness and education around the importance of social well-being, social connection in our lives, and not just having friends, but we’re talking deep and meaningful relationships. Because that forms the stability in our lives. So, you could have a bad day at work, and you can’t talk to someone at work. If you have no one to talk to you outside of work, then the only person you might go to is a psychologist. And I think that’s great. But don’t forget, that’s not a relationship. That’s a transactional relation– they have a job to help you.

Graeme Cowan 43:19 

That’s right. That’s right. And that’s, that’s the big message with ‘Are you okay?’, this year, like, the theme this year is ask ‘Are you okay?’, no qualifications required. And it was– it came off the back of research that ‘Are you okay?’, that showed that 40% felt that a mental health professional is better to talk with someone than a friend or a loved one. And the point you raised, you know, professionals are great, but they get paid to do it. Someone who truly cares, trusts and respects you and reaches out to you. That does so much more for you than, no, I’m not saying professional help isn’t important. But this social connection is just as important. And interestingly, my keynote presentations, you know, talked about, you know, being involved with ‘Are you okay?’, and how well it’s grown and the qualities that really, that led to that. And then I asked people to reflect on one of the best teams had been in it could have been when they were, you know, playing football or netball or working with Donald’s this job, a previous job. And I just think, well, what was it that made that team, what was it make the great team different? And I have about I think it’s about nine factors up there. I use mentimeter. You know, we can get people to vote. And so, it’s all anonymous. And always the top three that come up. We cared about each other. We had each other’s back, and we enjoyed working together. You know, let’s just– so they discover themselves for their own experience that they were the qualities of the best work teams. And I would also suggest the best home teams as well. So, it is something that is very, very valuable to pursue. And I think one of the great things about the pandemic, is that just has raised the profile of psychological safety and mental health and a business and just realizing that, that its core, you know, PwC and Atlassian found out that mental health is the number one societal issue that that employees care about, number one, and Microsoft recently did work on what are the qualities for great hybrid work. And the top three were a positive culture, mental health and purpose. And I would say that you can’t have a positive culture without mental health. And I’d say you can’t have mental health without purpose. So it really leads to mental health really, and, and that sense of how important connection is, you know–

Joel Ramirez 46:12 

The holistic approach, but even the word holistic, is, is connection, those pieces have to be connected. We’re built to connect no matter how you draw it up and call it whatever accurate business, the underlying theme is without connection. There is disconnection.

Graeme Cowan 46:35 

Yeah, there’s pain, there’s pain. If you could share a message with the world, Joel, what would it be?

Joel Ramirez 46:44 

A message to the world, what would it be? Right now, it would be– be kind to yourself. I know, the latest pandemic has caused a lot of stress in the household, both financially, relationally many other things, and we tend to beat ourselves up. I would say be kind to yourself. And also, yes, be kind to others. But my key message is built meaningful relationships. We’ve been talking about relationships a lot in this session. So, if there’s anything I would ask is have a think about your own relationships in this world? And do you feel that it’s deep? Do you feel like you have the support and the friendships that you subjectively need to feel connected with your community, connected with your social groups, connected with your loved ones? And if not, may I recommend to step out and you know, take action, do something about it. But that’s easier said than done. I’m only speaking to people without chronic conditions here where there’s still an opportunity to be able to do stuff, to get yourself in a healthier state. So really, my message is, the key word is connection.

Graeme Cowan 48:53 

It’s been a real pleasure to talk with you, Joel, thanks for being part of The Caring CEO.

Joel Ramirez 49:00 

Graeme, always great to have these discussions with you as you know, and I really have. I really am feeling privileged to be in this podcast, and I’m looking forward to hearing what people think about it.

Graeme Cowan 49:15 

Great stuff. Thank you.

Joel Ramirez 49:19 

Thank you.

Graeme Cowan  49:20

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