Vulnerability in the workplace is actually an asset
Since opening up about my struggle with mental health, I’ve had many people talk more freely to me about theirs, and the weight now suddenly feels lighter. Here’s why.
It was World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October, so it’s only fitting to glance back briefly at the past year and a half and the mental havoc it brought with it. Wow, what a crazy ride that was, something we could have never even begun to imagine; well… unless you are Bill Gates of course. But as the saying goes, with every cloud there is a silver lining, and the silver lining in this instance, is the spotlight it’s shone on mental wellbeing - a global topic that is now being talked about more than ever. And in my opinion, I feel like it’s a BIG FAT silver lining, because this is the first step towards helping all of those suffering in silence.
When I say all of ‘those’ suffering, it doesn’t sound too ‘close to home’. But the truth is, I am one of ‘those’. For many years I’ve struggled with anxiety, from school through to university and now in my professional life. I’m lucky to be surrounded by people that can help. I’m grateful for access to resources like podcasts and books to gain knowledge and coping tips, apps that help rest the mind and lush parks to provide the serene setting for exercising to get the endorphins flowing. I particularly have a greater sense of appreciation for these things having had to come out the other side of seemingly endless lockdowns.
Since opening up about my struggle with mental health, I’ve had many people talk more freely to me about theirs, and the weight now suddenly feels lighter. For many years I didn’t disclose as much as I should have, I believe because I was brought up in a world where mental health and vulnerability (particularly when it comes to men) was seen as a weakness when, in fact, more people than we even realise struggle with similar issues. Because of me choosing to be open, I know that now, and voicing how I’m feeling and allowing myself to be vulnerable has only made me feel stronger.
In my opinion, the pandemic would have no doubt contributed to people’s ill mental health, however, the reality is many were struggling before, and will continue to struggle long after. With work and home life more blurred than ever before, our “workplace” has become a focal point for our mental and physical wellbeing. For this reason, here at Because, we’ve made sure that despite the uncertainties in our world, we will do all we can to help our tribe. Below we’ve shared a few ways we, as an agency, have listened and taken action to provide an environment for our work family to flourish in. We hope this inspires you to consider what you can do in your workplace too.
MENTAL WELLBEING LEADER TRAINING
Myself and our leadership team attended virtual mental health and wellbeing training through The Black Dog Institute, the course was interactive, collaborative, and informative. The session helped us understand the prevalence of mental ill-health, its impact, how to recognise potential warning signs, how to have effective conversations and how to support anyone in your team experiencing ill mental health. Research shows that providing this training to leadership teams really does make a world of difference, not only in how the individual feels, but also in how well an individual performs (Harvey et al, 2014). A big take out for me personally was that you are not expected to take on the role of a mental-health expert, but rather provide a safe space to talk, guide to resources and, where possible, accommodate in the workplace to an individual’s needs.
Asking our team how and where they’d prefer to work during such a turbulent time was also huge one for us. We sent out surveys to find out what was and wasn’t working, what the appetite for a hybrid approach was, and what everyone needed to make a hybrid way of working, work for them. This allowed us to shape our ‘ways of working’ plan knowing that we’d taken all our team’s feedback on board. It also gave our team a sense of control, which in times of uncertainty, can benefit an individual’s mental well-being hugely (Joyce et al, 2010).
To further that sense of control and ensure we’re all taking time to look after ourselves, we implemented “Me Time”. We found that there was a sense of guilt taking time for appointments and exercise during work (often the only time these appointments can be had), so it is strongly encouraged that every team member diarises 2 hours of dedicated “Me time” a week. This time can be used to exercise, to visit the dentist, to grab a coffee with a friend, or to simply start late or finish early from time to time. The initiative is very simple and is proving to be a huge success.
As previously mentioned, in my experience I found voicing how I feel to be massively beneficial. Talking really helps ease the weight of an issue, no matter how big or small, and can provide constructive methods to address your challenges. Because offers free counselling sessions to all staff to provide that extra support to help with overall team mental wellbeing. We also encourage those who feel that they may not need counselling to attend. The more we normalise talking about mental health in a similar regard to how we talk about a physical injury, the less people will struggle in silence. Ultimately, the better we feel, the more we enjoy what we do, the better we perform as individuals, and as a team! So, it’s a win, win.
THE FINAL WORD
We hope the initiatives we’ve shared here inspire you to see what simple changes can be made to benefit all in your business. Or even just encourage you to start the conversation about the benefits of talking about your struggles. It’s so important that we are comfortable, aware, feeling positive and well at work, especially when so much of our time is spent working.
For more information on how mental wellbeing can be improved in the workplace, please check out The Black Dog’s recent report - Modern work: how changes to the way we work are impacting Australians’ mental health
If you have been impacted by what has been discussed in today’s blog, please take a look at the brilliant resources below:
- Australia- https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
- New Zealand- https://mentalhealth.org.nz/
- UK- https://www.mind.org.uk/
- South Africa- https://www.safmh.org/
- Singapore- https://www.samhealth.org.sg/