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Reflections on World Mental Health Day 10th October 2019

Recently I have found myself discussing topics with groups around issues related to Resilience, Building Relationships and Building Teams – all of which have set me thinking about the large part Mental Health or as Brian Hall from BHSF puts it Mental Ill Health plays in the workplace.

On World Mental Health Day I found myself at two events which helped clarify my thinking around the topic.

The first was a session I facilitated with a group of care home workers on Resilience where we talked about the emotional toil of the work they do and strategies to help resolve it.

The second was a session I attending in the evening on Organisational Stress at RAF Cosford hosted by @CIPDBlackCountry @IODWestMidlands @CIMAWestMidlands with sessions from @JoCameron and Brian Hall.

Unsurprisingly there were a lot of synergies between the sessions – however, there was definitely some new pieces of learning which made me think

Key Learnings

Jo Cameron

Brian Hall

Reasons for stress in accountancy which included

41% related to feeling overworked

33% related to office politics

29% related to feeling undervalued

I certainly recognised times when this has led me to feel stressed and I wonder how reflective this is across a number of industries. Teams are not put together on the basis of a e-harmony profile – quite often it is around the roles that they do and if they get on then all is well and good, if not then this can be destructive in the workplace.

CIPD survey – 1 in 4 people report that worry has affected their ability to do their job – This does not have to be about the job itself it could be related to debt or changes in personal circumstances for example.

Jo also described burnout as being grey and that our normal response to stress is to go into action mode – almost like we can fix it by doing more but this can lead us into an even more vicious circle as we try and do more and more to fix what is causing the stress in the first place.

 

40% of people are struggling at work – this to me feel likes a huge number and from a management perspective how much additional productivity could be unleashed if these individuals were supported effectively

 

If we were at our best everyday, we would just be average – recently we have been talking on our management development programmes on Bringing Your Best Self to Work and we have been discussing whether you need to and what the impact is.

 

In terms of your culture at work how safe is it – if people feel it is unsafe at work they will be stressed. Recently I came across this amazing poem by Phil Wilcox ‘If I should have a workplace’ which to me really reflect the idea of being safe

https://www.emotionatwork.co.uk/video/if-i-should-have-a-workplace/

 

Hints and Tips

Jo Cameron

Brian Hall

Introduce a policy to keep people off social media for half a day – Jo quoted from Matt Haig’s Notes from a Nervous Planet which says we are “Over- stimulated – connected to everyone else’s nervous system” This can lead to us searching for the most number of likes, comparing our lives to everyone else’s and wanting to know the latest news all the time which let’s face it with Brexit on the horizon isn’t exactly cheering.

 

Allow people room to recuperate and relax - Brian cited the example of pilots in WW2 who went up, came down, had a cup of tea and went straight out again. Even in a moment of national crisis they were allowed room to relax when they were sent off to the bed. My husband reliably informs me that this existed right up until the 90’s when it was known as a beer call!

‘We have to take responsibility for our own time’– often we don’t as we try and squeeze an extra job or task in. Let’s start by building me time in – remember it’s okay to do nothing!

Talk to people positively about Mental Health – ask people what’s making you feel great. This enables us to reflect on that and focus on doing more of this.

Lie on the floor – it neutralises the nervous system – Jo did a fabulous demonstration during the session which illustrated how something so simple can make such a difference

Teach people to be like palm trees – learn to bend with the storm – I guess the lesson behind this is to know that it is okay to sometimes feel under pressure but to know that it will pass and we can regain our upright demeanour

Slow down your thinking by walking slower and talking slower – Jo and Brian also suggested holding walking meetings to get out more into the environment

As a boss ask people how they are and then really listen – sometimes the fact they we don’t ask the question is translated that we don’t care.

Stop using the word manic – if you say you will be

 

Try new things 4 times – Jo clearly explained the theory behind this – if you do it once it might not work so doing something four times gives you the opportunity to give the activity a good go. She also added that “All change feels weird – doesn’t mean it is wrong.” which is going to stay with me for a long time especially when talking about change management

 

Deal with our micro- stressors – Jo talked about having two hoovers and two phone chargers. Essentially this is concerned with taking away the little things in our lives which cause us stress – for example for me it is not being able to find my L S Lowry cup at work so now I keep it locked in my desk

 

Write down your emotions – the very act of writing them down is powerful and enables them to have an outlet

 

 

Some further reflection included

  • Someone from the audience reflected that is you ask someone how they are feeling – usually they will give you facts and figures. It is useful to stop them and get them to focus on their feelings rather than facts
  • For myself I have been reflecting about flexible working recently and the recognition that one size doesn’t fit all – for example for myself given the shift patterns of my other half it often suits me to work weekends and evenings rather than a traditional pattern of Mon – Friday. The key here is that this is what works for me and I am lucky to have a manager who appreciates this.
  • Recently we opened two new training rooms at work which are situated in our glorious gardens – it will be interesting to see the impact that has on our participants as we mentally take them away from their workplace into a more open space. As part of this we have also added garden furniture so when we have activities they can physically go out into the garden as well.

In conclusion – definitely some food for thought to both put into practise and share with my management development groups at work.

Thanks, CIMA, CIPD and IOD for a great event and not forgetting my lovely group at the Care Home who shared their experiences and tool away strategies for building their resilience – an enlightening week!

 

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