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World Mental Health Day - Tea and Talk

October 10th 2018 is World Mental Health Day. I wish I had known, I’d have done something to get involved. I could have used the publicity that the day will undoubtedly attract to raise the issue of mental health at work. I might even have been able to organise Tea and Talk sessions across the business like those suggested by the Mental Health Foundation.

Great fun would have been had by all! Getting people together over tea and cakes to talk about anything other than work. It would have been a great opportunity to find out more about the people that I work with. Who knows what it might have led to?

It’s one of the things that came out of a presentation by Monica Parker at the Glassdoor Recruit UK Conference. We should spend less money on fancy employee engagement initiatives and more time on helping employees build proper relationships with each other.

If you’ve ever wondered why a millionaire carries on working when they don’t really need the money? One of the reasons is often that they want to be with other people.

Ms Parker says that being part of a community is probably the most important of what she calls the four pillars of workplace engagement, because for 88 per cent of employees their engagement with their employer is the conseuence of the existence of strong personal relationships at work.

So that cup of tea and a slice of cake may foster the sort of relationship between individuals that not only improves mental and physical health, it may also lead to those employees being more productive and less likely to leave.

I am sure that like me you have probably noticed that if one woman in your work team gets pregnant, other women in the workplace will also get pregnant. If you have one resignation you will also find that other people may also start looking for another job or actually leave. This says Ms Parker is because people do what their friends do.

Employers should be aware that when someone leaves they are not just losing a good worker they are also losing the social network that created a great place for other people to work and that means that other people in that network may also start to leave as well.

It isn’t necessary for everyone to be best buddies for a team to be productive, but it is says Ms Parker essential that they have a sense of tribe, of shared identity and pride in belonging to that tribe.

Other factors besides community to consider include

Control – people who perceive themselves to be time-poor are happier and more productive if they feel themselves to have some form of autonomy over how they spend their time.

Cause – if you can tap into what drives someone, which as we know from motivational theories is unlikely to be money, you can encourage them to be more productive.

Curiosity – people who are curious learn faster and have higher levels of dopamine the chemical that helps the brain to work more efficiently and not unsurprisingly them to be more effective workers as well.

I suppose that I can wait another year to take advantage of World Mental Health Day, to build a bit of community, after all the same problems will still be there!

Or does it?

I doubt if the answer to that question is yes!

There is nothing to stop any of us organising tea and talk events or any other sort of activity at any time of the year, it is just that when an organisation like the World Health Organisation or the Mental Health Foundation organise something they put a lot of resources into promoting it. That media coverage makes it easier to promote inside a business. It’s not just a management initiative or another crazy idea from HR, it’s official, something with external credibility.

A bit like when you are a teenager, you never listen when your parents say something is a bad idea, but a favourite uncle who is lots more fun gives the same message in a different way and suddenly doing the right thing becomes really cool!

There are all sorts of resources in the Work Place Learning Centre to help you address mental health issues in your workplace

I may be too late for this year’s World Mental Health Day, but in the spirit of community I can try to make you more aware of other promotional days that might be useful to know about. You might be able to hijack the publicity that they generate to facilitate discussions within your own organisation.

During a career as a human resources and employee development professional that started in 1981 Michael Millward has worked around the world in a wide range of businesses from start-ups to major conglomerates. His industry experience includes, local and national government, manufacturing, financial services, retail, distribution, hi-tech, e-commerce.

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