I'm pretty exhausted this week, honestly, because I did a number of evening engagements either related to work and mental health or work and the digital learning and change role that I have as my 'day job'. By Wednesday I had worked about 30 hours, travelled to multiple locations and talked a lot about mental health. And if you read my post last week on burnout, you'll probably be aware that too much of that busy-ness is not good for me (or any of us actually) in any respect - mental health, physical health, whatever.
|Nike Self-tying laces (in honour of Back to the Future, of course!)|
If Nike could also produce self-showering, self-dressing,
self-makeup, etc. I think they'd really be onto something...
|And in case you've forgotten or didn't know, here are the stats:|
I and everyone need to take care of our health, and
we need respect and support, not inequality and discrimination
When I was sick last year I had several experiences with line managers - some very, very good, and some not so good at all. At a critical point with my mental health where I absolutely knew that I could not carry on living with such symptoms of depression pervading my existence, I am fortunate enough to have had the following resources to help me reach for help rather than (perhaps fatal) harm. But without supportive line managers I might not be here writing this.
The key message of this post is: we need line managers (US readers, line manager = supervisor, i.e. the person directly in charge of you and what you do at work) to make it their business to educate themselves about mental health; and if they are approached by someone to talk about mental health, then they don't need to demonstrate a working knowledge of Jeffrey Young's 'schemas' or practise CBT, but they do need to be empathetic, provide safe boundaries for people to share their mental health experiences and then continue to be treated with the same respect as before, while incorporating appropriate reasonable adjustments to continue with work.
You and I and everyone we know has a responsibility to
create supportive 'moments' which make our lives easier, healthier and allow us to thrive.
If line managers aren't supportive, I know from personal experience, employees like me don't recover well, may not recover, may leave the organisation, and may even consider / attempt suicide out of desperation. Please remember that - this is about life or death in some cases. You as a line manager have a chance to make the biggest difference of all to someone's working life.
Here are some anonymous real quotations from people about the negative impact of unsupportive or unhelpful behaviour from line managers at work:
- that the stress was all my fault and was
- a point of performance feedback (even when I knew it shouldn't be)
- ashamed of having failed at work
- disgusted with myself
- a complete waste of time
- ready to die
There are many resources available to help you as a line manager to feel more comfortable that you understand the issues of mental illness to some extent, and that you also understand the role that you have to play as a line manager in engaging with mental health at work (either on an individual basis or in general) in such a way that you make it easier to talk about, reduce health problems associated with the strain of hiding such a condition or "presenteeism" and support those with more serious conditions with respect. By according them with dignity and helping them work as much as they can, they can feel safe in the knowledge that you are on their side just as much as on the side of the organisation you both work for.
1. Remember that 'employees' are people above all else. Listen to them. Respect them.
We are all going to have events in our lives that make work tough. I'm not just talking about mental health, I'm talking about life events such as having a baby, meeting a new partner, breaking up with a partner, losing someone, being ill physically, and so on... When you show that you are listening, rather than judging, or behaving as if having a conversation with your team is not valuable to you, you will build trust with your employees and in every way (including health, of course) you will make for a more flourishing team, who trusts you and feels so much more comfortable belonging at work.
2. Show and tell: make sure your employees know - from you - that you value them
Working long hours, with tight deadlines can cause us all to feel the pressure and at times we might not have a great day (or a great week etc.) because of this. Showing empathy to your employees and highlighting again and again that you value them and continue to value them provides a hugely supportive working environment. When I was teaching 11-16 year-olds, I was a strict disciplinarian, but having established those rules in my classroom my students felt 'safe' because they absolutely knew the status quo. From that structure of safe and firm boundaries they were able to be creative, try new things, be rowdy (sometimes, yes, I can still hear the ringing in my ears) and be their 'whole selves' in a way that helped them to learn and grow at school. We can do this as employers / line managers / colleagues and show people we are glad they're there, and we want them to stay.
|Returning to Work|