Three simple words that might be met with “yes, I’m fine thanks”. Which is fine too. But they might also provide the cue that someone’s been waiting for to be able to share their challenges.
On the back of an insightful workshop (Productivity in the Workplace: the role of Mental Health and Wellbeing) where a panel of 5 speakers looked at mental wellbeing from different angles, I’ve put together some key takeouts. The common thread throughout was communication. Until we ENGAGE with people at work (and outside work obviously too – but this was a workplace-related session) and check in with them, then how do we know the answer?
Here are four areas that resonated:
I think we all know what it’s like to have a bad day and someone walks past you and says “Hi, how are you?”, and you burst into tears. It wasn’t anything they did, but simply by asking the question it gave you the opportunity to let it all out (and often, to feel a bit better as a result). I’m not talking here about someone suffering from mental health. I’m talking about everyone.
So – then imagine you ARE suffering from a mental health-related issue, and someone takes time to check in. “Are you ok?” could be the first step to them sharing what they’re going through. And in asking the question, you’ve given them a leg-up to getting the support they need. It’s not easy to share what you’re going through, but by being asked, a small window of opportunity has been presented.
To quote Yaron at this workshop, this doesn’t mean you need to “vomit up everything you’re thinking”! It means, being open in a way that allows trust to be built and connections to be made. Having useful conversations with people. This style of leadership is proven to drive productivity and increase results – so what’s holding you back?
Can you confirm that your organisation has a mental health first aider? Or more than one, depending on the size of your organisation. Just because it’s not currently a legal requirement, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make this a priority. With research showing that 9 in 10 people won’t speak out about mental health at work for fear of discrimination, it’s time for change. Act now and find out more about it – Anna, who spoke at the workshop, can help if you’re not sure where to start.
According to Gallup’s ‘State of the Global Workplace’ report last year, 85% of employees are not engaged, or actively disengaged, at work. As a leader, would you want to hear that about your employees? Have you checked recently? Again, it’s about asking questions. And being prepared to make changes across the whole organisation on the back of what might be difficult-to-hear feedback. And keep on engaging – there’s no short-term fix if you want to really be a great place to work.
Following the workshop, I was reflecting on the bus on my way home (I’m self employed, my ‘workplace’ is my home) – what is it about barriers to conversations around mental health and yet an active openness to conversations when it comes to physical health? We’re all happy to ask someone how the training’s going if they’ve decided to sign up for a sporting event. But we don’t ask someone the state of their mental health. But let’s keep remembering to change that – and next time you feel aware that someone might need a bit of support, just remember those three simple words.
I use research and data to enable businesses to make better organisational decisions. In this area, as in many, we are awash with data and benchmarks – but if you want to better understand what the data within your own organisation is telling you, let me know. I work with HR and employee engagement leaders to pull together their various data parts, to offer impartial insight and to help you hear what’s being said by your teams.