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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

It's not about the toast

I attended #worksmental last week a conference organised by Amy McDonald of HeadTorch to raise awareness of mental health at work with all profit going to RAMH. I'm happy to say that such an important topic was also being discussed in parliament using #bigmhdebate as we had similar discussions in Glasgow.

The morning session involved interaction and discussion around the Cynthia Show, a piece of interactive theatre, with some members involved who suffer from mental ill health. The toast in the piece of theatre is used as a reminder that often what we say is the problem is only the effect of other underlying causes.

For the purposes of the blog I'm going to concentrate on stress in the work place and the points I took away from the session in relation to that.

The obvious statement that 'staff with mental health are more productive and effective' should go without saying and yet so many managers behaviour seems to forget this.

Let's start with some stats: 
  • 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any one year
  • 52% of people at work have hidden mental health difficulties from their managers
  • Depression is the world third biggest health problem. By 2030 it is thought it will be number one
  • Presenteeism is costing organisations twice as much as absenteeism
  • 40% of symptoms presented to doctors would benefit from physical activity
  • 39% of those in the UK are physically active, 96% of them are in Africa!
And continue with the solution, in that addressing the following causes of stress is a good idea: 
  • Reaction to change
  • Excessive demands
  • Ineffective relationships
  • Lack of clarity of roles
  • Lack of control
  • Lack of support
Often it's a cumulative effect of more than one of these that moves many of us into stress and mental ill health. Of course we each react to these differently - with for example some of us actively seeking change. However managers should not assume this is the case for everyone and, if an effective team is needed, provide sufficient opportunity for everyone to communicate and discuss their day to day work and especially any decisions that increase the above list. After all, we all want the answer to "are you causing chaos in the workplace?" to be "no!" - don't we?

I loved the challenge on the day that sometimes the default setting is to send someone to the Doctor and yet they can't do much to change the above underlying causes of stress. The key is noticing the signs of stress in ourselves and others and doing something about it.

And finish with some great quotes:
  • "When did 9 to 5 become 8 to 6?"
  • "It never needed to get to this, the signs are there - take notice, take action and understand the impact you're having on others"
  • "Stop: Think : What's going on for the other person?"
  • "How can we listen, without interruption, more"
  • "Opening Pandora's box means we can understand what we're dealing with"
  • "Just limiting your inactivity to 23.5 hours a day can be good for you" :-) 
What can you do differently to increase mental well being and health in your workplace - for yourself, and for those you work with?

As a start I've arranged some walking meetings with some colleagues.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Picture source: fabfurnish.com via Alison on Pinterest

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