With World Mental Health Day on 10 October, our HR Director Georgia Oatway tells us in a candid interview why the 2020 theme ‘mental health for all’ resonates so much with her.
Work from home fatigue
“Now that we’re all working from home, even if you believed that you had good mental health previously, there will be some inevitable deterioration for everyone. At first the thought of being at home filled me with great joy – all the extra time and energy that I’d have. But what I found is quite the opposite with what I call work from home fatigue, having to dig deeper to motivate myself. Before, we were surrounded by colleagues who would support each other, bouncing ideas or discussing issues. Without that noise, it’s difficult to be that positive person. So it’s lulled us into a false sense of security – we are all affected by the events.
Sticking to good habits
“That’s why we must look after our mental health and be aware that there are resources available online to help us through those tougher days. My journey home used to be my time to go into mum mode, but it doesn’t matter whether you have children or not, the instant transition now has blurred the lines – when do we switch off and on? It’s so important that we get into good habits and establish those routines and above all we need to be consistent rather than just be in survival mode. We’re probably getting some things right but without the discipline it’s easy to let things get on top of us.
Fit for purpose
“Clearly communication is key to make sure that colleagues and friends know that they have a support mechanism in place. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s been a challenge for us all as we’ve never been in such a situation before. Inevitably we’ve all made mistakes if you can call them that, but people are feeling vulnerable and so we have to continue to learn and put actions in place to engage, motivate and keep tabs on our wellbeing. In Morgan Philips' case, we committed to delivering mental health training to all of our staff on in 2019, but we realise there’s so much more to do. And we have to maintain a consistent momentum as things aren’t getting easier. A routine that keeps you focused is fundamental but as an organisation we have to make sure that our wellbeing initiative is fit for purpose.
“There are so many different things that organisations can do. The Medicash package we offer has a brilliant alternative therapies package and the app provides many resources, from exercise and meditation to building healthy eating and sleeping habits – too much sleep can be just as counterproductive as too little. And other members of the family can access the benefit. Our confidential Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) also provides lots of advice on many different areas, including professional counselling for stress and depression to financial advice and bereavement assistance. Sometimes speaking to someone outside our home life or inner circle can work wonders for our mental health.
'Try to be 1% better each day'
“All these things contribute to better wellbeing. The key motto I try to live by is try to be 1% better each day so that eventually you’re going to be your best self. What I’ve found is that if you tackle too much and set unrealistic goals not only will you be disappointed but it’ll erode your mental health and lead to dejection and despondency. If you set mini goals and milestones that are achievable, you’ll feel better. Failure has a negative effect on mental health. Things will never be the same and it’s pretty obvious that people want a mixture of home and office working, so we’ve seen a big shift towards flexible working. We can’t assume or prescribe – we have to now accept that this new working model is here to stay.
No one size fits all
“Everyone’s pot of resilience is different. What is stressful to me won’t be to someone else, and if employers don’t recognise that, they will lose their best talent. Our primary concern now should be to think about how we can engage, motivate and keep our teams, who are mostly working from home, happy and healthy. As research has shown time and again, the main motivators for people are usually never financial. It’s about ensuring that everyone has a sense of purpose and that they feel that they are recognised and valued, receive development and training opportunities. The big challenge is how to tackle these things remotely because they can’t be ignored. Just because we’re at home doesn’t mean that those important career discussions are somehow ignored.
Trust and reassurance
I’m sure all of you reading this feel like I do. We all have days when we’re really motivated and others when we’re not so productive. That’s fine, we have to recognise that’s OK too, and not fall into the trap of working harder to make a point. There will have been times when you’ve felt you didnt' achieve much in the office, so don’t feel guilty and burn yourself out. In the office, we could talk to our colleagues and I miss that, so it’s important now to keep that up by for example having virtual coffee breaks which I personally find beneficial. Don’t just talk about work either. Employees must feel trusted and reassured that they are doing just fine or it can affect their mental health.
We’re in it together
“‘Mental health for all’, the theme of Mental Health World Day 2020 is so appropriate. Mental health doesn’t discriminate, you may have gone into lockdown with really good mental health but find that you’re now starting to struggle, finding it quite hard and not as engaged as you’d like. Your morale might be a bit low. So we all need to take steps to ensure that our mental health doesn’t suffer. Make sure you go out for a walk, have a chat, do some exercise. Find things that work for you, build in some down time and above all switch off.”