Updated: Jun 17
The last few weeks have been a bit of blur. I’ve never been busier. I’ve never had so many people want to talk to me about mental health in the workplace or wellbeing outside of Mental Health Awareness week.
I’ve been talking to businesses about mental health and the importance of quality of thinking since 2014. I can’t lie – at times it’s been a hard sell. If I tell a business owner, I can improve individual performance, outputs, sales and subsequently revenue generation I get their attention. If I tell them the way to do that is to impact discretionary effort by ensuring their people are happier at work I have a few more raised eyebrows, however, it isn’t Rocket Science – the numbers speak for themselves, just take a peek at the Stevenson/Farmer Thriving at Work review published in 2017.*
COVID-19 has changed the rules of play and right now, people want insight. As we enter week 4 of lockdown most of us have accepted the situation that we find ourselves in. The immediate survival threats regarding our work and home life have been reacted to. We have a routine, creative approaches/products and in many cases a short-term solution to financial implications.
With the ‘new normal’ there is a shift in thinking as the novelty of working from home or managing a business from home starts to wear off. We now have a different type of threat to address; namely, our psychological safety as we regulate this new way of doing things and start feeling the impact longer-term as individuals, families, leaders and employees. We are now coping with:
Our personal wellbeing: the way we think, feel and look after ourselves when isolated
Our social wellbeing: the relationships we have, how we communicate, and our awareness of those around us
Our Leadership skills: the way we manage our teams and our businesses outside of the office environment
How we now do our jobs: the tools we use, how we engage colleagues and customers working from home
On top of that, if you are a business owner or employer you have an ongoing duty of care obligation that extends to mental health. The Health & Safety executive tell us you can help manage and prevent stress by improving conditions at work, but you also have a role in making adjustments and helping someone manage a mental health problem at work. The lines right now are blurred. It can only be “business as usual” to a point.
A month ago, in my role as Transformation Director at ebenable, I had just announced our joint venture with New Zealand based organisation, The Kite Program. Kite was originally developed as a wellbeing app solution for mothers, and off the back of its global success, it evolved as an exceptional tech solution for business. Using the concept of microlearning Kite focuses on small steps that lead to great change.
I had been speaking daily with The Kite Progam’s CEO & Founder, Hannah Hardy Jones, as part of the concept to launch, when she asked me to be part of a project team that answered the question:
“How do you build resilience through adversity?”
Our project team of experts* answered this question in under 2 weeks, often working 15-hour days across time zones and including weekends. We created a program called Kite Support that specifically addresses the adversity we’re dealing with right now. 30 weeks of science-backed evidence-based learning across 4 key areas: Personal Wellbeing, Social Wellbeing, Leadership and Work. It covers all manner of things such as coping with anxiety, fear and uncertainty through to understanding yourself, parental guilt and leading a team remotely. Delivered through the award-winning Kite Program app, you can tailor the support you need in the order you want as soon as you have it in your hands. Every person is different, this is their journey.
People need skills quickly that are easy to access, easy to implement and that change behaviour. There is also an overwhelming amount of information across the internet that can create a lot of noise and to us, we needed to take as much of that noise away as possible. It was important to all of us that we get this tool into as many hands as possible, which meant heavily reducing the price point to make it accessible for everyone. We are also looking at ways to raise funds to support vulnerable individuals, organisations and communities. We have seen some remarkable gestures of businesses not only buying it for their employees but also buying licenses to gift frontline workers.
I am of course its biggest fan. Here are some of my favourite takeaways from the library:
Calm Mind: Feeling anxious about something is a normal emotion. It is neither a good emotion nor a bad emotion it is simply a response to what is happening in your world.
Growth Mindset: Mistakes allow us to practice something called Intelligent Failure. This means that we deliberately spend time with our mistakes to see what we have learned so we can do differently next time.
Coping with Isolation: When we re-emerge from isolation, we have the opportunity to reshape how we reconnect with our loved ones, society and the rest of the world.
Parental Guilt: Feeling and choosing to respond to guilt increases the chances that our children will model guilt in a similar way. If we want to teach our children compassion over guilt and get them to see first-hand what empathy and kindness look like we must start with ourselves.
Brave Leader: When people are under pressure, their behaviours can change; sometimes quite significantly. Noticing this, and then having the courage to talk to them about it can be quite literally life changing.
Outside of providing people with a tool like Kite Support, I am asking business leaders what they are doing for their people that they weren’t pre-COVID? We are seeing some excellent examples of organisations adapting for their customers, however, now more than ever we must have a people-first mentality.
Since the 1981 Health and Safety regulations were introduced, physical First Aid support has been a legal requirement for all workplaces. Unfortunately, Mental Health First Aid is a recommendation, not legislation which can mean organisations are less equipped when it comes to their duty of care obligations.
Getting it right and taking care of ourselves and our people during these times is what will make the difference on the other side. It could be the transparent way you communicate, how you listen, or it could be the tools you give people.
This pandemic is a constant reminder that our physical health is at risk but let’s not forget that we all have mental health too. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Be kind to yourself.
*Hannah Hardy-Jones, Professor Brian Dolan OBE, Kathryn Jackson, Sarah McGuinness, Rhonda D’Ambrosio