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Talking About Your Mental Health with Your Employer

Up to 80% of people will experience a diagnosable mental health condition over the course of their lifetime, whether they know it or not. The prevalence of symptoms is the same from the C-suite to individual contributors, but almost 60% of employees have never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health status. Even though managers, direct reports, and colleagues have been more vulnerable than ever due to shared societal challenges and the blurring of the personal and professional during the past 18 months, the effects of stigma can still loom large. 

If you’re struggling with managing your mental health, you know it can become more difficult to keep up with work duties, among any other responsibilities on your plate.

While these aren’t always easy conversations to have, it may be helpful to talk to your employer about your struggles so that you can partner with your boss, co-workers, direct reports, or human resources department to find solutions that help you feel better and take greater control of your mental health.

The truth is, maybe that’s because while there are sometimes clues to highlight when we’re going through a tough time mentally—appearing teary, withdrawn, maybe even agitated—most of the time, there is no external signal to signpost when someone is struggling. Really, the only way we can know how each of us is feeling is by talking to each other. But, for many us, our mental health can feel like a hugely private part who we are. It can seem easier to put on a facade and pretend that everything’s A-Okay—even when it’s not.

It’s understandable to think that, particularly in a work environment, admitting that you’re struggling is showing a sign of weakness. But, actually, I think it’s one of the greatest forms of strength. Showing your vulnerabilities makes you a strong person.

Why Employees Don’t Talk about Mental Health

Mental health stigma can be a barrier for employees who wish to talk openly about their treatment and condition. There are several reasons an employee might not wish to disclose a mental illness, including:

  • Fear of losing their job or missing out on a promotion;
  • Worry over co-workers and their managers judging them;
  • Risk of being misunderstood;
  • Not wanting to be seen as being given special treatment;
  • Witnessing harassment or bullying of others who have talked about mental health.

When employees don’t talk about mental health, it can have a ripple effect. They might avoid seeking treatment if they can’t take time off to go to therapy appointments. Employees who feel misunderstood can feel isolated and their relationships with their co-workers can suffer. Mental health is a spectrum that we all go back and forth on, just like physical health. Most of us fluctuate between stress, burnout, and diagnosable conditions like depression or anxiety depending on what’s happening in our lives. While it may feel harder to disclose bipolar disorder than burnout, everyone should be able to relate on some level.

This has never been truer than it has been over the last 18 months, between the stressors of the pandemic, racial trauma, and more. Managers, direct reports, and colleagues have been more vulnerable and authentic than ever due to shared societal challenges and the blurring of the personal and professional with remote work. We’ve also benefited from the courage of Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Not only did they choose to share their mental health challenges on a public stage, but they also made difficult decisions that put their well-being first.

That said, the effects of stigma can still loom large. Self-stigma tells you that you’re weak and should be ashamed of your anxiety and depression. Societal stigma tells you that you would be judged and that professional repercussions would follow if you disclosed.

Should You Tell Your Employer?

There can be a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic concerns to consider if you are contemplating talking to your employer about your mental health challenges.

A 2018 journal article provides a systematic review of the literature to help you understand why you may need to navigate these discussions differently depending on circumstances. Factors that impact the decision to disclose or conceal mental health challenges may include:

  • Potential stigma
  • Personal characteristics of a boss
  • Relationship with employer
  • Mental health of the employee
  • Perceptions of mental illness
  • Fears about losing control

When struggling with mental health, it can even be difficult to think clearly, so it helps to really spend time considering a proper course of action.

A 2015 study looked into how people manage their mental health information at work. This research found that men, people participating in supported employment programs, recipients of disability benefits, people with a thorough knowledge of applicable legislation, those with fewer negative experiences regarding stigma, and people who report more severe illness were increasingly likely to disclose mental health challenges at their workplace.

Talking With Your Boss

It can feel intimidating to talk to your boss regarding challenges with mental health, especially when so many people rely on their jobs for an income to survive.

This insight aligns well with the evidence from a 2020 journal article based on focus groups with people with mental health concerns human resources practitioners, employers, accommodations professionals, and advocates.

This research found that people benefitted from considering who they should share their mental health challenges with, as well as the content, timing, and communication style used in their disclosure.

Speaking With Your Direct Reports

When speaking with the employees you supervise directly, it can be useful to think about exactly what they need to know to complete their responsibilities and how your mental health may impact them. Maintain professionalism by being brief, to the point, and clear about exactly what your request or concern is. There’s no need to amplify your experience or be overly emotional in order to get others to understand.

If anything, being open with those that report to you may just encourage more dialogue about your team’s mental health and foster a healthier working relationship.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.thecheckinproject.org/post/how-to-talk-about-mental-health-with-your-employer
https://www.psycom.net/how-to-talk-to-your-boss-about-your-mental-health/
https://hbr.org/2021/07/how-to-talk-about-your-mental-health-with-your-employer?

Overthinking and How It Can Affect Physical & Mental Health

A high-achiever who processes the world more deeply than others is also known as a sensitive strive and susceptible to overthinking. Studies show that sensitive people have more active brain circuitry and neurochemicals in areas related to mental processing. This means their minds not only take in more information but also process that information in a more complex way. Sensitive strivers are often applauded for the way they explore angles and nuance. But at the same time, they are also more susceptible to stress and overwhelm.

Deliberation is an admirable and essential leadership quality that undoubtedly produces better outcomes. But for Terence and others like him, there comes a point in decision making where helpful contemplation turns into overthinking. If you can relate, here are five ways to stop the cycle of thinking too much and drive towards better, faster decisions.

1. Leave Perfectionism Behind

Perfectionism is one of the biggest blockers to swift, effective decision-making because it operates on faulty all-or-nothing thinking. For example, perfectionism can lead you to believe that if you don’t make the “correct” choice (as if there is only one right option), then you are a failure. Or that you must know everything, anticipate every eventuality, and have a thorough plan in place before making a move. Trying to weigh every possible outcome and consideration is paralysing.

In order to curb this tendency, use the following questions:

  • Which decision will have the biggest positive impact on my top priorities?
  • Of all the possible people I could please or displease, which one or two people do I least want to disappoint?
  • What is one thing I could do today that would bring me closer to my goal?
  • Based on what I know and the information I have at this moment, what’s the best next step?

After all, it’s much easier to wrap your head around and take action towards a single next step rather than trying to project months or years into the future.

2. Use Your Intuition

Intuition works like a mental pattern matching game. The brain considers a situation, quickly assesses all your experiences, and then makes the best decision given the context. This automatic process is faster than rational thought, which means intuition is a necessary decision-making tool when time is short and traditional data is not available. In fact, research shows that pairing intuition with analytical thinking helps you make better, faster, and more accurate decisions and gives you more confidence in your choices than relying on intellect alone. In one study, car buyers who used only careful analysis were ultimately happy with their purchases about a quarter of the time. Meanwhile, those who made intuitive purchases were happy 60 percent of the time. That’s because relying on rapid cognition, or thin-slicing, allows the brain to make wise decisions without overthinking.

3. Limit the exposure to decision fatigue

You make hundreds of decisions a day — from what to eat for breakfast to how to respond to an email — and each depletes your mental and emotional resources. You’re more likely to overthink when you’re drained, so the more you can eliminate minor decisions, the more energy you’ll have for ones that really matter.

Create routines and rituals to conserve your brainpower, like a weekly meal plan or capsule wardrobe. Similarly, look for opportunities to eliminate certain decisions altogether, such as by instituting best practices and standardised protocols, delegating, or removing yourself from meetings.

4. Getting the right tools

Knowing how to stop overthinking isn’t an innate gift. It isn’t genetic, or set-in stone during your childhood. Many people who are able to control their emotions and avoid getting stuck in a spiral of overthinking and anxiety have developed these skills over time. It takes determination – but it also takes the right set of tools. Discover your personal blueprint and how to align your choices with your ultimate purpose in life. Learn how to navigate pain and anxiety, rather than avoiding or suppressing it. Transform your thought process to crush negative behaviours – and any obstacles in your path.

5. Distract your senses

Overthinking and worrying are mental activities, so if they start to take hold, do something physical.

You can essentially “shock” your senses by taking the power away from one area of your body and giving it to another. Sounds confusing? It’s not.

For example, if you start to feel fearful about the uncertainty of an upcoming event, splash some cold water on your face, or smell some calming lavender oils. Your brain will start to react to the sudden change, and you’ll have less of an ability to focus on the worrisome thoughts.

Find whatever works for you to shock your senses, and keep it handy whenever possible.

Busying yourself with an activity is the best way to change the channel. Exercise, engage in conversation on a completely different subject, or get working on a project that will distract your mind from the barrage of negative thoughts. Remember that your mental depth gives you a major competitive advantage. Once you learn to keep overthinking in check, you’ll be able to harness your sensitivity for the superpower that it can be.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.themuse.com/advice/6-easy-ways-to-stop-overthinking-every-little-thing-and-just-enjoy-your-life
https://hbr.org/2021/02/how-to-stop-overthinking-everything
https://www.inc.com/business-insider/7-easy-ways-avoid-overthinking-improve-decisions.html

Organisations Have to Prioritise Young Workers’ Mental Health

Young workers aged between 18 and 30 are more likely to have mental health issues than their senior colleagues, with a whopping 48% reporting suicidal thoughts or feelings. This information has been made available from a survey of around 3,884 people conducted over two years by Accenture revealing this worrisome fact. In comparison, only 35% of older workers experience such dark emotions.

Even though they are more susceptible to experiencing such feelings, 45% of young workers admitted to ‘holding back’ from talking about their mental health in the workplace, compared with only 22% of older employees.

Younger people have also reported that they are experiencing more pressure in their lives than their older counterparts, with 4 out of 10 people between the ages of 18 and 30 revealing that the pressures from work are affecting them on a daily basis, 1 in 3 are worried about the mental health of someone close to them.

Barbara Harvey, managing director and mental health lead for Accenture UK, has said “It’s clear that many young people face challenges with their mental health before they enter the workforce and while working, and that they are affected more often than their senior peers. Therefore, mental health must be a priority issue for employers.”

The aforementioned study has also brought up to the attention of the general public about the advantages of working in a supportive and open culture, with 41% of those working in such environments experiencing mental health challenges, compared with 65% in less supportive environments.

Mental ill health has been estimated to cost the UK economy around £94 billion per year, according to figures released in 2018 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with 1 in 6 people across Europe struggling with their mental health.

The financial aspect alone offers a compelling and insightful reason for organisations to take action in addressing this problem. For example, in 2017, an independent review commissioned by the British prime minister put the annual cost to UK employers of poor mental health in workers between £33 billion and £42 billion.

Additional action needs to be taken. Here are 3 simple actions leading organisations have started taking to get things moving faster in the right direction.

1.   Onboarding is Essential

Young people often enter the workforce with little sense of what is about to hit them. It’s important to help them make the transition to a kind of pressure many have never faced before.

Boots, a UK health, beauty and pharmacy company, regularly reaches out to secondary schools, colleges, and local universities. It runs workshops and gives talks that help potential recruits better understand the workplace, and taps its own younger employees as leaders of these events to ensure that the messages resonate. Boots also helps young hires to build skills and confidence and better adjust to their new responsibilities through group discussions and workshops. Early-career tutors are trained to help these workers and are, in turn, helped by others; they know how to escalate any concerns to a colleague who has had specific training on mental health issues.

2.   Train Them How You Want Them

Once people have been onboarded, they need help understanding how to manage the stresses and strains of the job and how to deal with those particular situations. The key here is to design solutions.

The international law firm Allen & Overy has many trainees, most of whom join on a two-year contract. Working with and led by the younger cohort, senior managers created a programme that focuses on the human element of life as a lawyer. Trainers equip new lawyers with ‘practical resilience skills and advice’ to help them achieve a healthy work-life balance in a high-pressure environment. Among those lessons are included how to set and maintain boundaries between personal and work time. A message that is best delivered by people who have experienced that.

One recent pilot initiative coming out of this process involves ‘protected evenings.’  It allows trainees to flag nights that are important to them, giving them more control over their schedules. Trainees also publish a newsletter every two weeks that helps address key concerns on their agenda.

3.   The Role of Senior Leaders

They should be open about the challenges they have faced and they should show vulnerability. When they speak up, not only would they help their struggling younger workers realise that they’re not alone, they would also be giving them some language to use to describe their own experiences.

Paul Feeney – CEO of Quilter a wealth management company in London – has stated that making it personal is the best solution: “In our industry, we have a saying, ‘Don’t take it personal.’ We should make it personal. People need to know it is OK to not be OK. The best thing to do is open up and talk about it.”

The more we can do to reduce the stigma of this topic and bring it further out of shadows into the mainstream, the less will people need to be brave to talk about their experiences. And they will be happier, more confident, and more productive at work and beyond.

There is a real value in providing companies with the tools to carry out regular organisational assessments and this is where Great People Inside comes to your aid. Our online platform offers the best solutions and tools for your company to thrive in every type of industry and any possible situation your organisation may find itself. In terms of lowering your employee turnover rates, we recommend our GR8 Full Spectrum assessment for hiring and 360° Survey for retention. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It requires deep knowledge of your own organisation’s culture and a keen understanding of the candidate’s personality, strengths, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you find employees who can flourish and reach the highest performance required to constantly bring your company forward.

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.zenefits.com/workest/young-workers-demand-emphasis-on-mental-health-in-the-workplace/

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/young-workers-suicidal-thoughts-mental-health-talking-a9217911.html

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-most-anxious-generation-goes-to-work-11557418951