What barriers do you think still exist when talking about mental health in the workplace?
Existing stigma around mental health leads to concern about how you could be viewed by colleagues, and also how your ability to do the job and chances of progressing in the business will be measured and assessed. Ironically my biggest concern was whether the progression I have made since returning to work has been through sympathy and in some way an addressing of any guilt felt by the company about what happened to me. I know there is enough performance-based evidence to show this isn’t true, but I do worry about whether this is what others might think, especially when I was promoted a year after my return to work. Also there is a barrier caused by fear of how much they can ask from an employee who is recognised as having to manage a mental illness. This concern is probably because, although the employer is unlikely to be liable in the first case of stress-related illness, there is likely to be an increased chance of liability if there is a relapse of an employee with a history of stress-related illness. This means that often we are more concerned about not doing something that might make things worse than we are about doing something that might make things better.
How has lockdown affected your mental health?
For me personally it’s been a wonderful opportunity to slow down, focus on myself and detach from the social and work pressures of presenteeism. It has been much easier to not have to socialise when I don’t feel like it without having to explain myself and also to navigate bad days without worrying about how it looks to other people in the office. On the negative side I am really missing the ability to travel and the narrowing of horizons this presents. Travelling on the train and tube, however, can remain a thing of the past!
How does Kantar support the mental health of our colleagues?
Through all of the employee assistance support, especially now that we have very practical and immediate tools. From my perspective, I have found a formula that works for me so haven’t needed to access many of the available resources, but it is very reassuring to know that if things started to go bad again I have access to so much support. It is also very helpful to see the work that is being done to increase everybody’s knowledge of mental health and to start removing the stigma attached to it. Working in a company that listens and wants to learn makes me so much more confident and relaxed about being open, as the mutual benefits from this approach could be so powerful going forwards
What is your number one tip for looking after your mental health?
Don’t do too much of the things that are widely regarded as bad for you OR too much of the things that are widely regarded as good for you. It’s all about finding the right balance for you and recognising that everything you do can have a positive or negative cause and effect; what is regarded as bad might actually be good for you and vice versa. For example too much gym or dieting can lead to damaging obsessions and disorders and a great night out with friends might help you feel less isolated and down despite there being a hangover to deal with. It’s all about being honest with yourself and doing risk/reward calculations on your behaviour, and evaluating how much positive or negative impact your choices are making on your overall wellbeing. Listen to your body and don’t push on regardless when it is screaming at you to move around, get some sleep, hydrate or stuff it full of nutrients.