How to Normalise Mental Health Conversations at Work
Mental Health Specialist, Jaimie Shires & Head of People at Charlton Morris, Rebecca Cook
This Mental Health Awareness week we invited Mental Health Specialist Jaimie Shires onto our CM Conversations podcast.
In this episode, I asked Jaimie: ‘how can we normalise mental health conversations at work?’ We also discussed how workplace culture can impact your mental health, the balancing act that leaders must perform to support their employees’ and Jaimie offered additional advice on how to manage your own mental health at work.
You can listen to the podcast below or you can keep on reading to find out more about what we spoke about.
Attitude, Awareness & Education
Thanks to campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Week, coupled with conversations in the media and our daily lives, people are becoming better educated about mental health. This is helping us become more aware of issues in our personal lives and creating open attitudes to mental health.
However, we’ve still got a lot of work to do. There’s still a lack of awareness about the behaviour that can lead to poor mental health and a certain stigma surrounding conversations about mental health. This is even truer in workplaces.
Back in 2019, when Jaimie started normalising conversations about mental health at Charlton Morris, she noticed this:
“I remember my first mental health awareness training with you and there was a lot of serious faces. There was a lot of discomfort. There was this association that mental health was all about poor mental health. There was little understanding that mental health was a spectrum.”
However, having worked closely with HR and the senior management team, we’ve come along way in two years. Jaimie went onto explain how she’s seen a shift in attitudes throughout the company. This was increasingly evident throughout the pandemic in the wellness chats that Jaimie hosted for us.
“During the virtual wellbeing trainings, I noticed a lot more people getting involved. People were more open and happier to discuss their mental wellbeing. It was great to see so many people feel comfortable talking about these things in front of their co-workers.
“That to me was a sign that there’d been a shift in the culture at Charlton Morris. It was a sign that people felt psychological safety at work.”
It was encouraging to hear this feedback from Jaimie and that people felt safe to share their feelings with each other.
At Charlton Morris we continue to encourage an open culture. We want our managers to be comfortable having conversations with employees about their mental wellbeing. In turn, we also want the rest of our employees to feel like they have someone to talk to. That’s why we have two mental health first aid trained employees on hand a people who’ll listen.
But creating psychological safety goes beyond encouraging an open culture and telling people that they have someone to talk to.
Creating a Culture with Psychological Safety
Creating a culture with psychological safety starts with your leaders. Your leadership team need to take responsibility for the wellbeing of employees, as well as their own targets.
“Managers have to perform this balancing act. Obviously, financial targets are important, but they also have to have this empathetic nurturing side to them that helps them get the best out of their employees.
“This is a really difficult thing to do, but it can be achieved. It’s about following your intuition as a manager. It requires a really high level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence, that you can read how your team are feeling.
“You need to also ask yourself: how comfortable are people speaking to you? If you’re not get much back, that’s where this self-awareness kicks in. And if they’re not comfortable speaking to you, why aren’t they? And do you need to lean on HR or someone else to make sure you’re supporting a culture where people can talk about their mental health?”
What Can Your Leaders Do?
It’s a challenging time for leaders in business. With many of us working from home (WFH) over the last 12 months, some managers will have team members that they’ve never even met. This can make it challenging to build the required trust to support a culture of psychological safety.
Agreeing with the prevalence of these challenges, Jaimie talked about the value of training and talking about these issues with HR and other leaders in your business.
“As a counsellor, I’m always speaking to a supervisor every month - talking about anything I’m challenged with. Managers should have something similar in place.
“They should have a support structure, so they can talk about any other their worries. They can learn ways to improve their management style, talk more openly about mental health and let that filter down to their teams.”
With your leaders working closely and talking about mental health, you’ll begin to normalise the conversation throughout your business. Attitudes will become more open and people will be more willing to learn.
As we continue to educate ourselves at Charlton Morris, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jaimie for all of her hard work and the improvements she’s made throughout the business. If you have the time, I implore you to listen to our podcast in which you’ll access even more advise and expertise from Jaimie.
Any more questions? Please get in touch at Rebecca.Cook@charltonmorris.com.