How to tell your staff you have a mental health problem

20Jul 16

Someone with a diagnosable mental health problem has a medical illness that should be regarded in just the same way as a physical illness. Except many worry that it’s not.

A recruitment website surveyed 1,100 workers earlier this year, and nearly two-thirds said they wouldn’t give their depression as the reason for calling in sick. A whopping 89% believed that disclosing depression in an interview would hinder their chances of getting the job.

Working at the sharp end of the business and its pressures, what happens if you’re the one on medication or being referred to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions?

Everyone in the workplace, at whatever level, is afraid of jeopardising their career progress, appearing ‘weak’ in the eyes of colleagues, and worried their illness won’t be dealt with in the same way as something physical.

As a senior figure in your organisation, it’s imperative that you don’t ignore your concerns about your personal health and state-of-mind. First of all, you’re not alone. 1 in 6 employees will experience a mental health issue at some point. Your business and team rely on you so you have to take responsibility, be courageous and seek the required help and support you need.

Don’t try and compromise by giving partial information, playing down your experiences. You need to be open and honest about specifics: if you’ve had sleep problems, what they are, when they started; how your feelings are affecting your abilities to work and deal with difficult situations; if there’s anything in particular that exacerbates what you’re going through, the long hours, travel, confrontation etc. Masking the problem only serves to delay your recovery.

Make use of your firm’s confidential services, whether that’s in occupational health or an Employee Assistance Programme – or simply someone you trust within the organisation or outside. There will be different tactics for your peers, direct line reports and other groups of staff: individual conversations, to a group, or via line managers. What matters most is to communicate your honesty, commitment to getting a problem sorted, and given the support you have from a wider team, why it’s business as usual.

One of the most effective ways of signalling to your employees that a mental health taboo has no place in your company is for those at the top to speak out about their own problems. What better way to show that careers don’t necessarily suffer, than for the boss to give a talk about how they manage their own bipolar disorder? If a director is open about how work once made them so stressed they needed professional help to deal with their anxiety, colleagues are more likely to open up about their own concerns.

When Unilever HR Director Geoff McDonald opened up about his own depression, other senior leaders followed his example — 18 months on and the number of staff coming forward to talk to line managers about their issues had increased eightfold. Lord Dennis Stevenson, the former boss of both HBOS and Pearson, has talked publicly about how he experiences episodes of severe depression every five or six years, and has called for more employers to encourage open conversations, particularly those involving people at the top.

Ultimately, breaking the stigma and education are key. Introducing mental health awareness and training for leaders, line managers and the workforce alike, will all help with creating a more positive culture. Changing attitudes to people from dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, will be fundamental in ensuring problems are picked up early, there are lower levels of absence and a positive and supportive culture for high-performance.

Also published in Fresh Business Thinking

Stress In The Workplace: How To Tackle The Taboo Topic And Ensure A Happier, Healthier and More Profitable Business

04Feb 16

With one in five people in the UK taking at least one day off a year due to stress, and even more worryingly 93 percent of these lying about the reason for their absence, it’s clear that mental illness is both increasingly prevalent, and yet still a taboo subject. Kevin Rogers, CEO of Paycare – a not-for-profit health cover provider – outlines the impact of mental health on not only the employee, but the business as a whole, explains how companies can up their game to ensure their workforce feel empowered and supported, and discusses what measures they can put in place to ultimately ensure a happier, healthier and more profitable bottom-line.

Coats, the world’s leading industrial thread and consumer textile crafts business, has appointed Valerie Hayden as Human Resources Director, Asia, Industrial. Valerie joins from Dentsu Aegis Network, a global media group, where she was Regional Head of Human Resources, Asia Pacific. Valerie will work on all aspects of HR to help support the growth of Coats’ Industrial business in Asia. This includes HR leadership and advice on talent management, performance management, engagement, recruitment and reward. She will also be a member of Coats’ Asia leadership team.

Valerie has more than 25 years’ HR experience gained across a broad range of industries including manufacturing. She has been based in Asia for nearly 20 years and former roles include Senior Vice President, Human Resources at Swiss Re, as well as senior HR positions at Rolls Royce Singapore, Novell Asia Pacific (a business software provider) and Hilton International, Middle East and Asia Pacific. Andy Speak, Chief HR Officer, Coats, said: Valerie’s broad range of experience and base in Singapore ideally position her to provide HR leadership to the Asia management team and to lead and mentor the Asia HR team.’

Valerie has a Bachelor of Arts in International Business and Organisational Management from Illinois State University where she also won the Outstanding Senior in International Business award for the highest grade point average in her year. She is certified in various registered psychometric tools and courses including MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator), Firo-B, OPQ and the full suite of SHL’s assessment tools. Valerie is also a professionally trained Executive Coach. Valerie reports to Ashok Mathur, Chief Operating Officer, Asia Industrial and is based in Singapore.


88% of employees regularly experience stress

01Feb 16

More than two-fifths (88%) of UK respondents regularly experience stress at work, according to research by human capital management firm ADP.

Its The workforce view in Europe 2015/16 report, which surveyed 11,257 working adults across Europe, including 1,500 employees in the UK, also found that over three-quarters (79%) of UK respondents feel that their employer is trying to help them manage stress levels.

The research also found:

43% of UK respondents say that stress is a constant factor in their roles and that they feel stressed often or very often.

Just 12% of UK respondents have never experienced workplace stress.

Almost a third (31%) cite a good work-life balance as the most motivating factor at work, followed by the ability to work when and where they want (29%)

Around a quarter (24%) name employee benefits that focus on long-term financial welfare as the top motivating factor at work.

36% of UK respondents would like a mixture of flexible and fixed hours, and 37% would like to adopt a totally flexible working pattern.

Leon Vergnes, senior vice president Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at ADP, said: “Over the past few years, we have seen employee attitudes toward work-life balance and the quality of life shift dramatically. We believe this is more than just a passing trend, and employee desires are really affecting how organisations operate.

“The appetite for flexible working opportunities is on the rise, and we also expect to see an increasing demand for employee benefits that support health and wellbeing. Employers must ensure that they can respond to these demands and have the support and technology in place to make the change possible.”

Employee Benefits By Marianne Calnan