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Surviving or thriving: mental health awareness in the workplace

A member of our Customer Success team, Mikaela, is an expert in wellbeing, career coaching, mental health & stress management. She is a Change Management Practitioner (APMG), and an active guest speaker at Universities, Careers Fairs, Diversity & Inclusion Panels, Women's Networking, among o

23 Mar 2020 | 13 min read

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A member of our Customer Success team, Mikaela, is an expert in wellbeing, career coaching, mental health & stress management. She is a Change Management Practitioner (APMG), and an active guest speaker at Universities, Careers Fairs, Diversity & Inclusion Panels, Women's Networking, among others.  

We sat down with her to chat about key insights from some of these events. Recently she participated in a panel discussion on mental health awareness in the workplace at City University. While this event was private, we wanted to bring the key themes she covered to light for you to benefit from.

When not at the office, you act as a speaker on events related to managing mental health issues both professionally and personally. What's the story behind that?

I first got involved with these sorts of speaking events when I was at JLL. I was invited to do a talk for Future leaders on Authentic Leadership & Emotional Intelligence. From there, I started doing workshops, my first being to an audience of 300.

When I was at LinkedIn, I was part of the Global Consulting Organisation, working with some of the largest global customers to successfully position their employer brand on Linkedin and beyond. A lot of this role is about educating the client, but as a customer success manager, I was on stage a lot speaking to enterprise employees, schools and universities.

One of my most key insights for students is to always look for mental health advocates on Linkedin when you are applying for jobs, as this could show you if mental health is on that company's list of priorities. This will help you to better understand the type of company in terms of culture and values upfront, which is quite relevant when looking for places to work and get good experience. My advice for graduates is to make sure to conduct research and ask the questions that will help to find out if the company will support their development as a professional. 

In 2016, I was asked to take part in a talk at City University due to the great work previously done at Exeter University. This was a session on how to leverage their Linkedin profile. I am very grateful for all my training at Linkedin as it was paramount to my ability to present and communicate at such a high level. As you know practice makes perfect! Since then I have done several talks for City University which I am really fortunate to be able to do.

With the recent International Women’s day having the theme #EachforEqual, I think it is so important to be highlighting awareness of mental health in the workplace for all and being allies for each other.

How do you emotionally balance your 3 professional, personal and inner worlds?

I have spent the last 4 years in the tech start up space, and the past year working for a really great company, Rungway, where I am happy and healthy.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t always well at work; I had some bad experiences at the start of my career, which resulted in a much needed break away to get better and focus on my health. From this, I created a ‘Working with Me Guide’ & a Mental Health Toolkit, which consists of 3 sections: work, personal and other, focused on the 3 T’s (tension, triggers & treatment). I realised the key to combating mental sickness is to look out for the symptoms or warning signs. 

I feel confident that I won’t find myself at such a low point in my life again as I do regular check-ins with myself to make sure I’m managing well. When I feel low, I make sure I practice self compassion and do some of my rituals. Those rituals help to treat any uneasy feeling: having a bath, going to the gym, doing some yoga; you soon learn what the best treatments are for your happiness.

Another good practice is to connect with nature, that really helps you fight work stress as you are taking yourself away from the digital world. Being surrounded by nature, helps you to listen to your inner self and pinpoint any indicators of stress. Anything that helps you can be stored in your Mental Health Toolkit, so that is how you build on that so you are ready to come back fighting when it is needed.

Mental stress / health is currently a big issue for many of the people in the workforce today. What one tip would you give to employers and also employees to build better workplaces cultures?

I think the biggest thing for any employer is to show that your peers are listening and that you’re willing to talk about these topics. Companies are struggling to tackle unhappiness at work as not everyone has the confidence to speak up about these things, but showing there is a journey of being listened to, creates a safe space for employees to open up.

It’s important to show your team that there are protocols in place, safe spaces, both physically and online, as well as mental health champions, that will make someone feel comfortable enough to go to and get the support they need. It could be a face to face, a suggestion platform, maybe it’s an anonymous platform, such as Rungway; there are lots of ways you can create an environment where people feel safe and heard. 

For employees, make sure you make use of the system your company has in place and reach out when you feel you need guidance. It’s also important to be aware of your colleagues around you, if you notice changes in their behaviour, reach out to see if they are okay. Even if you aren’t trained as a mental health champion, showing them that you care can make a huge impact for that person.

You help Rungway customers to make the most of the platform. How do you see the platform helping to improve employee mental health at the workplace?

A significant share of Rungway posts cover physical, mental and emotional health needs. Several topics are regularly discussed on Rungway, the top four from the last 6 months being Policy (13.6%), Workplace (11.9%), Business (11.6%), and Wellbeing (11.3%). Others include Internal Mobility, Community, Managers, Rewards, Inclusion, Culture, Sustainability, Career, and Technology.

Here are some tips:

  • Start the conversation. It can be scary, but starting the conversation by saying something like, “I’ve been having a tough time and need to talk to you about it,” could help.

  • Use examples. When you’re discussing what you’ve been going through it will be easier for someone else to understand when you use specific examples. This will help a person who has never experienced mental sickness to realise it’s much more than feeling down, and it will give them a sense of how they might be able to help you.

  • Propose new ideas to bring awareness on the matter. Give ideas on how your company can improve the policy around mental health. 

  • Asking for advice if you feel you are not ok

  • Bringing some awareness about things that you see around you

We hope this article helped you. We will be releasing further content for you on how to raise awareness of mental wellbeing in the workplace in the coming weeks.


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