Who’s looking after your boss?

13 Jan 2020
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We all have mental health, from the factory floor to the Boardroom

We might think of our companies as looking after us: they provide our jobs, pay our salary, provide structure to our lives, are a place to go to for work, sometimes even a refuge if things aren’t working well in other areas of our lives. And as an employee you have the right to expect certain benefits in exchange for doing your job over your agreed salary which may include a good environment to work in, health benefits, social aspects.

In fact getting a balance of our needs met at work is crucial for our good mental health, as well as in other areas of our lives. You might be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which illustrates a sliding scale of basic needs (physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, self-actualisation), all of which have to be met in order for us to not just survive, but thrive.
But it is also a key source of stress: in the November 2017 report from the Health and Safety Executive, 12.5 million working days are lost due to work-related mental ill health, conditions which include stress, depression and anxiety (2016/17), and 526,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression, and anxiety in 2016/17.
We are becoming increasingly aware of the impact stress at work has on us as media, mental health campaigns and legislation are gradually bringing it into the public arena but there is still a long way to go: 95% of employees calling in sick with stress gave a different reason (Heads Together).
Many companies are seeing the value in being proactive in their approach and opening the conversation on it, and this is great for employees as it demonstrates that bosses and managers are aware of their employees’ needs and are willing to put them at the front of their organisations.
Ultimately this leads to happier staff, a happier working environment and better productivity.
But have you ever wondered who looks after your boss? They also have mental health issues and workplace stress. Mental health is a great leveler, we all have it, from the factory floor worker to the CEO of huge multinational corporations and everyone in the middle, it’s something you can’t escape from but it’s something that is often swept under the carpet or ignored. And yet with a little bit of effort we can improve mental health across the board, this makes us happier, healthier human beings, it helps us cope with life, builds resilience.
Your boss might be a figure in the distance or they might be the person sitting next to you, and as well as having all the same stresses and strains of life (paying the mortgage or rent, ensuring food is on the table, looking after family – the same stuff we all worry about) they also have the added burden of the health of the company: is it doing well, are new customers coming on board, are overheads out of control, where’s the money coming from to cover next months’ salary bill?
We often rail against our bosses (and sometimes with good reason!) but in most cases we don’t know the full picture.
I was recently reading an article about an entrepreneur who, like many who are building companies might do, envisaged building a mini-empire: starting off working from home, building her business up, gradually employing a few people and she thought “This must be it, I’ve made it! My company is turning over more than I thought it would, I’m employing people, I’m being productive”, but actually she yearned for those simpler days of working out of her back bedroom on her own.
Because building a bigger business entails a lot of things beyond the core product or service, such as employing and looking after the needs of staff, managing holiday and sickness gaps, increased overheads as the business outgrows the back bedroom, making sure the customer funnel is working so that income flows in to cover those overheads and staffing costs, you might have to take on jobs that don’t resonate with you but you have to pay the bills, you now have this machine to feed.
And just like any other person mental ill health can strike your boss down, leaving them feeling depressed or anxious about the future, struggling for clarity of thought, stuck in a rut or lacking motivation and confidence. So it benefits us all to look after our mental health and those around us, for a happier, healthier and more productive working environment.
If you recognise this picture, perhaps it’s time you took a look at the state of your organisation’s mental health as a whole, from top to bottom, and strated opening the conversation. It can be doing something as simple as arranging a company social event to allow downtime to get to know each other outside the workplace, or you can call in professional help.
And in most cases, prevention is better than cure so having strategies that prevent stress from developing into unmanageable proportions is a key part of people management – and by looking after the people, you look after the business.
Here are 5 stress-busting tips that might help:
1. Change what you can, accept what you can’t – don’t become easily irritated, don’t set yourself up for chronic stress and possibly depression through having untenable expectations, they lead to frustration, tension, anger
2. Stop multitasking – if you do one thing, it’s this! In fact we cannot multitask, what we do is develop an ability to switch focus quickly but this is energy-sapping for our brains and leaves us ending our working day feeling exhausted and yet as if little has been achieved
3. Be present – give your focus to the task in front of you, active listening to colleagues and clients, break the driven-doing mode which is habitually reactive, over-analysing, continually striving and ultimately exhausting without being productive
4. Work out what’s important and what’s not – plan your work, don’t let your work plan you. Set yourself private periods in a hectic environment, learn to say ‘no’, prioritise with the 4 D’s of time management (do it, delegate it, dump it, defer it)
5. Work on other areas of your life – create a ‘buffer zone’ between work and home, a period when you can shake off the stresses of work and enter home feeling calm and clear-headed, use relaxation to lower your emotional arousal, stop thinking about work and prepare for the change of pace at home. And set parameters: unplug from work by limiting email responses, switching off the smartphone
Mind Your Business – helping you address mental health and stress in the workplace for better productivity

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