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Event wrap up - Are you ready to talk about mental health at work?

On Friday 12 March 2021, we held the second webinar in a series with our valued partner, Culture Amp. Thanks to everyone who attended, to those who asked questions, and to our panelists who spoke so openly.

The participants on the day were: (Host) Damon Klotz, Andrew Williams, Dr Kim Hazendonk, and Olivia Molly Rogers.

If you'd like to watch the video of the chat, you can find it here (1 hour watch). A full transcript of the conversation is below.

Some key points from our speakers:

  • Creating physiological safety environments encourages vulnerability. Individuals need to feel secure when sharing their mental health experience as often the barrier is not knowing how others will respond.
  • Create intentional connection. Creating time and space to engage with an individual by beginning interactions with ‘How are you feeling?’ allows you to connect at a human level, rather than being task orientated.
  • Ask a question twice to answer once - Double click question. Often our behavioural response to being asked ‘How are you?’ is an automatic ‘I’m good.’ When prompted a second time, individuals can feel more at ease displaying vulnerability. 
  • Put deposits into the emotional piggy bank. By working to build a rapport with team members, individuals can be open to sharing vulnerable moments. Remember something they told you that was personal and follow up after the event, offer positive feedback, praise, or undertake an act of kindness.

We look forward to presenting our next webinar in this series with Culture Amp.

In the meantime, if you'd like more information about the Team United Development Program, please get in touch.

 


 

TRANSCRIPT

Damon Klotz: Thank you to everyone who has joined so far. As you are entering as an attendee please feel free to head over to the chat section, select 'Panelists and Attendees' and let us know where are you joining us from. We already have some people joining us from Wisconsin, from Los Angeles, from Sydney, so it's great to see that this is a global discussion.
Even though we're going to have four Australians talking about this, one of the great things about the Culture First global community is that we get to facilitate these conversations. And while we host them in different parts of the world, virtually, anyone can join and we always try to make sure that our topics resonate with different people from around the world. So great to see all these people joining.
For those who have just joined, please feel free to head over to the chat, say hello, let us know where you are joining us from, we have people from all around the world, which is amazing.
So I want to be conscious of everyone's time and I'm going to kick things off. And we're here today to ask this simple but complex question - Are you ready to talk about mental health at work?
So by signing up for today's event you're going to be tuning in, and we want you to be part of this conversation. And the key things that we're going to be discussing are what it means to normalise mental health in the workplace, how we can all build a safe environment, to open communication, to help increase early detection and prevention of mental health conditions. We're going to discuss the value of gratitude and supporting mental health. And we're also going to be discussing mental health at three different levels - the organisation, the team and individual level. And what we can do at each of those different levels to actually create a more mentally healthy workplace.
So thank you to all those who are joining, please feel free to head over to the chat and let us know where you're tuning in from.
So for those who have just joined, my name is Damon Klotz, I'm Culture Amp's Work Culture Evangelist. And if you are not familiar with my face but familiar with my voice, it might be because you listened to the Culture First podcast. So I've been with Culture Amp for nearly six years now, and as an Australian based in California I'm very excited to be having this conversation with Dr Kim, with Olivia, and Andrew to be talking about mental health in the workplace.
So for those who don't know Culture Amp, we are the world's leading people and culture platform, where we help companies measure things like employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, performance and the entire employee experience. If you want to learn more about Culture Amp, you can obviously head over to cultureamp.com. But today we really want you to be here and focus on this conversation about mental health in the workplace.
So that's a little bit about Culture Amp. We've actually partnered with The United Project, so I might pass over to you, Andrew. For those who are joining and haven't heard of The United Project, would you mind sharing a little bit about the company and the work that they do?

Andrew Williams: I will Damon, but before I do that I'm going to ask you - How are you feeling today?

Damon Klotz: I have nervous butterflies of excitement, that's how I'm feeling right now.

Andrew Williams: Fantastic, thank you for that. So The United Project, we're a charitable foundation that exists for two main reasons, and that's to prevent suicides and to improve mental health outcomes. And I guess our major focus is on the workplace, and how we can have early detection and prevention there. And at our heart, that purpose is very much around how can we normalise mental health through conversations? How do we see it in the same way that we see physical health? And by increasing the focus on conversations so that we can deal with it in the workplace.

Damon Klotz: Thanks for sharing that. One of my little sayings in life is that we're all one conversation away from changing the rest of our life. And I always see conversations as a unit of change to actually have a positive impact. And that's what I've tried to do through the Culture First podcast, and also every interaction we have with each other as humans.
So obviously, we are talking about mental health in the workplace, so one thing that we do want to let everyone know - that if any of the topics are the things that we discuss today that you find triggering for some reason, or if it feels like you want to seek support after this, we're going to post some links into the chat now where you can find support. Obviously, in Australia there's places like Lifeline and the Suicide Callback Service, and then in the United States, I will also be posting some links there.
So we're also joined in the conversation by Dr Kim and Olivia. So, I want to start to learn a little bit more about everyone who's on this call and joining us today as we post those links. So I'll start with you, Dr Kim. I would love to maybe start with how you describe yourself in a sentence to the outside world, let's say on LinkedIn? And then I'll ask the more pressing question.

Dr Kim Hazendonk: Okay, thanks, Damon. I'm Dr Kim, I'm a clinical neuropsychologist, which means my specialisation's in the brain and how it works. And so I use that knowledge of the workings of the brain to help people understand their thoughts and their emotions better, to be better at dealing with things that stress us in our day to day lives, and to be able to talk with the people in our lives in a healthy and positive way.

Damon Klotz: Now, the more pressing question, and which is going to be a bit of a spoiler alert for how the rest of this is going to go, but if a very curious 10 year old walks up to you, and says, "Excuse me, Dr Kim, what do you do for work?", how do you answer?

Dr Kim Hazendonk: Well, pretty much the same way as I would try and explain it to my kids who are 7 and 12. So what mummy does is that she talks to people and she helps them understand their emotions, how to label them, how to put a name to them. And then to be able to use that too, when we recognise when we're not feeling good in ourselves and also when we are feeling good. And how we can then use that knowledge to help calm us when particularly things come up in our lives. I know my 12 year old son even last night couldn't sleep. And what his thoughts were around, "I'm not going to be able to function well tomorrow" and "I'm going to fail the test". So getting him to recognise that those unhelpful thoughts are not really helping him, and what he can do to change the thoughts. Luckily my seven year old's really good at being able to do that, and she just told him to just think of something else and you'll be fine.

Damon Klotz: Kids these days, I feel very glad that I grew up when I did, but kids are so attuned. I've got a 17 year old brother and he's been 17 going on 70 for the past seven years, he knows way too much, but is very attuned to his emotions. So Olivia, a curious 10 year old walks up to you, how do you describe what you do?

Olivia Molly Rogers: It's a tricky one because I do wear a lot of different hats, so it depends on which hat I'm talking about. But when it comes to mental health, I would say that I help to encourage other people to talk about their stories by sharing my stories. I guess it really is as simple as that. But I do work as a speech pathologist as well, and an artist and do a bit of modelling. So I suppose it's not that different to what I'd say to an adult, I get my photo taken a lot I suppose, and then help people to communicate and I paint pictures.

Damon Klotz: Just sounds like a pretty good life to me. We're excited to have you join this conversation. And then Andrew, outside of your work as a coach or consultant, and at The United Project, a 10 year old walks up to you, maybe at the Qantas club, they're a bit lost, and they say, 'Excuse me, what do you do for work?'.

Andrew Williams: A good question, I don't think I'd be at the Qantas club, these days. I think that what I tell people is that I help individuals and teams make progress on change that really matters to them, and if something's important then I'll help you think, engage and act differently to do that. And whether that's a 10 year old or whether that someone who's 80 and everyone in between, it's the same sort of process.

Damon Klotz: Awesome. So we're here to obviously have a conversation about mental health and about mental health in the workplace. I guess the first question I have to ask all of you is, are you all ready to talk about mental health at work?

Andrew Williams: Definitely. Indeed.

Damon Klotz: So I would also like to know how this question resonates for everyone who's joining us live. So if you are joining us live, I've just posted a link to a LinkedIn update that I did yesterday and I asked this question to all of my followers. I said 'Are you ready to talk about mental health at work?' and the discussion and the conversation has been really fascinating as of right now.
Before all of you jump in, 70% of people have said yes, they feel comfortable talking about mental health in the workplace, but 30% have said no. And the reasons why people have said no - it depends on who they're talking to, it depends on the context about it - are they talking generally about mental health are they talking about their own?
And I think this is why having conversations on platforms like this is so important. Because there's so many layers to this, yet it's only increasing in importance. So we're going to dive in because we want to make sure that everyone leaves here with some sort of action or actual takeaways about mental health in the workplace, and also learn from the experiences that that we've all had here.
And like I said, I do want this to be actionable, we are going to have a conversation. But at some stage in this hour, we are going to talk about some high level concepts and organisational strategies or things like HR policy, and that's all well and good to create systemic change that I think we need. But I think it's also really important to remember that this is a human conversation, and when we talk about these policies and changes we do so because they actually impact people, we're all people and we all have our own experience.
So to start with, I think it's really important to set the container for this conversation with a human story. So I'd love to start with you, Olivia, and talk about, as a mental health advocate, as someone who is an ambassador with The United Project, what was it like for you to talk publicly about your own mental health conditions for the first time?

Olivia Molly Rogers: It was definitely daunting, but it was also really empowering and I feel like in a way it has helped to keep me accountable. So for those who don't know, when I was about 19 I had a real struggle with mental health, I think it had been sort of developing over my childhood, but it sort of came to a head when I was 19. I started my degree as a speech pathologist, I was studying my first year, and I think that's always a big time for change, so there was a lot going on there - it was a really challenging degree, and I was also trying to work part-time and balance all of the things that a young person is trying to balance. But on top of that, I started modelling and the agency told me to lose weight, and that is where my eating disorder developed. And it all sort of spiralled quite quickly. I ended up with severe anxiety and depression and the eating disorder which then continued on for about six years after that.
And it was a really, really hard time and, at the time I didn't tell anybody what I was going through, I was very good at hiding it. Until it all did come to head one day, and I told my mom and I did reach out for some support, but even still I I kept my eating disorder a secret for years to come. And I really regret that, that is one of my only regrets in my life is not talking about it sooner, because I think I could have saved myself a lot of anguish and pain on my own, if I had spoken about it sooner. So that is why I decided to talk about it openly and publicly and to continue to do that every single day, because I think if I can encourage one person to reach out sooner than I did, then that would be an amazing result. Because there was a really dark time for me and I was suicidal, I couldn't see a way out a way out. But I'm really glad that I did reach out for support, and I think by talking about it, it does encourage others to do the same.

Damon Klotz: It takes so much courage to have that conversation with yourself first before you even ready to talk about it to someone else. And I think so many people just get a bit, to admit to yourself that "I need help" is one of the hardest conversations we can ever have with ourselves, but then to actually reach out and ask for help and get it. So what was that process like, to actually go from acknowledging it for you, then asking for help? And then, because a lot of people ask for help, especially in the workplace, and they don't get it. So how was that experience for you?

Olivia Molly Rogers: I was very lucky that my mum has had her own experience with depression, so I think she was very empathetic and understanding. And she took me to a great doctor and I got some really good support. But I do know a lot of people who have spoken to me reached out to me because they're unsure of where to turn or who to talk to you. Because I suppose unless you've had this kind of conversation with someone before, you don't know their experience, you don't know if they're going to be open-minded to what you're going to talk about. And there is still quite a lot of stigma around it, or people say that they're willing to talk about it, but they don't really know what to say back that's going to be comforting.
I think that was part of the reason it took me so long to talk about my eating disorder, because there is so much shame associated and also a lot of judgment. Or you feel that, and you don't know what's going to come as a response. I think for people who are scared to reach out, I always encourage them to talk to someone they do feel safe with. So if it was at work, I would say, probably a colleague, and maybe together they can help you find someone to go to the next level. Because I think it can be really daunting if you're reaching out to someone who you see as being much higher above you or that kind of thing. So I think reaching out to someone who's on a similar level to you, or someone that you feel safe with, I think that's one of the most important things, making sure that you feel safe to be vulnerable because it is really scary.

Damon Klotz: And I know psychological safety is something that we'll discuss throughout this. But Kim, for someone who's maybe not familiar with psychological safety, would you like to paint a picture about why that's so important, of having that environment, just as some context, before we get into the rest of the conversation?

Dr Kim Hazendonk: So what we know is that the brain is wired to be able to deal with emotions and when we experience emotion it's connected to the limbic part of the brain. And if that becomes over-aroused, it's taking resources from the front part of our brain, from the frontal lobe, and we don't want that to happen, because our frontal lobe helps us think rationally make good decisions and be very productive. The limbic system fires more rapidly, when we perceive danger in our in our workplace. And the danger these days is not about a bear walking into camp and perhaps taking someone - we can perceive danger if we think that our job is insecure, or we don't understand the value of our work, or we're feeling disconnected and not part of a social group.
And so what we want to do is to build a positive team culture and team climate, that's really important, in fact it is the strongest predictor of what we call psychological safety, which is where people in organisations feel that they are supported, that they're looked after, that their contributions matter.
And so how do we build a positive team climate and that psychological safety? Well, I think that needs to be role models from the top, we need organisations to recognise that mental health is everyone's responsibility. And we want people to feel safe, to be able to talk just about them, to talk about mental health. And we need to be visible, we need to say that the organisation's thinking about in all the ways that they do business, how we can bring in mental health issues and make this very visible for people in the workplace. So there are some strategies that I can talk about later about that, for people to take away and tips that you can do to help this kind of feeling the psychological safety and positive change.

Damon Klotz: And if you do have questions from some of the things that we're speaking about, please feel free to put them in the Q and A channel. And if there's any comments that you have throughout, please feel free to post that in the chat. And we do have members of The United Project here, who'll do their best to answer some of your questions as we go.
And thank you for sharing that context, Kim. So I know one of the things that you mentioned Olivia, that really resonated with me, I guess because I had the opposite experience, was knowing who to reach out to in a work setting, or who is the right person to reach out to. And I know that when I was 20-21 years old and I was working remotely and my first full time job, I was up in Northern Queensland. I was working in the public government system, and I was a graduate in the HR graduate program for Queensland Health, and I was working remote and I was away from my family. And my father, about 12 months earlier, had started suffering from severe depression and had attempted his life the first time, and had lost his job, and there's a lot of change that was happening in my life. And I remember rather than, I didn't feel comfortable talking to a colleague, or I didn't reach back out to my family because a lot this was happening inside of my family, and I reached out to our EAP program, and I didn't get the help that I needed. And it was really hard, I poured my heart and soul out on the phone, and I'm like, this is the right number to call, this is what work said, if you're struggling call this number. And I called and, the response I got after sharing all these things was, "Yeah mate, that sounds pretty rough". I'm like "Yeah I know, I need help". And I didn't get it, and I feel lucky that I knew to ask for help again and that that didn't discourage me, after having that sort of first not backup, when I needed help and support and I didn't get it.
And so, I think one of the biggest takeaways here is when you're feeling these things, obviously, the first conversation you have is with yourself. But if you do have that trust and safety, if you have a team environment where leadership is showcasing that you're allowed to talk about things that impact your work that is not your work, because all of these things that we're talking about are impacting our ability to be humans in the workplace.
But if you have a family member, if you have a friend, if you have some of those resources we shared, if you're feeling scared to reach out and ask for help, please do, and even if you get knocked back, please keep asking and find a place to do it. Because my first experience in trying to ask for help in the workplace didn't go how I wanted it to, but I'm glad I still kept reaching out and getting support.
Before we get into more of what happens at the organisational level to create a mentally healthy workplace, what can we do from a team perspective, which is one of the most common environments we find ourself in as well as as individuals, just as humans, what can we do?
I thought it was important to maybe set some context with some data that's out there. And as an Australian in America, I say 'data' and 'data' and I actually don't even know anymore which one's right or wrong, so you're just going to have to deal with that. So 'data' and 'data' depending on where you're listening. But when you signed up for this event, you might have seen that there was some data that we put on the website, which was Australian-based, but I just wanted to call it out here because it really stood out to me.
So three of five workers experienced the mental health condition over the past 12 months.
The second piece was that mental health concerns were the most common reason for lower productivity. Yet some workers found all the things that we had to work through in 2020 actually made them more productive.
And then, at a national Australian level, more than half of workers report that no action has been taken from their perspective in the workplace to actually address mental health.
So we're saying mental health case rises, we're seeing that is becoming more prominent, we're seeing that more people are addressing it, but we're also seeing that maybe companies haven't responded in the same way that their employees need them to. When I looked at that, a couple of things really stood out to me. So if you're on a team, if you're listening to this right now, if you're on a team right now that has two or more employees, there's a chance that someone right now is experiencing a mental health condition on your team that you might not know about.
The second thing that stood out to me was that our mental health is impacting our ability to be productive, yet a lot of the research that we're seeing is showing that people are working more than ever. So we're actually trying to be more productive, yet our ability to maybe be productive is changing.
And then that companies and leadership need to play a significant role in taking action and providing support for their employees' mental health. So when I shared that story earlier there was an EAP, but I know a lot of companies are now actually doing a lot more when it comes to providing resources, from providing therapy, from providing coaching, from providing really specific ways that you can help your employees.
So Kim, as I shared some of those some of those pieces of data as well as my own conclusions, what did you see from that data? Were my conclusions similar to the things that stood out to you? Or are there other pieces of research that you think are really important for us to be considering right now when we talk about mental health in the workplace?

Dr Kim Hazendonk: Yes, I think what I'm seeing personally is that a lot of organisations and team leaders are reaching out and saying, "Hey, we want to learn more about mental health". And for some people it's still what isn't, for some it's how do we recognise that people might need support, and for others it's okay we recognise that they hadn't had the conversation, and it's still an idea around, "Well, if I say something to someone I might make it worse for them".
I think it's really good that we're seeing more people reaching out. I'm also noticing in one-on-one coaching, a lot of people now are talking about their own personal mental health issues or concerns that they have about employees or friends or colleagues or friends or family. And it's becoming very intertwined, so it's no longer just workplace coaching - now it's both personalised and work lives, we are enmeshed, and even more so after Covid. Still, when we're going through Covid, and questions about how do we support people when they are working remotely?
So we know that, according to research by Deloitte, for example, employee mental health initiatives are more effective when they're designed to build employees resilience. So I think that's really important, that we look at ways that we can build resilience. And I work with The United Project, and we have a Team United Development Program as part of that. And that's group coaching, which is aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues, but also teaching strategies to build resilience.
One thing that I hear a lot of people talk about is having a lack of confidence, about this kind of demon that's talking in your ear - "you're making a fool of yourself", "you don't know what you're talking about" or "people don't like you", and so we look at challenging some of those thoughts in this program. We hold on to beliefs that we just assume are factual, but a lot of the beliefs that we have, for example it might be, "I can't trust anyone, I can't talk to anyone", a lot of those beliefs are not actually factual. So we teach people to recognise these unhealthy thoughts that are going on based on these beliefs, to challenge them and to reframe them, so we can have a healthier take on these things.

Damon Klotz: I really appreciate you sharing that. I know that one of the tools or I guess the tips that I learned was when I went through this leadership coaching program, and it was to do with a lot of how we experience the workplace and how self critical we can be on ourselves, is because we tell ourselves a story about like how we showed up. So I might tell myself a story like, "I'm really nervous on this call", or "I'm afraid I won't answer all the right questions" or "Maybe we'll run out of time" - and I'm telling myself all these stories. And the tip that I was told was if you were to replay back the last hour, if I was to watch this webinar and a video camera recorded the whole thing, what was true? Well, what was true was I was standing here, I presented, I spoke, I asked questions, we had a conversation, people were online, as opposed to everything else that I was worried about - which is just stories I'm telling myself versus what was actually factually true. What's factually true is the four of us are having a conversation right now, that is the fact.

Dr Kim Hazendonk: And what you're able to do there Damon, is you're engaging the frontal lobe again. So I'm talking about the limbic system, that's the emotional part - "I'm not doing a great job, I'm silly". But when you're able to be rational about it and engage this part of the brain then you're able to go, "Okay well, you know what, maybe I wasn't appearing that way to a whole audience, and even if I was, you know, that's okay, it's normal, it's fine to be in a relationship that shows that I care". So being able to engage this part and calm the the emotional part of the brain is really important. And that's what team leaders can do through these programs - is to help people learn how to manage emotions better and also to help create calm, supporting organisational environments, for people to work within.

Damon Klotz: So we've got plenty of great questions coming in, as well as some comments, so please feel free to keep posting them. We do have some members of the team trying to type some responses, and I'm also multitasking, reading it all to see how I can factor it into some of the questions that I've already written.
But as we shift gears from looking at this as we're all individuals and humans, but we're part of different contexts, and the context that we're talking about here is the organisation. For me personally, I think it's really important that the organisation supports through resources, through funding for mental health programs, for creating access to things like coaching and therapy, if there's budget for it, but also by talking about demonstrated behaviours that are healthy and that they want to promote. And talking about that at the leadership level, saying that we want people to be open to talk about these things, we're going to train our leaders on how to have conversations about mental health in the workplace, we want you to feel comfortable about reaching out and talking about these things.
A culture first organisation from 24 months ago might have already had some of these programs in place. I think a lot of this has been accelerated now because of what we've all had to work through over the past 12 months, where we know that more people are under pressure, we know that stressing is increasing and that our ability to be resilient, while we might be acknowledging that it's getting more important to be resilient, it doesn't mean that we already have the tools and resources to actually be resilient. So I think mirroring at the organisational level, having leadership talk about it, but so much of what we experience in the workplace happens at the team level. That's why there's been so many studies about teams, what makes for effective teams, what makes for psychologically safe teams.
So as we shift gears, Andrew, I'd love to really bring you to the front and centre of this conversation and talk specifically around empathetic leadership. What do you think about when you think about creating a mentally healthy team dynamic?

Andrew Williams: Thanks Damon. I think one of the things that's really profound at the moment, and it came up in one of the questions on the chat, that employee experiences and the way of working has dramatically changed. And the feedback I'm getting from my clients is that as people are working more locally, how do they check in? Because what they're finding is that the incidence around mental health is increasing, but their ability to detect that is much harder because they can't see some of the signals that we might see if someone's in the workplace there.
So, Kim talked about the importance of psychological safety. I did some research with a colleague last year around the impact of Covid 19 on teams and how teams work and their level of purpose, etc. And what we found in that was that teams that were very highly productive and high performing, one of the things that really stood out was that they were socially connected. It went through the roof, and so that sense of if I think about psychological safety, I think about this concept of intentional connection. And intentional connection, to me, is where you create the time and space to purposely engage with an individual or individuals to connect at that human or relational level. And so I think one of the things from an empathetic leadership point of view, but this is not necessarily up to the leader. I talk a lot about in my work leadership density and how do you build that, that everyone can actually boost intentional connection. And so that's why I asked you the question earlier, how are you feeling, because I think what we end up doing in organisations, because we're so busy, that we're very good at connecting at a task level - so let's talk about that report, let's talk about that activity - and some of the work I'm trying to do with my clients to build their psychological safety is to really ramp up this intentional connection. And it might be as simple as at the start of having a conversation with a colleague, is that you simply ask them how they're feeling. Or you ask them, what's energising you at the moment, or what's sapping your energy? But it's shifted my mindset of you're a resource, we're here to get a task done, to actually, you're a human and I want to connect with you in a human why. And I think that has to two advantages from a mentally healthier organisation.
Firstly, I think it raises our ability to detect, and that becomes obvious if you're asking those questions and people say "I'm feeling a bit flat at the moment" or "I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed". Then we can dig a bit deeper, and we can start to see and have a conversation around it. So I think that it improves our detection.
And I think the second thing that it does is it starts to, and I said this at the start, and this is really important for me, is that it starts to normalise the conversation around mental health, because those conversations start to emerge organically. And it goes back to something you said very early on, that conversations can change our life, and if we are able to have those conversations with individuals and within our team, then that can that can create an environment where people feel safe enough to go "Actually, I'm not okay". And I know we have in Australia, we have R U OK, but I want to sort of see it shifted to it's okay - it's okay to talk about our mental health. And particularly for a male and having experienced mental health challenges in the past, about 15 years ago, so I can really empathise with the stories I've heard so far, as a male it was incredibly hard to find who I could reach out to. And if we can change the dial and create the environment with both men and women, and can just talk about it in a way that feels like it's as normal as talking about physical health.

Damon Klotz: I'm keeping an eye on some of the questions and just try, because I think we're getting pretty tactical here, which is important, because a lot of people are asking questions around like "What can I do?", "What should I be doing for my team?", "What do I need to be doing if I'm in the HR profession?". And I know, it looks like Raquel, and I hope I'm pronouncing that right, asked if a workplace has all the right systems, tools and open culture to support people with mental wellness but people are just not okay in a lot of the ongoing pandemic, how do you suggest that we support? And what is our place? And I think the structure can be there, the framework can be there, the resources can be there, but I think that's why I want to frame this from an individual, team and company, the individual needs to be in an environment where they can reach out and know who to ask for. And I think some of the things you were saying, Andrew, really prompted me for some tactical things that we can all be doing.
My colleague, Mel, posted something about Mental Health First Aid which is a certificate that individuals can do in Australia. So you can actually train up and become certified in Mental Health First Aid. And that was something that I've done in the past, but at the organisational level, one thing that you could do to take it to the next level, is go it's great that some of these people might be training in how to have these conversations. You then, and this is where my HR and marketing brain comes together, you need to market that people have these skills in the workplace. You need to say that, "Hey, did you know that we have 15 people who have the Mental Health First Aid certificate in our workplace? If you ever want to know who to talk to, here are some of these people who are actually trained in this that you can talk to". And repeating that often enough that when someone finds himself on that day, going "I think I want to talk to someone about this", so they know who to reach out to, that they know that these resources are there.
So I think that was one, and then the other one that you mentioned, Andrew, when you asked me, "How am I doing?". While I've been interviewing different guests on the Culture First podcast, there's been this little moment that I've sort of branded, which is what I call the 'double click question'. And it's where you asked one of those questions and you try see whether someone's given you a behavioural response. So if I was to say, "Olivia, how are you going today?", maybe your behavioural response might be "Pretty good, yeah pretty good, how are you?" and we just reflex out, as opposed to me saying "And now I'm going to ask you again, how are you really going?". And basically what I call that was sometimes we need to hear a question twice to have permission to answer it once. Because we don't know even ask ourself that question enough - how am I feeling today, have I checked in, what am I grateful for, how has my mental health been? So for some of those people who say, "I really feel like one of my team members is struggling, but every time I ask them "How are you going?", I just get the same response", maybe open up and go ask them a second time, and just say "Hey, I want to let you know I'm here to create a space for you, if you want to have that conversation".

Dr Kim Hazendonk: Sometimes people will just respond with "I'm good", because that's what's expected socially. And the way that we can get people to open up is to have some rapport that we have built up between colleagues, if we're talking about the workplace. And Olivia was talking about that as well, talking to people she feels comfortable with, like a friend or someone she trusts. And the way that you build that kind of trust or rapport with people is to spend some time on what we refer to as putting deposits in an emotional piggy bank. And some kids talk about it as having a bucket and filling the bucket, the same concept. So every time that you recognise when an employee has done a good job, when you provide positive feedback and praise, when you show or do an act of kindness, when you remember something that they told you that's personal, you know that they're in a concert on the weekend, and then on Monday you say "How did the concert go?", you're putting deposits in their emotional piggy bank. And that makes it easier for people to be able to say to you, when they feel that there might be some some problems or some issues they need to talk about, they've better able to disclose those because the piggy bank has been filled up already.

Damon Klotz: Someone just also posted that Brené Brown - because we cannot be on any webinar, session or podcast in the people and culture space that Brené Brown does not get mentioned once. That is actually a real, written down rule. About speaking about any of these topics, I have seen it, for me when you sign up to be a thought leader in this space, everyone must mention Brené Brown at least once - but she calls it a marble jar moment. Another thing that I've taken a lot from Brené Brown's work is that one of the best ways to actually increase trust inside of your workplace is to leave a vulnerability, and to be okay with actually being vulnerable yourself first, to mirror that behaviour, to showcase that other people can also do that in front of you.
I was not planning on sharing some of this, but last year, I co-founded a men's mental health charity, to help process some of the things that happened to my dad. I've spent a lot of time on stigma reduction, but it also took me knowing all these things were true, all these things were important, it took me like a decade to actually go see a therapist. To go talk about some of these things and to actually open up about it. And what I realised is, once I did that, once I went out and seek some help and like dealt with some of that past trauma, and helped me process some of the things that were coming up last year, I started talking about that to other people. And I'm like "Actually, just letting you know, like a contact, a meeting at 5pm because that's when I see my therapist". And "Oh, you're seeing a therapist" and then it was like, "That's really great". But then the question is, "How did you find one? Like where can I?" and "Well, what do you do?". And then people are asking, "How do you find a good one?" and "What are the benefits?". And what I realised was I was slowly but surely normalising that conversation inside of my team, inside of the wider Culture Amp practice that I was part of. And then my boss was like, "I haven't seen one for five years, but you talking about this prompted me to go see one", and before you know all these little ripple effects started happening, just about me talking about this. So, for someone who literally co-founded a charity in the men's mental health space, it took me a decade to actually reach out and ask for help. And that is sometimes all it takes, is one person to another person and you just start normalising that conversation. And I know when I interviewed Esther Perel, one of the most common questions that she gets that people ask her is, "How do I find a good therapist? Who do I reach out to?" and, hopefully, these are some of the conversations that we can also be normalising in the workplace.
There was another question that I wanted to address, about how do we look out for team members who might be showing signs that they might be suffering from mental health, or their mental health might be going through a bit of a dip? And then these are some of the signs - I've done some research into it, but I'd love to hear if there's others, if somebody wants to mention here - maybe they start missing deadlines, or there might be a lack of follow up, or maybe meetings that they used to attend, they just start dropping off from for no reason. There could be decreased responsiveness to communication, or maybe they just don't answer the question how they're doing. Maybe in some of those more connection-based meetings where conversation just flows, a little bit more free flowing and it's not about a task, maybe they don't go off mute or turn the camera on as much. I must say normalising turning your camera off is a good thing, we don't all need to be staring at ourselves all day every day, it's not natural. But maybe you pick up on things like that, and also just maybe an increase in whether they become a bit more irritable, or they're always feeling a little bit more on edge. So some of these things don't always mean that someone needs to go seek help, but they just might be signs that their resilience is dropping or that there are some other things are going on. So I'm curious if there's other things that anyone on the call has picked up on? Please feel free to put them in the chat. Or what are some other signs that potentially we should be looking out for at the team level?

Dr Kim Hazendonk: I think a common one is maladaptive coping strategies, so people start to drink more, drugs, they're not sleeping well, they're some things. And the other thing to look out for are changes - so if there's someone who hasn't spoken up much in meetings ever that's not a change, but if we're starting to see changes in how people interact and how they show up at work, then that is a flag as well.

Andrew Williams: I think a couple for me Damon, seeing people withdraw, being a bit more aloof, being a bit more independent, not as collegiate. I think that's a bit of a tell-tale sign. Particularly if they're normally collegiate, to go to what Kim's saying about a change. And the other one, and I know this from my own dealings, when I was experiencing anxiety and working at the same time, the feedback that I probably got was I was more direct than usual and that really stuck with me. Because if we see someone being a bit more abrupt, a bit more direct, extrovert in their anxiety, I think that's a bit of a tell-tale sign that maybe something is going on beneath the surface there. Yes, so they're two things from my perspective.

Olivia Molly Rogers: When I was going through my personal experience, there was a whole lot of that withdrawing. I was avoiding social situations, I mean a lot of that was connected to my eating habits as well, because I didn't want to be eating in front of people, I was skipping meals and all that, so I was avoiding lunchtimes. I was avoiding so many situations, and I think that that is one of the biggest signs of withdrawing. And sort of turning into themselves. But I was definitely similar to Andrew, I say more direct but probably more snappy and a bit more irritable. Talking less, but when I did it wasn't probably wasn't that nice to be around.

Damon Klotz: I'm having a check at some of the comments, as well as some of the questions here, so please feel free to keep posting them and I'll try get to some of those towards the end of this conversation. But I think one of the things that has been woven throughout this conversation so far is there's things that happen at the team level, there's things that happen at the organisational level, but also just at the individual level. What can we do, how do we have these conversations? So Olivia, I'd love to hear, has the fact that you've been so open and public about your own struggles with your mental illness, how have you seen the conversations change in your industry, particularly as a model? And have you seen that you speaking openly has allowed other people to talk about it? Do you see that kind of ripple effect, like I talked about when I was talking about my own team about seeing a therapist?

Olivia Molly Rogers: Definitely, every day, I don't think a day goes by where I don't have some sort of interaction talking about mental health in some capacity. Yesterday I was with a group of people in the industry and pretty early on, we started having this conversation because I think it was similar to what you were saying before. You say, "How are you?" and you respond very automatically. But as you move a little bit deeper and you share a vulnerability then it's more likely that the other person will do that. And I said, "You know, I've had a really busy week, which is great, but I'm also maybe a bit anxious". And so then three more people said "Oh yeah, I've been feeling really anxious too, and transitioning back to normal life has had its pros and cons and it's been overwhelming". And I think it does, it really has that domino effect and it's amazing to actually see it happening before your eyes.
And then I think on social media too, particularly when I talk about my eating disorder, because I do think that that is one that people really avoid talking about, like I did myself. People will tell me that they might not have spoken to their best friend or their mum, but they will tell me. Which can be a lot to take on, but at least they're starting to talk about it and taking that first step. So yeah, it is really powerful.

Damon Klotz: As a follow up to that, it takes like I said so much courage to have that conversation with yourself, and then to talk to others to seek help, and now so many people are turning to you and asking for support. And I think in organisations, we also need to be careful that for these people who are actively talking about it, that if everyone's coming to them, maybe they start to feel some of that burden, that all these people are coming to them. Like, I don't have all the answers and I don't know how to support you. So, how are you supporting yourself and your own mental health, knowing that so many people are coming to you for support?

Olivia Molly Rogers: I always preface conversations by saying I'm not an expert because I'm not, I can only talk to my experience. I like to lead others into different areas as to where they can go, and I also explain how I had support and and where I got that and where I continue to get that. So I see a psychologist regularly, like you do as well. And then I also talk about the things that I do to to maintain my mental health. And setting boundaries is a big part of that, and making sure that I'm not taking on what people are telling me. But for me, it's making sure I'm getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, eating nutritious meals and doing that regularly, so I don't fall into old habits with my eating. There's just sort of these, I suppose, maintenance behaviours that I that I have to keep doing. And I know that, I'm so aware of that, and aware of my triggers too, so I can share that with people, and hopefully that helps them to take some part of that and then move on and get some help themselves. But I definitely don't try and solve their problems, because I can't.

Damon Klotz: And I think always, posting all those resources at the start of this webinar saying we're here to have this conversation, which is one way to normalise this conversation and find ways to give tips and support, but also it's important to go seek out medical professionals and make sure. And I think one of the comments that came in, or one of the questions that came in was when someone gets contradictory support - so maybe an organisation says one thing, but then your boss says something else. So I'm not sure if, Kim or Andrew, if you've had any kind of insights into how companies and managers can support without potentially giving contradictory advice to their employees?

Dr Kim Hazendonk: I think the obvious one is just to have mental health training that everybody attends, so everyone's on the same page. There's an opportunity to do some role modelling, there's an opportunity for one-on-one coaching, if there's allowances for that, but making sure that everybody is talking using the same language.

Andrew Williams: And I think this is, we are starting to have the conversations now, but I know in 10 years time mental health will be a key cultural thing and how organisations deal with it. And I can imagine how challenging it is that if you've got a really supportive boss, but the culture of the organisation gives contradictory information, that's incredibly difficult. But I think we're at the start of the journey. I think part of our role is to raise this as part of a cultural reset that mental health is really important.

Damon Klotz: When we think about the individual as well, one of the things I wanted to bring up is that we can think about it from our own perspective, what can I do, what training can I do, how do I support my team? But we can also be laser focused on the experience of an individual or as a group of individuals inside of the company. So one thing that I wanted to surface here was, when I think about people and culture research, I've worked in the space for a long time.
I don't always just try to look for the same sort of studies, of the same types of inspiration, I try to go out far and wide and work out some other ways to tell stories that inspire. And one of the people that I interviewed on the Culture First podcast was Cleo Wade, she's a poet and she writes these really incredible pieces of poetry online. And when I was speaking to her about community building and how do we actually have a positive impact in the world, this story that she shared with me continues to impact how I think about the workplace. Because she said, when she asked herself the question, "How do I be a better member of society?", the question is huge, like what can I do to save the environment and save all these things. But then she said she can take it back down to just very tangible things - "Well, today I can wake up and be a better daughter. Today I can wake up and be a better sister. Today, I can wake up and be a better advocate for other women."
And when you get laser focused on someone's experience and what you can do to impact it, we can actually start having some of these positive ripple effects.
And one of the types of individuals that I think we should be really focused on right now in the workplace is early career professionals. So here in the US, we're about to go into 12 months worth of working remotely or distributed or hybrid workforce. Early career professionals used to spend upwards of 40 hours in the office, getting community, learning through osmosis, getting connection, getting access to skip level mentorship, being around different types of people to learn and grow, and get those connections that they need to focus on, "What do I want to be, how do I grow and what are some opportunities?". Right now, when we're all in these little virtual boxes, you're not getting some of that osmosis, you're not getting some of that more personal connection. Unless a company's really intentional about building some of that connection into the company and the culture and being really specific about it, these early career professionals are losing out on some of that stuff. So if you want to really focus on how do we create a mentally healthy workplace at the individual level, we can also tailor some of those programs really specifically. Just saying "Hey, who in our workforce right now is in the first three years or in their first or second job?" Because they're going to be having a really different experience. Some of them might have moved back to their parents' house, which comes with its own kind of level of, it can be testing, for many different reasons. So when I think about the individual, yes, we can all do something, but I also encourage everyone to think about individuals in their workplace and say, "What could I do this week to create a more mentally healthy workplace for a type of employee?". Whether it's a level, whether it's an early career professional, or whether it's someone within your workplace. So that was just something that was bubbling up for me.
As we get closer to time, I wanted to focus more on actionable things that, Kim and Andrew, that you're doing for yourself, or actionable things that you encourage others to do. So Kim, the question that I also asked Olivia is how are you supporting and looking after yourself these days? And what advice do you have to everyone on the call?

Dr Kim Hazendonk: A couple of things. Firstly, I really liked what Olivia said about looking after yourself physically, I think that's really, really important. We recognise that the research around the five things that we can do to ensure that we have positive mental health. And there are things like being active, so we know that physical exercise actually releases chemicals in the brain that make us feel good, more energised, more motivated. So even just getting out at lunchtime, going for a walk, it doesn't have to be high impact exercise. And organisations and team leaders can help people do that by ensuring they take breaks for lunch, having walking meetings and things like that. But also a lot of research now is about the importance of sleep, and how detrimental it is if we don't get our seven to nine hours of sleep a night. And healthy eating, all those things are really important things we can do at an individual level.
The other thing I would finish off with is on the importance of gratitude. And the reason I love gratitude is that the benefits are huge. When people practice gratitude, they're happier, they have better sleep, better relationships. They can show more empathy to others, and it's free, and it's something that we can implement immediately, and everyone can do it. And what we're doing when we are recognising when people doing something that we can be grateful for is we're building resilience, not only in ourselves but in others. So if you think about when someone has given you a piece of praise, or shown appreciation or gratitude for something, that people can carry that all day and sometimes all week. It's very powerful.
But when you're practicing gratitude you're also rewiring your brain. Just like when you have a new car and suddenly you see that same car on the road everywhere, it's the same thing with gratitude. When you're recognising the positive things in your environment you're training your brain to keep seeing all the positives. So it's building resilience in yourself and others, so I really encourage everyone on the call to find moments in the day that you can appreciate someone and show real gratitude. And it works best when it's genuine, it's unexpected, the person, the recipient is not expecting it, and it's specific. So not just, "Hey, great job today", but "Olivia, I really appreciate how you shared your personal story today and allowed others to to be able to learn through the courageous path that you've taken".

Damon Klotz: Specific feedback, definitely. And if the rule of thought leadership in the people and culture space is Brené Brown must be mentioned at least once per session, the other one is Damon must mention a podcast episode every 10 minutes. So what that reminded me of is a podcast episode I did with Claude Silver, who is the Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia, and what she, I think when you're talking about the more you recognize something in yourself the more you'll see that in others, and she calls that the 'spot it, you got it'. So, if you're an empathetic listener, if you've got it, you spot it more. And then you start building up this behavioral muscle around 'spot it, you got it'. It's like how we think about what we actually prioritise in the workplace, because a company's mission and vision is operationalized through their culture, in their values, and the culture and values are a summary of the behaviors that you want to be promoting inside of your company on any given day to get to that mission and vision.
And you need to be really specific around, here's the things, here's how we work at this company, and then you start talking about it so often that is easy to spot it. And when people give feedback they're really specific and they tell me why I've had an impact and can be empathetic if I haven't checked out of that meeting or I've turned my video off. And you need to just create that muscle so that becomes a part of your operating system as a company.
So as we get close to wrapping up, we have one big ask of all of you at the end. Andrew, how are you working on your mental health and what final advice you have for the audience?

Andrew Williams: I would say ditto everything that Kim said. I'm a runner, so I made sure I run five or six days a week, and to me, that has the biggest impact on my mental health. But one thing I think, three years ago and very quickly is I learned how important self care was. So now every evening I look back over my day and make sure that I've had one moment of self care in my day. And it could be a healthy meal, it could be a great sleep, it could be a run, it could be any of those things. And the other thing I found this year, and this is for the audience, there's a great app that I use now that tracks my mood called Daylio, it takes one minute every day, and it tracks your mood and the input into that. So I can see, for me, when my mood has dropped, I can see okay, my sleeping patterns have changed, I may be drinking more, I'm not running as much, whatever it is. But it's, as the American say it's data, and I can use that to shift and make some changes there, and I would I would highly recommend it. To me, it's been brilliant at change for me to practice self care.

Damon Klotz: Thank you for sharing that, and I am keeping an eye on a question that Pete just said, and he's talking about grief and loss and how do we talk about that in the workplace? I'll give a quick little plug, there's actually a Culture First Chapter event about grief and loss that is running I think next week via culturefirst.com. You can head there.
And then also compassion fatigue is one of the topics that I've talked about on the Culture First podcast, and especially with people in the legal profession, nursing or support workers. And one of the big takeaways for me from that is sometimes when we're too in it, we don't even have the capacity to put on our own life vest first. A lot of people saying to put on your own life vest then help others. Sometimes when we're too in it, and when we're really experiencing things we don't even have the energy or the acknowledgement to do that. So that's why we need people who can spot these things, help us and support us.
And then the final little takeaway before we wrap up. Olivia, when we spoke before this call, I said, "What would make this event a raging success for you?" and you had something really specific that you wanted the audience to do after we wrap up, so what was that?

Olivia Molly Rogers: Definitely. What I would love is for anyone who's actually been in this chat to go away and start a conversation with someone. I think it would have that ripple effect from today to talk about mental health, be open and discuss what they're doing to stay on top of their mental health. I think we've all done our job well if that happens.

Damon Klotz: Amazing, so thank you to all of you for sharing your stories, for sharing your advice and for being part of this conversation with me. Like I said, conversations like this can help change people's lives, and I hope that people have found actionable things that they can do for their team inside of their company, as well as for themselves.
So this is just the start of an ongoing conversation. There's plenty of resources that we'll continue to post about, but just please go have this conversation with someone else. You just don't know who might need to hear it today.
So thank you for joining us. If there's any other things, please feel free to reach out to all of us here. Please vote on the poll on my LinkedIn, I would love to see more people be able to talk about mental health. And thanks so much for tuning into this dual event between Culture Amp and The United Project.

[ENDS]

 

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