There’s a cracking cartoon that tackles the problem of mental health in the workplace.
“We know that mental health is a problem,” the boss says “so we’re changing things.”
“What?” says the worker. “You’re taking on enough people to help me actually do my job without feeling burnt out?”
“No,” the boss replies. “We thought maybe pingpong. Or yoga.”
And that, ladies and gents, provokes guffaws amongst people in a way that you know that’s the truth.
In the CIPR’s recent ‘State of the Profession‘ report, 63 per cent said that they felt workplace stress of at least seven out of 10. Across the UK, 59 per cent suffer stress in the workplace. And 75 per cent of suicides are amongst men under 35 and it is the biggest killer in that demographic.
The data goes on and on.
For communicators it is a problem. I tip my hat to Leanne Ehren who was a lone voice when she started speaking about mental health in the public sector comms community several years ago. It’s encouraging that Leanne’s story is no longer a lone voice. Props too to Paul Sutton for talking about this as an issue in the private sector. The world needs more of these people. It needs fewer people who say the right things and do entirely the opposite. But that’s for another day.
A download is a start of it not the end of it
It is encouraging to see the CIPR return to the mental health issue. They’ve worked with mental health charity MIND to produce the seven-page ‘Understanding Mental Health and Wellbeing Skills Guide’ as a download.
It’s a useful document.
The document gives practical advice to managers and individuals. It’s especially good to see independent practitioners flagged-up. As the document says, a trouble shared really is a trouble halved. For someone working on their own that can be especially hard.
When I first went freelance under the comms2point0 banner five years I’d burn through 100 hour weeks. I didn’t have an off-switch. Now, I use a co-working space or the branch of Costa five minutes away from my front door to give me a block of time when I work. When I’m home I’m home and I can relax more.
You may need someone in your corner
This CIPR document is a valuable contribution to the sector. There are things you can do, the document advises. Buddy up. Switch off social media during a bad day. There are things your employer can do, too like signing the Time to Change pledge and monitor mental health as closely as performance. But one things nags me. Those who get it are probably already doing it. Those employers who don’t care may need more than just a download to effect change and I’m sure the report’s authors absolutely get this.
To use boxing imagery, when you’re on the ropes sometimes you need someone in your corner. This is where the NUJ – the National Union of Journalists come in. I joined as a journalist 24 years ago but it still gives me back-up as a freelance communicator. Being a member of the NUJ also puts someone in my corner. At a time when things are getting on top of you and you’re not sure of yourself let alone yourself that could be invaluable.
The CIPR and the NUJ. I’m proud to be a member of both.