by Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant
It’s a quarter before work starts. Everyone starts arriving, general office chit chat is happening, coffees are being made while laptops are woken from their slumber or the working tools of the day are prepared. The conversation ranges from the latest illness from the duty ‘sick note’ to the happenings on Coronation Farm, to the sporting prowess of the company fitness freak.
We spend, on average, more waking time a day with our colleagues than we do with our families and loved ones. We get to know each other quite well. We know everyone’s foibles and idiosyncrasies, we know what makes each other tick, we are fully aware of the strengths and (more often) weaknesses of our colleagues. It’s only natural then that after a while, our work colleagues become our friends, people that we can confide in, people that we trust and people that we look to for support when things aren’t going quite right.
Now, it’s no secret that over 25% of the adult population suffer with poor mental health at any given time during their working life. How big is the work force? If 25% aren’t ‘firing on all cylinders’ the company output will suffer, and instead of exponential growth (I learned all about that in an Ed Sheeran song), it will start to go into exponential decline and that can only be a bad thing (I watched the Ewan MacGregor film – Rogue Trader and learnt about that).
As well as the decline in output and the effect on the bottom line, this may well have a negative effect on the workforce. Stress, absenteeism, presenteeism – when people who should be working are sitting, silently, suffering, staring – instead of producing the goods, will be where the exponential growth is happening.
Do you know who might be suffering within your team? If not, why not? All you have to do is ask, it really is that simple.
Ask ‘How are you today?’, invariably ‘Fine thank you’ will be the response.
And then the conversation ends.
‘Time to change’ are running a campaign to coincide with World Mental Health day on Wednesday 10 October 2018 called ‘Ask twice’. The campaign centres around a chap and his mate out rambling in the woods. One of the pair questions ‘How are you?’ a muffled reply of ‘Fine’ is heard as the camera pans out and the other guy is pinned beneath a giant log, unable to move.
The log symbolises the crippling weight of a poor mental health condition and the ‘Fine when we’re not’ tag line alludes to the stigma attached with talking about a mental health issue.
So how can we do it, how can we broach the subject?
The first stage has got to lie with education – educating the workforce to spot the warning signs in themselves and others. Educating line managers and supervision staff in how to spot the signs in their teams – and more importantly how to ask the question ‘How are you today?’
If the reply ‘Fine’ comes back, chances are they’re probably not.
‘Are you really ok? I’ve noticed you’ve not been yourself recently? Let’s have a brew and a chat…’
Don’t ask once and leave it at that, if you’ve spotted the signs, ask twice! If there really is nothing wrong, you’ve just had a nice chat with your mate/colleague/employee. If there is something wrong, well, you might have just helped to save a life.
For more information about the #asktwice campaign and the Time To Change organisation, please visit their website at www.time-to-change.org.uk
For information about educating your work force, doing your bit to break the stigma and raising awareness of mental health issues please get in touch with HCS Safety– we have a wide range of courses and services on offer to help you look after your most important assets – your people!