Empowerment through sharing
The power of sharing was placed under the spotlight at WellFest as leader after leader spoke powerfully about their own experiences. Claire Sanderson, Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health, told of how, when she was first thinking about talking openly in her workplace about her depression, those in senior leadership positions above her urged her not to. They were worried she would become “the editor with mental health issues.”
Sanderson did it anyway and, she said, that “Speaking openly about it helped me to accept it. Hearing me speak gives people hope.” As Will Young noted when it comes to mental health, “The hiding is the worst part; 50% of it goes once I’ve shared it.”
Katy Leeson, MD of Social Chain, was on a panel chaired by BITE’s Managing Editor Nicola Kemp exploring how individuals dare to thrive in the office. Leeson spoke of her own struggles with imposter syndrome when she became MD at a very young age. Her speaking about it, she says, “gave people in my company the space to be true to themselves.” Leeson also opened up about her experience of miscarriage, a subject not often, if ever, spoken about by business leaders. She said she talked about her experiences on her podcast and was incredibly nervous to put the episode live. But, she explained, she did, and the “reaction from people was so powerful.” As she believes today, “my openness allows others to be open too.”
Build up a culture of trust
The transformative power of the media, creative and marketing industries to remove the stigma surrounding mental health was also evident throughout the day. Devon spoke about the initiative she’d worked on with Bauer Media, the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ campaign, which has successfully lobbied for equal provisions to be given to both physical and mental health in the workplace. This is essential, Devon noted, when “75% of millennials feel worried about talking about their mental health at work.” Giving people, especially managers, the tools to be able to have difficult conversations will help to build up a culture of trust within businesses.
For Sanderson, a “culture of honesty and openness” is essential for her when it comes to how she deals with her depression. It gives her the space to “lead by example, in terms of my holistic wellbeing. From leaving work on time to taking a lunch break and being open about my mental health.” When asked how she manages her lowest days with running a successful magazine, Sanderson highlighted the trust she knows she can place on her team. She knows she can be open about what she’s actually going through and so in turn, empower those around her to do the same.
Diana Tickell, NABS’ CEO, spoke about the importance of trust, especially when it comes to flexible working. Indeed, it’s something that will only work for both the individual and the company if there is implicit trust within teams between managers and employees. For Tickell, what’s always been apparent is that “higher levels of wellbeing equals higher levels of performance.” Treat your employees with kindness, empower them to operate in a way that suits them and your business will be better in the long run. Tackling mental health in the workplace is no easy challenge but it is nonetheless vital in order for both businesses and individuals alike to thrive.
Photography © Bronac McNeill