OS: Sonia, thanks for speaking with me today and sharing your thoughts, you’ve spoken about the need for companies to be vulnerable, what do you mean by this?
SM: Well, during my career in high performing organisations I have accumulated extensive experience of working with senior leaders, including C-suite executives. I understand what it takes to make teams function optimally, and the variety of different issues that can jeopardise this. I realise that thinking about organisational vulnerability may seem a bit strange. We’re used to thinking about individual vulnerability, and have seen many great examples demonstrating how powerful it can be when employees and leaders of companies express vulnerability, by speaking up about their mental health challenges in the workplace. This has been key in raising awareness, and has led to significant attitude changes, but whilst the mental health agenda has come a long way, more is now needed. I believe the same qualities of bravery and willingness to ask for help are needed from organisations not just its people.
The pandemic has had a wide-reaching impact on the nation’s mental health, and we’re heading towards a mental health crisis, of which we’re only just seeing the tip of the iceberg. The figures are worrying – in August last year, after just a few months, the number of adults experiencing depression had already doubled versus pre-pandemic, and these figures will only have worsened as we’ve faced prolonged uncertainty, fear, loss, and anxiety.
Companies have a critical role to play in supporting their people through this period: if they don’t, the consequences on the health of their company, not just their people, will be dire – for example, high levels of burnout and absence, disruption to business operations, low engagement, high attrition and a loss of workplace talent, which will all have negative impacts on organisational performance Now is the time for companies to be vulnerable – for me this means:
- Daring to ask for specialist help to create a forward thinking, robust, and appropriate mental health strategy and support infrastructure
- Doing things differently by reframing their safeguarding role, no longer outsourcing support, but bringing it in-house
- Being brave enough to create a proactive as well as reactive solution that embeds mental and emotional health and development into DNA of their organisation