The HR Juggler

The 25% Club: How We Are

Posted on: February 1, 2013


This post is part of the 25% club series dealing with the topic of mental health, particularly as it relates to the workplace. Some of the posts, like today’s, will be accredited, others will be anonymous – all have a powerful impact and help to shine a light on a topic that we need to talk about so much more than we currently do. Today’s post is by Amy McDonald, who you can find over at her website or on Twitter @AmyMcDTU.


It’s people that make business happen.  Yet frequently we hear about companies satisfying the demands of the business rather than ensuring that staff are supported to achieve these goals with open and effective two-way communication. 

Together with adults with long term mental health issues, I deliver interactive theatre training about mental health at work.  Ultimately we hold up a mirror to the trainees, reflecting back behaviours and attitudes that are common place.  The excessive emphasis on demands coupled with the diminished focus on relationships at work carries with it stark consequences.  Trainees commonly remark on the shift in attention at their staff meetings.  They say,

“We spend all our time focussed on the welfare of our clients, there’s never time to talk about how we are.”

I believe it’s this lack of awareness in the people we work beside, the decrease in face to face communication that enables mental ill-health to go unnoticed.  That is of course, until it’s too late.  By that time your colleague has spent months with presenteeism before being signed off and is subsequently absent for 6 months or more.  A situation that could have been avoided if only someone had taken the time to ask simply, 

“How are you?”

 And taken the time to listen to the answer.

Not to interrupt.

To be empathetic.

To hear what the other person said.

To give eye contact.

To observe body language.

To offer support and help when needed.

Often we blame – the boss, the senior management, the system.  I’m not saying they’re blameless but victim-thinking rarely helps.  The only one who can change of course, is you.  It’s about taking responsibility for your own dissatisfaction.  For example, if you can see that a colleague is clearly not well: she’s struggling; he’s forgetful; she’s getting confused; he no longer smiles – it’s up to you to do something, to say something.  Doing nothing rarely leads to effective change.  It’s about taking the first step, often the brave step, the compassionate step to raise your concerns.  To talk about it. 

A fundamental shift is needed to balance out the priorities between demands and relationships.  Two-way communication in which opinions are taken on board and concerns are taken seriously will create an open and honest culture – a culture in which we all feel able to speak freely about mental health and ill-health.  It’s about being proactive and caring for our colleagues, the people that make business happen.  So go on, shout it from the office tops,

“Let’s talk about how we are!”


If you care about mental health and want to make a difference there are lots of things you can do

  • visit Mind’s website and check out their excellent corporate resources
  • take the ‘time to change’ pledge
  • attend our event with Mind on 5th February 2013 at 6pm
  • share your story and read those of others as part of this blog series. If you would like to contribute, please get in touch with me on Twitter (@AlisonChisnell) or through the comments section of this blog
  • do you want to join me in running the Royal Parks half marathon in October to raise money for Mind? Register here if so and let’s form an #HRforMentalHealth team (non HR people welcome too!) 

1 Response to "The 25% Club: How We Are"

I totally agree with this. When I used to work for a large company as a L & D consultant a few years ago, some of the front line people saw me as one of the ‘suits’ from head office and would have their sales figures ready to trot out to me when I went for a walk round. I would always say ‘well, thanks very much for sharing your figures with me, but I am more interested in how you are’.
That’s how to build relationships with people and get them to tell you how they really are. Then you can work out how to help!

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