Category

Insight

Practical advice for those returning from illness

Practical advice for those returning from illness

By | Insight, Latest News

As well as looking to employers to offer some practice support, there are a number of things that individual returners can do. empowher.com offers a number of tips for individuals who are returning to work following a period of absence due to a mental health condition. I think we can apply these 6 tips to a range of illnesses:

  1. Seek out help from professionals
    It’s important that the individual doesn’t try and re-enter the workplace alone; without the support of HR colleagues and other experts. You may be taking medication which could impact your performance or requires a routine. Share this with colleagues as this can help to elevate the stress of covering.
  2. Take care of yourself
    There are multiple ways to accomplish this including taking control of your work load; getting enough sleep at night; ensuring you are eating the right foods; taking regular exercise and balancing work and life goals.
  3. Setting the boundaries
    How much you wish to share with colleagues when you return back to work is up to you. You are the one who sets the boundaries. Deciding on these before you return will help you to feel more in control.
  4. Talk to your boss and colleagues
    Talk to your boss and colleagues about the limits of what you can do and what you can’t do. These may change over time, but setting limits and expectations early helps to establish boundaries which in turn reduces stress levels and stigma.
  5. Maintain a healthy work-life balance
    It’s important to balance work and your health from the start. Set yourself some rules. Make sure that you factor in enough personal and family time to prevent a work-life imbalance, which could trigger a future health issue.
  6. Don’t be afraid to take time off when you need to in the future
    Always bear in mind that taking time off work to maintain a healthy mind and body is essential to being productive at work. Taking a break from work doesn’t mean that you’re weak or a bad employee, it means you’re in now in control.

—————————————————–

To read our accompanying Insight: Inclusive Workforce, Return to Work please click here. If you would like more information on future D&I events pleased contact Angharad Kenward, Angharad.Kenward@investigo.co.uk

rainbow-mountains

Returning to work after a life-changing event

By | Insight, Latest News

​Martin Sockett, Director of Finance at Grafton Merchanting GB talks candidly about his personal experience of returning to work after life changing injuries as the result of a car accident.

At the time of the accident Martin was successfully building his career within the Audit Practice at PwC. His partner, Rachael, also worked there and they shared a network of friends who regularly socialised. Having moved to Nottingham after graduating from the sporty Loughborough University it is no surprise that Martin was a regular in both his five-a-side football and cricket teams, and listed walking and skiing amongst his hobbies. He and Rachael had just moved into their first house together and were planning a future that could see them working overseas as they shared a passion for travel.

The road traffic accident that Martin was involved with happened only 200 meters from his home, in which the petrol tank caught alight and the vehicle was consumed by flames. He suffered 3rd degree burns to 31% of his body, with extensive burns to head, back, hands and right arm resulting in facial disfigurement and loss of his right ear. The severity of the injuries received saw Martin and his family being faced with the possibility that he would not survive the accident. He had severe full thickness burns to a significant portion of his upper body and head which would need to be treated by numerous skin grafts and plastic surgery. This alongside the long term wearing of compression garments and silicone face mask to help with maintaining the scar tissue.

Thankfully Martin did survive. He spent the first 6 months in the Burns Ward in Nottingham City Hospital, the initial two months of which were in a high dependency unit where he spent time in an induced coma. Subsequent hospital stays for further skin graft operations and scar tissue releases followed alongside 12 months of attending a specialist occupational therapy centre, which not only assisted with him using his hands and fingers again but helped with the social aspect of having to interact with other patients and staff.

Martin spent approximately 20 months in full time recovery, not only away from work but also from the life he had known before. He has kindly agreed to share his thoughts and feelings about his injuries, his recovery and his subsequent return to work.

We have heard about the devastating physical injuries you suffered, could you tell us how you felt emotionally after the accident?

My initial emotional reactions centred around the fact that I couldn’t look at my facial injuries for example I had to have the mirrors covered in the hospital bathrooms. I worried that the changes to my physical appearance would result in my partner leaving me and left me with a real fear of being alone unable to find someone that would accept me for the way I looked now. I was reclusive after the accident, I would avoid people other than close friends who came to visit me. My confidence in social situations had disappeared so I made excuses not to go out to where there were crowds of people such as the PwC summer and Christmas balls. At times this made things worse as I felt I was letting my partner down as she was having to attend these alone or with friends.

Even today I am more selective about where I go, partly because of how I feel but also because I still wear a hat in public which can create issues as some places do not allow hats to be worn like pubs, restaurants and even golf clubhouses. To this day I still experience heightened emotions in everyday circumstances whether this be in reaction to watching a film to reading a news article and this is something that has stayed with me.

When you started to consider returning to work what were your main concerns?

My first concerns was being accepted because of the way I looked, which was considerably different than prior to the accident; would people still want to work with me or socialise with me?

I was aware of my lack of confidence and had concerns around whether I could effectively do my job as it involved working with numerous clients in different locations with different audit teams.

I’d worry that if I couldn’t do that job, would I be able to get another one? Would I suffer at interviews because of the way I looked? In hindsight some of these concerns were unfounded but at the time I was always worrying about the worst case scenario.

I also had concerns about the work itself, how much had things changed over the course of the last two years and would I be behind with my knowledge? Would I need additional training to catch-up?

The nature of the structure in my early career at PwC created peer groups and one of my concerns was the fact that I had lost two years, my peer group had moved on without me. Instead of mentoring/training the intake two years after mine, I would now be part of that intake and they would be my peer group.

What support were you offered to make the transition back to work from your employer and medical professionals?

During my hospital stay and when recovering at home I was appointed a clinical psychiatrist who would visit the hospital, and then subsequently my home, to discuss how I was feeling and encourage me to go outside. Other than visits to the hospital or occupational therapy centre I had not been outside in public for more than a year. Once at home I had weekly visits from the clinical psychiatrist and this would eventually build up to going for walks outside, then going to a small shop, building up to going to the local supermarket and then eventually going to a local coffee shop with the intention of building up confidence.

Whilst I was in hospital the nurses suggested that they could bring in previous patients that had suffered life-changing injuries to discuss their experiences. I met a couple of previous patients which was very helpful in demonstrating that it would get better, that the negative thoughts were normal but assured me in most cases the reality was different.

PwC, my employers, were very supportive both to me and my partner which made a huge difference and had a massive positive impact on how I coped with returning to work. Before I returned both friends who were also colleagues and senior members of the practice, some of whom I had little or no interaction with previously, would visit me occasionally at hospital and then subsequently at home.

On returning I was able to build up my hours when returning to work. I was placed in a couple of teams where I knew the team leader as a friend which helped. Also clients were informed of my situation prior to working at their sites which all helped to reduce my anxiety and fears when first going out to new clients.

This is a life changing event, what affect did it have on your confidence? If affected what have you done to counter any loss in confidence?

Historically I had quite an extroverted personality and often assumed the ‘team leader role’. I was football and cricket captain at high school and subsequently sport secretary for my hall of residence at Loughborough University for two years. I was always one of the people. The results of the accident had a detrimental effect on my confidence, I would no longer go out to places where there are crowds or put myself in situations where I didn’t feel I had an element of control, I wouldn’t contribute to conversations in social gatherings.

As time went by I had to force myself into some of the situations I was avoiding, not just for my own sanity but also because I felt I was holding my partner back. By attending more social gatherings I got more comfortable with myself and I think my natural behaviours started to come back. I don’t think I will ever get back to the confidence levels prior to the accident but I don’t feel I need to either.

You speak very positively about your experiences. How do you deal positively with people both in public and at work?

Work and public are quite different situations, with work you expect a degree of professionalism but in public there is little you can do to control your surroundings or what people you will come across, both positive and negative.

Initially at work I think people found it hard to look me in the eye when having a conversation and some steered clear of the topic of my accident and resultant scars. In general I would turn the conversation to the way I looked or if I felt comfortable I wouldn’t upset the other person, I would make jokes about my appearance to try and break the ice and put them at ease, which in turn put me at ease.

In public quite often you will notice people/strangers staring at you, I think it is human nature for people to be curious about things that are different. My initial reaction in the early days was to look away but this grew into making eye contact and smiling at them almost if to say “I know you are staring at me”. Interestingly I would generally get two opposing reactions, some will look away (almost embarrassed) but occasionally some will initiate conversation and ask about what happened to me which I am more than happy to explain.

Encountering children still offers challenges. Quite often I see them staring or even pointing and saying “look at that man’s face” and often it is the parents’ reaction that determines the outcome. Some will tell their children off and pull them away but others will apologise which can more often than not result in me explaining to the kids (and parents) what happened or them asking if they can touch my scars to satisfy their curiosity because it is something different. Quite often this approach breaks down barriers and helps to educate children that everyone is different and that those differences are not a bad thing.

I do experience negative comments, most of the time I brush them off but it does remind you that you do look different. This can have a negative impact on your mood or state of mind for a brief period before I just move on again.

What advice would you give to someone experiencing the same challenges?

  • No matter how bad you picture things in your mind, it is never as bad in reality. This can be difficult to do but was true for me.
  • Talk about how you are feeling or what happened, don’t bottle it up. Most people want to help but do not know how to for fear of upsetting you. By talking things through, at times I felt was helping them as well as me.
  • Communicate with your employer and tell them what you need. They are not experts in “you” so they also need guidance.
  • Expect setbacks and times when circumstances are going to be challenging. Whilst I didn’t specifically plan ahead how I would react to different scenarios I had thought about “what if” scenarios or talked about the concerns I had with my partner.

What advice would you give to employers to support ‘returners’ in your circumstances?

I think PwC got it spot on with their approach. I was lucky that I worked for such a big company and with lots of different people which allowed this to happen. My advice to others would be:

  • Keep in touch. The home visits by various different people helped me because it meant that a lot of people had seen my change in appearance and would be expecting it when I first returned to work. Knowing I wouldn’t be walking into an office on my first day back seeing everyone for the first time was a huge relief. In a way it also got the rumour mill going as the visitors would tell other colleagues so they also knew what to expect – preparing them as well as me.
  • Build up hours and exposure gradually. This was a big help to me as was working in teams where I knew the people prior to my accident as this helped put me at ease.
  • Ultimately, every employer and work environment is different so the most important advice would be to ensure the lines of communication were open in both directions. Work to understand what works best for the individual because I expect different people will be feeling various emotions and require different support.
  • As both Rachael and I worked for the same company it was important also that she was given support and time which PwC dealt with very well. I would suggest to any employers to consider the family of those returning to work and offer them support too.

—————————————————–

To read our accompanying Insight: Inclusive Workforce, Return to Work please click here. If you would like more information on future D&I events pleased contact Angharad Kenward, Angharad.Kenward@investigo.co.uk

working mothers

​A qualitative study of the experiences of working mothers

By | Insight, Latest News

“A qualitative study of the experiences of working mothers in the UK recruitment industry” is research guaranteed to grab the attention of anyone in the sector, parent or otherwise. As a working mother within recruitment myself I was surely going to be amongst the reports’ most engaged readers, eager to see myself reflected in the participant interviews, looking to draw parallels with my own experiences, and I was. That said, whilst the industry held particular interest to me, I found myself thinking that many of the aspects covered by this research are not unique to recruitment. As such I wanted to look at what insight this report could offer to the experiences of working mothers everywhere.

The research itself had been carried out by Katrina Hagan, as part of her Masters degree in Organisational Psychology. We, at Investigo, are fortunate to have Katrina as one of our Business Partners, where she provides professional development coaching across our workforce. Katrina not only has over 10 years’ experience within the recruitment sector but is also a trained Business Psychologist giving her an ideal vantage point from which to carry out the research.

When discussing the study with Katrina, the first question I wanted to ask was what had drawn her to this area of research? She explained that whilst the recruitment industry employs over 100,000 staff in the UK there has been limited organisational or workplace wellbeing research undertaken into it. Katrina’s study looked at the “unique psychosocial demands and resources working mothers feel they have experienced during critical periods”. In plain terms, she explains, how did the social factors present within the recruitment industry affect the thoughts and behaviours of working mothers? I was eager to know what ‘social factors’ her study had drawn upon and how these factors could affect the thoughts and behaviours of working mothers and further if they were felt beyond the recruitment industry.

Katrina’s research, along with her experience of working within recruitment herself, drew out two dominant social factors that place unique demands on working mothers:

Demands of the Job

As Katrina states in the introduction to her dissertation the unique set of challenges faced by sales-based professionals is well documented. I and most of my colleagues could testify to the “dynamic and unpredictable environments” the job has to offer. This coupled with a “long hour culture to meet demand” that Katrina references “predisposes individuals to the risk of stress”.

Male Dominated

Recent gender pay-gap disclosures seem to suggest that the recruitment industry remains male dominated. As Katrina states “it is possibly not a coincidence that females typically hit the ‘glass ceiling’… around the time of them choosing to start a family, with the archetypal ‘career building years’ arising at the same time as a woman’s fertility”. She goes on to state “this may also be further compounded by the perceived unspoken demand…to not fulfil traditional female stereotypes and to conceal your mum status in the workplace.”

Whilst this study looked at recruitment, the social factors above are not unique to it. With stress the most common cause for workplace absences, it is clear the effects of constant responsiveness and increased competition have, as such it is not just those within sales-based industries that face such demands. In the same vein many organisations have been called out over their Gender pay gaps, lack of female representation at board level and pervasive bias towards female workers. If these are the socially present factors within not just recruitment but many businesses, how are they effecting the experiences of those returning to work after becoming a mother?

Through the interviews Katrina carried out, the below social factors manifested themselves as three key experiences.

  1. Personal performance demands that working mothers placed upon themselves to be successful in dual roles.
  2. Challenges of returning to work following maternity leave.
  3. Demands to conform to a male gendered organisation’s model of an ‘ideal worker’

Personal performance

Throughout the study Katrina found that the greatest performance demands experienced were the ones the working mothers placed on themselves. Comments repeatedly reference feelings of, “proving themselves” or “doing both jobs badly” as mothers resume their place in the workforce with the increased responsibility and demands of child rearing. The findings are something I can personally attest to having frequently attempted to live up to ever-increasing societal pressure to “have it all”. We all know this is a parental ‘keeping up with the Jones’ that will see you spreading yourself ever more thinly but still we feel we should prove, mostly to ourselves, that we can do it all. I, like all the women interviewed for this study, wanted to resume my place in the workforce, and like them believed that my professional life is important for my wellbeing and fulfilment. This, again is not unique to recruitment, so what can working mothers and their employers do to ask for and find a realistic balance?

Return to Work

This is a special kind of vulnerability that anyone who has been out of work for any length of time will be able to relate to. Alongside the lurking doubts of “will I still be able to do this” you have the changes that any business will naturally have undergone in your absence. Procedural change and staff turnover can often erode self-confidence, as one of the interviewees stated it’s like you’ve slipped “through a void”. Katrina’s research discovered that many of those returning to work after maternity sought less responsible, visible roles as a protection from their self-doubt. At the opposite end of the scale some of those interviewed returned to roles that had been diminished in responsibility and restricted their opportunities for promotion. This cocktail of circumstances often left those returning feeling like they lacked the personal reserves to challenge decisions made to their detriment.

The Ideal Worker

Katrina’s research found that all the women interviewed experienced some form of gendered demand placed upon them on their return to work. They all referenced a pressure to conform to the industry’s model of the ‘ideal worker’, which they felt were the workers with no commitments outside of work and this tended to be a male dominated group, a model present in many organisations. The interviews suggest that these demands were either implied through covert messages surrounding cultural norms “we’re work hard play hard” or were more overt in the interactions with their supervisors and colleagues “Dave is an example to us all that hard work pays off…always first at his desk in the morning and last to leave at night…”.

Many experienced attitudes to flexible working ranging from the jovial “part timer” or “leaving already?” type comments through to an ignorance which saw colleagues disregarding or demanding more flexibility from working mothers around their working patterns. Many interviewed referenced being made to feel of less value due to their part time status, despite the contribution being made during this time being equal to that of their full time colleagues. Some commented further that their “career had been put on hold” as payment for the privilege of part time hours, with the overriding feeling being that full-time workers are preferred.

Another measure against the ideal that working mothers felt they were falling short of was visibility. Alongside many taking part time or compressed hours reducing office ‘face time’, commitments outside of work kept them from the bonding opportunities offered socially. Recruitment, like lots of sales businesses, often further incentivise employees with trips and in/formal events. These are predominantly evening and weekend based and naturally given the responsibilities of parenthood, working mothers cannot attend all those offered. Many of those interviewed commented on feeling ‘excluded’ but also many regretted that these events were often where relationships and bonds are built, and they were missing out on these opportunities.

Whilst this research looked at the recruitment industry the experiences recorded are certainly not exclusive to it. Lots of employees experience stressful working conditions and many organisations are still male dominated. The factors measured against for this report could reasonably be applied more generally for working mothers. Whilst many steps have been taken to increase flexibility and create a work-life balance that allows mothers (parents or primary carers) to remain in the workforce, it seems there is still much work to be done to improve the experience of those returning to work.

LGBT allies

LGBT allies

By | Insight, Latest News

Inclusive Investigo

The role of LGBT+ allies.

This Pride Month, we proudly incorporated the colours of the rainbow in our Investigo logo to show our solidarity with the LGBT+ community. With our head office sharing a city with the UK’s largest and most diverse Pride parades, we were eager to participate in the month-long celebrations for LGBT+ activism.

As well as representing the LGBT+ community – giving a voice and a platform for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, non-binary, asexual, polysexual, gender queer and gender variant people – Pride is a truly inclusive event, inviting people of every race, faith, ability, sexuality and gender (including cis and heterosexual) to get involved.

And it is this inclusivity that we wanted to highlight by shining the spotlight on the role of LGBT+ allies this Pride Month and beyond.

At the start of 2016, we launched the Investigo LGBT+ committee group. With an open-arm approach, we encourage everyone and anyone to get involved and get talking. Whether gay or straight, bisexual or asexual, our LGBT+ community celebrates individuality, values honesty of self, and champions diversity and equality for all.

We are also passionate about having a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and harassment, and it is through galvanising LGBT+ allies that we can make this vision a reality.

An ally is someone who actively supports and stands up for the LGBT+ community and their rights; they can be straight or LGBT, from any gender, race or religion.

Allies are active in raising their own awareness as well as that of others about LGBT+ issues and strive to uncover and overcome the unconscious bias associated with those who are different from ourselves. Allies also champion bystander intervention – they support victims and call out injustice, bullying and discrimination. Finally, they understand the importance of visibility of the LGBT+ community as role models and spokespeople.

Commenting on the role of LGBT+ allies, Investigo Pride Chair and Director Marie Cuffaro said:

“An ally is critical to building awareness of diversity and opening the conversation outside of the direct community. You don’t have to be LGBT+ yourself to be a supporter or to build your understanding of the achievements and challenges within the LGBT+ community. In fact, allies play the most critical role in building inclusive environments and communities.

I have gained so much personally from being an ally; not only have I made amazing new friends, I’ve also changed the way I think and approach situations as I am more aware of different perspectives. I encourage everyone to become an ally, not just for LGBT+ but for gender, BAME, disability and all other communities. The more we are aware the more we can change the world together!”

Hot Air Balloon

How you can get it right for returners

By | Insight, Latest News

There are many reasons why an employee might have a career break and therefore be in a position of returning to work. The obvious example is women who have been on maternity leave, although it is now equally as possible that fathers will take extended leave through the Shared Parental Leave option. However, it is also common for those who have had a long term absence or a career break to be a carer or for other life circumstances that could find themselves as a ‘returner’ to the workplace.

In the 15 years the Clear Company has been auditing businesses through a diversity and inclusion lens, it has been rare to find an organisation that manages returners well. Those organisations who do have a policy and process, often have gaps in the support needed. The confidence and capability of managers is often also a challenge.

Here is the Clear Company mini guide to getting it right for returners:

1 – Keeping in touch:

When an employee packs their desk away and says goodbye for a number of months or even longer, there are usually promises of staying in touch – however, most returners report that they do not have the level of contact required with some not receiving the most basic communications. It is straightforward to organise for those absent from the business to be sent copies of key communications, however it is surprising how many organisations do not do so.

Where possible, managers should have regular calls or face to face meetings, the employee should be invited to team meetings – by Skype if not in person. Plus an invite to any conferences or events. Of course this should be optional, as it may not be possible for a breastfeeding mum or for someone who is unwell – but the message of being always welcome can be as important as the actual attendance.

Particular attention needs to be paid to absent employees during any change programmes – a restructure, change in leadership or new system implementation should all be communicated as thoroughly with the absent employee as those in the workplace.

2 – Re-Induction:

Even when good communications have been kept in place, there will still be many changes that have happened over a period of months, so expecting the returner to immediately step back into the workplace is unrealistic. A mini version of the standard induction programme can be easily adapted as a ‘returners re-induction’ to ensure that time is given to bring the employee back up to speed in the first few days and weeks.

3– Review adjustments that can help:

Whatever the reason for the extended period of leave, it is very common for the returner to have a reduced level of confidence. Managing wellbeing through the first few days and weeks is incredibly important to how well an employee settles back into the workplace. Consideration to a phased return to work can help with this.

As well as pro-actively supporting the returner with their wellbeing needs, it is also crucial to re-visit any adjustments that the individual may need. Some of the adjustments needed include access to breastfeeding facilities, access to workplace counselling or a mentor to support them through a major life change.

Flexible working is the most common adjustment requested with many returners needing a different work approach. For some this maybe part time hours but for others it maybe a change to start and finish times, or the ability to work from home. Flexibility is one of the most attractive factors for employees and embracing this, particularly for returners, can deliver immense business value.

4 – The role of the manager:

The manager is pivotal to the success of an employee returning after a break. A manager who has communicated well, stayed in touch, planned a re-induction and arranged for any adjustments needed will support the employee to be as productive as possible.

Equipping managers with the skills to manage absent employees, as well as changes such as flexible working is key for organisations who want to be more inclusive. Simply providing a process and guidance is helpful but unlikely to result in the support needed. Training managers to ensure they are confident in their actions plus providing access to further advice as needed is more likely to achieve success.

The successful management of returners will ensure that you retain talent and ensure employees can be as productive as possible at work – a great return for a minimal amount of investment.

—————————-

Leading Consultancy, The Clear Company, helps organisations open the gateway to diverse talent. Providing guidance on mapping policies, values, culture and behaviour, to what’s happening ‘at the coal face’ of day to day recruitment, allows them to discover where hidden barriers are preventing diverse talent getting through to employment.

enquiries@theclearcompany.co.uk W www.theclearcompany.co.uk

Bias Article

Mental Health Bias in the Workplace: Understanding Mental Health

By | Insight, Latest News

As published by the Mental Health Foundation about 1 in 7 people experience mental health problems in the workplace. Additionally, women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8% vs 10.9%). Evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.

Of course, the term ‘mental health’ is such a broad term, and thus any attempt to explore the impact of mental health bias at work should start by defining this broad term. As stressed by the mental health campaign, Time to Change, “learning a few things about mental health problems might help you to feel more confident about talking and listening”. Time to Change sets out some common mental health conditions:

  • Anxiety & panic attacks: Anxiety is a normal    emotion that we all experience but becomes a mental health problem when someone finds they are feeling this way all or most of the time;
  • Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is a diagnosis given to someone who experiences extreme periods of low (depressed) and high (manic) moods;
  • Depression: Depression is a diagnosis given to someone who regularly experiences a low mood and finds it hard or impossible to have fun or enjoy their lives;
  • Eating disorders: An eating disorder is a diagnosis given to someone who has unhealthy thoughts, feelings and behaviour about food and their body shape;
  • Personality disorders: If someone has a personality disorder, some aspects of their personality might
    affect them in a way which makes it very difficult to cope with day to day life, especially when it comes to relationships.

Bias and Mental Health

Research by social psychologists Tajfel and Turner, highlights how we as human beings, and thus employers, have a tendency to divide the world into in-groups and out-groups, based on a set of both conscious stereotypes and implicit bias. These biases often result in mental health stigma. Social stigma, as stressed by the sociologist Erving Goffman arises from negative attitudes and discriminating behaviour, based on common stereotypes such as:

  • People with mental illness are dangerous and unpredictable: This is the most prevalent stereotype about people with mental health conditions. It is reinforced on a daily basis by the media;
  • People with mental illness are incompetent: This stereotype is also very pervasive. Popular media furthers this stereotype by portraying people with mental illness as wildly irrational or childlike;
  • People with mental illness deserve blame for their conditions: This can be expressed as people with mental illness as weak or having character flaws that lead to their conditions;
  • People with mental illness have little hope for recovery: This stereotype would have you believe that a person with a mental illness is irretrievably damaged.

These biases impact employers’ perceptions of people with mental health issues resulting in:

  1. Not wanting to employ people with mental health conditions
  2. Not assigning certain types of work to colleagues with mental health conditions
  3. Avoidance by co-workers
  4. Name calling and talking behind people’s backs

Research by the YMCA found that two thirds (66%) of young people have heard harmful words relating to mental health. Many young people say it is simply part of everyday language, with ‘psycho’, ‘retard’ and ‘attention seeker’ being among the most commonly used words.

Covering at work

This type of language has a profound impact on an employee’s sense of self, resulting in Covering at work. The term ‘covering’ was coined by Goffman as part of his work on stigma. Covering is a strategy through which individuals manage or downplay their differences. In a paper entitled ‘Uncovering Talent: A new model of inclusion’ by Deloitte University, the authors have identified four ways in which covering at work manifests:

  1. Appearance: Covering up aspects of ones’ appearance, including attire and mannerisms.
  2. Affiliation-based covering: This may take the form of not talking about medical appointments or not wanting to support mental health related work events or talks for fear of being outed.
  3. Advocacy-based covering: Not wanting to outwardly be an advocate for mental health issues at work. Not ‘sticking up for’ mental health issues or colleagues with known conditions. This results in down-playing their own condition.
  4. Association-based covering: For instance, not wanting to attend disability or mental health employee network groups for fear of being exposed and discriminated against.

Mitigating mental health bias at work

In order to mitigate social bias at work employers should adopt the following 6 tips:

  1. Review your recruitment polices and at work processes to ensure they do not discriminate against people with mental health conditions
  2. Train hiring managers to be mental health aware
  3. Create an inclusive work environment by educating employees on the nature of mental health conditions – focus on myth busting
  4. Proactively challenge negative stereotypes and attitudes amongst work colleagues
  5. Provide a platform for mental health role models
  6. Ensure mental health inclusion is central to your workplace diversity and inclusion goals.

Notes:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-mental-health-work

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/about-mental-health/types-problems

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_identity_theory

This list of common stereotypes is taken from: http://scattergoodfoundation.org/stereotypes#.Wrj-GBiZPR0

Yoshino, K and Smith C. Uncovering Talent: A New Model for Inclusion. Deloitte University: The Leadership Centre for Inclusion. 2013

—————————–

Dan is highly respected as a subject matter expert on workplace diversity & inclusion, unconscious bias and inclusive leadership.
Contact Dan to find out how you can mitigate mental health bias in your organisation. e: dan@vercidaconsulting.com
Top