From CEOs to Trainees – mental health affects everyone

Our CEO Paul Putman talks about Mental Health Awareness and shares his 3 top tips to look after your own, and your teams mental wellbeing.
Paul Putman, CEO

Its Mental Health Awareness week. An opportune time for honest, human, free-range, and, perhaps unexpected conversations. For family, friends, and work colleagues, mental health is universal.

Although let’s be honest, how many of us are brilliant at dealing with what’s going on in our heads? For most people showing vulnerability is uncomfortable. Being open and honest takes courage. But once you take the first step and get over that first hurdle, you’ll recognise it’s one of the best personal change steps you can make.

I joined TalkOut as CEO in November last year. My career to date was a good match. Over 20 years building global tech business platforms. I knew the innovation machinery, the investor community and how to build a path for fast commercial success. But that wasn’t what turned my head. It was the philanthropic proposition that I really connected with and the opportunity to help people become happier at work was unique and compelling.

Talkout co-founders Jim and Ayyab Cockburn are a different breed of entrepreneur. Or perhaps just indicative of the way a new generation of business founders are shape shifting. Their approach blends compassion and innovation. Before I joined the team, they had led and scaled successful business models that were fundamentally about caring for vulnerable human beings. And in building their own enterprise, they’d faced a challenge that inspired their next innovation. How can you nurture a sense of human connection and positive work culture when teams are spread across multiple businesses and disparate locations?

In this post-pandemic world, the way we work has changed forever. Remote working has increased rapidly bringing with it a multitude of opportunities and challenges. Whether a remote worker is in frontline healthcare, mobile logistics, or desk-based services, the challenge is the same for an organisation. How do you help people working this way connect with each other? How can you eradicate feelings of individual isolation and create a positive team culture?

In this new era full of on-going uncertainty and change, leaders must put positive mental health support front and centre. It is no longer just a ‘nice to have’. Workplace wellbeing can either nourish or eat away at the health of a business. According to research from Personnel Today, employee worries about their mental health have escalated over 20% since 2020. What’s more, countless research studies are showing an indisputable link between the mental health of a workforce and business performance. This 2020 Deloitte report reveals that poor mental health is costing UK employers up to £45bn per year comprised of presenteeism, absence and staff turnover. The Deloitte study averages this out at around £1500 per employee. A significant cost to both small and large organisations.

Talkout is committed to helping orgnisations reverse that worrying statistic by creating happier, more supportive workplaces and in doing so, improve profitability. We talk about organisational development re-wired; what we mean by that is enabling organisations to embrace and utilise exciting technologies that connect and inspire and upskill their people, because we know the best businesses have people who feel supported, engaged, and positive. If you have these factors in play, you can achieve great things. But a positive work culture doesn’t happen by accident. It needs consideration and collaboration. And I want Talkout to be an exemplar role model in all of these areas.

We’re forging new innovations equipped for the workplace of today as well as the future. It’s incredibly exciting and challenging. Ensuring everybody is in a good state of Mental Health is vital. In helping to support that I have a responsibility to be open about how I’m keeping myself and my team mentally well whilst trying to build and scale a technology business.

For Mental Health Awareness Week, it feels like a good moment to share my own experiences. First of all we should not consider this to be Mental health Awareness week it should be Mental health awareness life! Something we focus on everyday. I’d like to share with you 3 key takeaways to improve not only your mental health but your team’s too.

Honesty. Start with admitting – you don’t know everything! However, you should have a great team around you who can quickly get the answers you need but that only happens with you asking for their support. In the old world of business, this may have been viewed as a vulnerability but it’s far from it. Opening up and asking for support from your team opens a huge spectrum of opportunities and helps you to connect and build relationships. I believe it creates a foundation of work culture that bonds people together and in doing that, fosters much greater communication and collaboration.

Mental health affects everyone. We’re all facing personal challenges and in that shared experience, we’re all the same. It’s likely that every day someone in your organisation is going through some sort of mental challenge. Life itself is often the root cause whether it’s dealing with a new baby, finances, loneliness, bereavement, or illness. There are a huge number of factors that everyone is influenced by irrespective of position. These issues are further compounded by stress and pressure at work. So remember if someone isn’t quite themselves or they are making things tougher than they need to be, it’s most likely they are dealing with their own mental health challenges and it’s important to get them some support. That often just starts with asking if they are ok. We’re all dealing with a whole spectrum of negative influences that can bend us out of shape. And no matter what people look like on the outside, poor mental health impacts everybody at every work level.

Connection. You cannot really connect with others properly unless you’ve learned to connect with yourself. People at the top of a business are often the worst people at recognising their own mental health challenges. It was a challenge for me to discuss head health. My approach was often ‘lets just get on and do it’. But that kind of stoicism wasn’t always useful for business or helpful to me. Sharing infallibility, showing compassion and empathy I have learnt is actually a great show of strength, leading to open conversations with your colleagues creating a bond that is hugely valuable.

My knowledge of mental health and wellbeing has greatly expanded since joining Talkout. I’ve come to realise how it’s crucial to support a high-performing team and how that underpins a profitable organisation. Yet there is so little support out there to drive the change at scale and make a real difference.

This is what is so exciting about working with Talkout and the technology we will bring to market later this year to help businesses change their approach to mental health and enable them to embed into their culture. But if you can’t wait for the technology we can always help you right now with our amazing Guides who are here to help provide human to human mental health training and support.

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