Right now, organisations need to be supporting their employees’ mental health more than ever. Discover how you can maintain a mentally healthy workforce with today’s podcast.
Dylis: Hi there. This is Dylis Guyan and welcome to the Inspired Selling Podcast, the place where coaches, consultants, trainers and business experts who sell to bigger businesses discover how to attract, convert and keep more of their ideal clients. That of course, is on a consistent basis. This is to help you avoid any of those peaks and troughs of cash flow.
Today I am really excited to introduce our guest to you, Andrea Newton, who in fact has over 25 years as a qualified trainer combining leadership development skills with real life experience. This is what I love about Andrea. The way she talks to her clients, the way she talks to everybody actually, is just so down to earth and real life. You know, she’s not kind of draped in this corporate armour. You’re absolutely going to love her. Andrea helps organisations create and maintain mentally healthy workplaces, where people can thrive and be safe, supported, and productive. She teaches them to see that health and safety isn’t just hard hat and high viz, but realises that their duty of care extends to mental health and psychological safety too.
Of course in this particular climate at the moment with this crisis that we’re going through, this is even more important. It’s always been important, but the level of this issue is raising its head to really a very unhealthy level. I’m so pleased that we’ve got people like Andrea who can help to navigate us, to be able to identify where these situations are arising but more importantly what you can do. She’ll give us some really practical advice to help you identify it and to be able to help and support. So, Andrea, welcome.
Andrea: Thank you. Hi.
Dylis: Hi. Great to have you here. So can we just start really by taking the veil off mental health and what it actually means, because we use this word quite lightly I feel. We kind of bandied the word around mental health. So can you just give us some clarity around what that is exactly?
Andrea: Yeah. I mean I think that’s one of the biggest challenges when you talk to people about mental health. They sometimes start thinking immediately about mental illness or mental health disorders and actually mental health, we all have mental health. Just as we all have dental health. You see what I did there? In terms of that mental health, our mental health is simply how we’re thinking, how we’re feeling. Our mood is often an indicator of our mental health at that time.
Our mental health can be affected by all sorts of life circumstances. As I say, it doesn’t have to be a mental illness. I work a lot, for example in the construction industry and recently met a builder who he and his wife just had their first baby. The baby isn’t sleeping, his wife’s got postnatal depression. They’re having to survive on one wage at the moment and he’s currently working on a building site that’s 25 miles away from home. So just in that common everyday circumstance, his mood, his ability to think clearly and analytically, to be on top of his game is already compromised. That’s what we mean by mental health. It’s just, you know, what’s going on in your head. How are you thinking, how are you feeling, where you are emotionally?
Dylis: So it’s not somebody who’s on prescription drugs from the doctor necessarily?
Andrea: No, not at all. As I say, every single one of us has mental health and I know that I sort of joke about it’s the same it’s our dental health. You and I both know there’s things that we ought to be doing on a day to day basis to take care of our dental health. You know, the brushing, the flossing, and the preventative stuff, visiting the dentist. It’s exactly the same with our mental health. There are things that we need to be doing that keeps us in balance or the problem, you know, becomes, if we don’t, we end up running on fumes. Then life throws a curve ball at us that we just weren’t expecting and because we’ve got no reserves in the tank, we suddenly end up in a bad place.
I think that’s one of our biggest challenges at the moment as you suggested with the current pandemic. Nobody could have predicted this. If I see the word unprecedented one more time, but it actually is that. We’re going through unchartered waters. We’re living in very turbulent times. So people who already perhaps were anxious or a little bit stressed about life circumstance, all of a sudden this has been thrown on top of it. People that weren’t struggling with their mental health before may now be because of all the requirements that have been forced on us. You know, social isolation, and distancing, and staying at home. All of those things might be good for our physical well-being, but actually we know that all those things are potentially detrimental to our mental health. So exactly as you said, right now mental health, you know, is even more of a concern.
Dylis: Yeah, completely. I will use the word, but it is unprecedented times and people are being thrown into things that nobody was prepared for. This is the issue as well. So in terms of…a lot of us are isolating or working from home, what are the signs that people need to look for personally and also what are the signs for managers to look for who are looking after and supporting teams because I’m actually doing some work at the moment for a business, helping the managers to support their teams remotely. This is a different ballgame altogether.
Andrea: It is. Yeah, it’s difficult. I mean before the pandemic, there was some research done that suggested that probably only a third of managers would be comfortable to have such a sensitive conversation with their staff. The fact that as you say, we’re now perhaps working remotely or people are furloughed or you may even be managing people who are coming into work in a very stressful environment. You know, dependent on the nature of the work they do in the industry.
So I think managers at the moment have been kind of flung into something that perhaps they hadn’t had the training, they hadn’t had the development to be able to cope with, but now they, you know, their role as managers is even more critical than ever before. Even just thinking about people’s personal circumstances, you know, if you’re trying to do your job from home and you’re sharing your work-space, perhaps with a partner who’s also trying to work from home and you know, perhaps you’ve got a couple of kids that you’re also supposed to be home schooling and there’s just so much at the moment that’s creating chaos and uncertainty for people.
Good managers at this time should be making time particularly to check in with people. I need managers to appreciate that checking in and checking up is two different things. If you need to check up on where they are with regards to the work objectives, KPIs and outcomes, that’s one thing. But checking in with people personally is really important. Perhaps looking out for people whose behaviour or mood seems very different than the norm. You know, are people avoiding perhaps having that direct communication with you? What’s the quality or quantity of work that people are producing? Do people seem distracted or do they seem to be lacking focus whenever you do engage with them? Can you set up some sorts of perhaps video calls so that you can actually see body language. Are you comfortable to even directly ask the question, how are you doing, you know, emotionally as well as physically? That’s really where managers need to step up. Because, you know, one of the things that does worry me particularly right now is that home isn’t necessarily safe for everyone.
We’re told to stay at home because it’s good for our physical wellbeing. But I’m also mindful of people who perhaps their home life is a little bit, again shall we say turbulent, perhaps people who are at risk of domestic abuse or people who are perhaps turning to alcohol or drugs as a way of coping with how they’re feeling right now. So there’s lots of things that, you know, we need to be mindful of about people’s circumstance.
Managers need to be bold enough and brave enough to first of all, communicate frequently, connect with people regularly, and have the conversation about how they’re doing personally. You know, your duty of care as an employer doesn’t stop just because people are not working at the desk next to you. You know, you still have a responsibility for people’s health and well-being.
Dylis: Yeah. What might we look for ourselves personally? What sort of signs should we be aware of that actually things are getting us down?
Andrea: Okay. That could be obvious things like if your sleep is being affected, perhaps you can’t sleep or you’re sleeping too much or your energy levels are all out of kilter. It may be that you’re just not motivated. Things that you used to get really excited about, you know, if you were, for example, if we think about work. If you’re somebody who has a real appetite and really enjoys the work you do, and all of a sudden that’s gone, the mood just isn’t there. It could come across in your eating habits. I mean, I know we’re all stuck at home at the moment and my fridge is on overdrive, but it could well be that people are perhaps overeating or people haven’t got an appetite. Perhaps people struggling with headaches or what feels like joint pain that might actually be stress that they’re carrying physically. Again, it could be as I mentioned before that perhaps you’re turning to maybe alcohol or drugs or some other comfort blanket as a way of your, you know, coping strategy for this.
So lots of things to really be on the lookout for. But you know, anything that kind of represents a fairly significant change in your general behaviour and habits. At the moment, you know, it’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about because at the moment we’re living in such uncertainty. You know, we’re judging day by day, what’s going on. We’ve got no timescales in mind. We’re just guessing that perhaps in a couple of weeks. The brain loves certainty. The brain loves predictability. The brain loves routine and structure. At the moment we just haven’t got that.
So you know, something to think about is actually how can you create that routine and structure. I’m sure you’ve talked to people before about the difference between what they can influence and what they can control. So focusing on the things that you can control, stop worrying about how the government are going to respond or what’s happening in another country and really focus on putting some structure, some routine, and some deliberate actions within your day to day lives and give the brain as much routine as you can, despite what’s going on around us right now.
Dylis: Yeah. You know, I think this is very very relevant for managers too, that their communication is clear, it’s transparent, and it’s truthful, and it’s regular.
Andrea: Yeah. I talk a lot in the work that I do with managers about creating that climate where people can have open, honest, frank dialogue. That is so important. You know, that’s a whole piece of the psychological safety that we talk about. Can I be honest with you as my leader? Can I trust you? Can we actually communicate in a way that I feel comfortable? Can I come to you and say, look, I’m struggling at the moment because actually communication, you know, as you say, clarity is absolutely key. At the moment, more so to do with our expectations of each other.
If I feel under pressure because you expect me to deliver what I would normally deliver despite the fact that I’m working on a camping table in the cubby hole in the corner of the living room with, you know, Xbox going on behind me and my husband demanding that he needs to now use the internet. How can you possibly expect me to deliver to the same standard, the same quantity, the same quality? So our expectations of people needs to be really clear right now and we may need to negotiate and be more reasonable given the circumstances that people may well be working under.
Dylis: Yeah. I remember, funnily enough, I was just talking with my husband and reminiscing about 20 odd years ago when I was the regional sales director and I had the top floor of Barclays Bank in the high street in Oxford. I had a suite of offices with secretaries and all, you know, boardrooms and everything was fantastic. The company made a decision that they were going to make us all remote workers. I literally went from this beautiful suite of offices to the end of my living room table. I had a wire at one side, a wire at the other. I felt like I was in a cage. So there was two things actually. One was the physical environment was so different and I really found that difficult to adjust to. It took a little while for that to become my new normal. But the other thing was I missed the people because it was a very busy, busy, busy office, you know. So I had to find ways of being able to interact and we didn’t have all of this Zoom and the technology that we have now. I had to find a way to be able to manage myself. Actually kind of reflecting on that and thinking about this podcast and I realise what an impact that had on my mental health.
Andrea: But connectedness is a really big part of our mental well-being. Connecting with other people, feeling as though we belong, having a tribe and a lot of people get that from the workplace. Yeah. You described that two factors, the physical. So I’m now expected to use tech and I’m on the camping table in the corner of the living room and I’ve not got IT just down the corridor in case anything goes wrong and I’m feeling a little bit stressed by it all. But secondly, I’ve not got the people around me that I normally have. I don’t feel that sense of team, that sense of belonging.
That’s where it’s really important again, for managers at the moment to be working hard to make sure that, you know, people are feeling as they are still very much part of the team. I’ve seen lots of fabulous things. Some of clients have been organising virtual drinks at five o’clock on a Friday, you know, and do things like that so that people can feel engaged. There’s also something that I wanted to say here. Yeah, sorry, I was just going to say we’ve been talking a lot about what managers should be doing for their staff. I also think there’s a lot that managers need to be doing for themselves too because you can’t pour from an empty bottle. If as a manager you’re not in a good place yourself, you know, there’s absolutely some steps that you can be taking to take care of your own well-being.
I’ve actually put together a little 12 step program, The 12 Steps to Staying Safe and Staying Sane. What I would say to all managers, all leaders, is to get themselves in a good place. You cannot be supportive and compassionate and, you know, give other people what they need if you’re not in a good state yourself. It’s a bit like when you get on the airplane and they say put on your own oxygen mask first. Managers need to be right now exercising good self-care. I know that sometimes some of the guys I talk to in engineering and construction and manufacturing, when I talk to them about self-care they, you know, they think I’m talking about candles and sandals and bubble baths and tofu.
It’s not about all that. It’s about investing in your own well-being in whatever way works for you. That could be as simple as just taking 10 minutes out to just listen to a piece of music, you know? When did you last really do that? When did you last absolutely disconnect and just focus on you. It might be about going and having a bath. It might be about getting a good hours walking with the dog. But it’s managers first and foremost thinking about your self-care before you turn to help other people.
If you’re a parent, think about are you role modelling good behaviour for your kids. What do you want your kids’ memories to be of this time? Do they want it to be, if their parent, you know, stressed out running around the house with their hair on fire because they couldn’t get a signal on their mobile phone, you know, or do you want your kids to have memories of you as a great role model during times that were really uncertain? There’s so much we need to be thinking about right now with regards to mental wellbeing, not just our own.
Dylis: Yeah. I want to talk further on strategies that people can put in place. You know, some takeaways for people. But I just want to go back to something that you mentioned before and that was connectedness. You know, the managers need to be thinking about connectedness too because they can get the team together. Maybe the team can come together, but they have to be connected to their peer group too. Make that happen because the difference between when I became a remote manager, I was able to go out. We could meet in hotels, we could meet in the evening, we could socialise and so on. We can’t do any of that right now. So thinking outside of the box, what can I do to be able to connect with people? Because as human beings, that’s what we need. We survive on that. What can I do? Think outside the box. This is nothing to do with mental health or with connectedness. Well it is to do with connectedness, but it’s nothing to do with business.
At Easter I was thinking, how can I connect with my grandchildren to make Easter Day as if they had come to my house? I’m in touch with them all the time. We’re doing FaceTime and we have Zoom calls. I do Bingo with them. We have Granny story corner. You know, so I’ve been trying to think outside of the box about what can I do. For Easter I sent them a picture for them to colour in and then we all got on Zoom and held up the pictures. We had a competition. They had to spot the Easter eggs. I sent them another coloured picture with 52 hidden eggs and they had to find those. Then I thought, how can I do Easter Egg Hunt. I know what I’ll do? I’ll hide them around the house, just downstairs I did. There was dozens of them. Then I flipped my camera on my iPad; we were on FaceTime, actually it wasn’t Zoom. I flipped my camera and they had to say, into the kitchen, forward, back, right, left up, down and find them.
So as I say, this is nothing to do with business, but it’s all to do with thinking outside of the box. It’s all to do with thinking rather than say I can’t because, I would like people to say I could if.
Andrea: Or how can I?
Dylis: How can I, yes. Just thinking of ways to stay connected. To find out from other people, what are you doing? You know, what are you doing to stay connected with your team? A self-employed person being at home they haven’t got a team. How can you start and create a team of like-minded people? Can you join…4N is a network. It’s not really my idea of place but in terms of connectedness, only about £19 a month and you can go to as many as you like online. They’ve created it on Zoom. Another great example of thinking outside of the box. But you know there’s a lot of these networking groups now doing this online.
Andrea: Yeah. It doesn’t have to be a business network to get that, especially if you’re self-employed, you know. It can be all sorts of things. I have to say I’ve seen some fabulous things that have evolved online since we’d have been in, I know we’re not using the word lockdown, but that’s kind of how it feels. But I mean I’ve joined an online book club. I’ve wanted to join a book club for years. But because of the nature of my work, I travel a lot all over the UK, working in different places. I’ve never been able to commit to anything that required that level of…I’ve joined an online book club. There’s people in my book club who are in the States, who are in Australia. It’s literally Monday evening, seven o’clock, we’re all there on Zoom. We’ve all been reading the same book. We’ve been instructed which chapter to read. It’s great, I don’t know these people from Adam.
Dylis: Do you know what I’ve joined?
Andrea: Go on.
Dylis: I’m no singer. I’ve joined an online choir.
Andrea: Well done.
Dylis: He’s done it brilliantly. He’s got these units. It’s called the Corona Virus Choir. You have to assess yourself to see whether you’re a soprano 1 or 2, alto 1 or 2. I’m alto one. And you go on and you do all of this practice. I am no singer. It’s all brilliant. So you know, you’re right. So there’s all sorts; there’s business ways of connecting, there’s non-business ways of connecting.
Andrea: Do you know what? Sometimes actually we just need to give ourselves a little bit of head space and opportunity to breathe out. There’s loads of stuff that was going around when the pandemic first started about, “Oh, you know, this is an opportunity to get that master’s degree that you intended and you know, come out of here, you know, having lost six stone and you know, all of that nonsense. You know what I think if that’s what works for you, fabulous. You know, if you want some kind of developmental opportunity, if you want to see this as an opportunity to do something that you perhaps were always meaning to, superb. But equally, if you need to just take time to breathe out and get some head space right now, maybe an online choir or an online book club is going to be far better for you than, you know, trying to keep up with business the whole time. That’s what I mean by self care. You’ve got to do what’s right for you. We’re all different, we’re all unique and we need to not beat ourselves up if we’re not currently as productive.
Dylis: I think this is very important for people, is please take some action, whether it’s baking a cake, whether it’s going out and digging a trench in your garden, whether it’s going for a walk, whether it’s doing some exercise, whatever it is. It helps create endorphins and it makes you feel better. I promise you, if you sit and do nothing you will go down the spiral. I mean I’m not an expert in this, but I just know this from the work that I’ve done.
Andrea: It helps being active. You’re absolutely right. By being active, not only do you produce the endorphins as you said, but you’re also moving the stress hormones around your body. You know, our body doesn’t know whether it’s the saber tooth tiger or whether it’s another piece of breaking news from the BBC. It responds to that stress. If you’re not active the potential risk that a lot of scientists are telling us, is that those stress hormones just collect and gather in your system.
Now being active doesn’t mean that you’ve got to suddenly turn into marathon man. It could be that you might do some gardening. My son runs, he’s actually running his cheer coaching classes online and the parents are joining in, you know, and it’s just silly things that people are doing, but they are so important for our physical and our mental health. You know what? Who cares if you’re not the best singer? Who cares if you can’t hold the same, you know, tumbling cheer pose that your kids can. It’s about engaging. It’s about connecting and you know, what it’s also about having a bit of a laugh because right now, we need to laugh.
Dylis: Just to give you a laugh I happened to have this on my desk. This wasn’t prepared at all. My husband keeps coming up with these innovative things. He thought he would use cups of my bra to make…
Andrea: Dylis are you sure you want to share this with us?
Dylis: That was hysterical. We both had my bra on and I said, “well, you’re not using these because these are my new-ish ones.” I said, “what about this older one?” He went, “no too plain.” Then his next invention was this. How fantastic. So we laughed and laughed. Yes, I think the laughter is a real…we have a lot of laughter and I think that that’s really important.
Andrea: You have to. I mean we’ve joined a virtual pub quiz team and what that’s done is three things. First of all, it’s connected us with other people, so we are now in a team. By being part of that team we’ve now got a commitment, we’ve got a tribe, we’ve got something that we belong to and we have to be there at on Thursday night at 8:15. The third thing is obviously with regards to the actual quiz, it’s good fun. You know, what was the Simpson’s dog, what was the Simpson’s dog? It’s just ridiculous fun. So we’ve gotta be doing that right now because actually there’s so much serious stuff going on around us that where we can find humour, where we can find chance to relax and disconnect it’s important.
I would say, you know, one of the key things that I’ve been saying to people is create that routine but deliberately build in some fun, some relaxation to that routine. Again, if you are working from home, make sure that there is a definite start and finish point because it would be so easy, especially if you’re home alone to allow work to become, you know, sort of 18 hours of your day. There has to be a definite cut-off time and mark that with something. Maybe you move away from your desk physically or maybe you mark it with, I don’t know, a gin and tonic, but not too many, but just some way that says that’s that bit of my day finished and this is another bit of my day starting.
Dylis: The other thing I’ve done actually Andrea, I wasn’t very well at the beginning of the year. In fact, I wasn’t very well at the end of last year and I wasn’t sleeping very well. So, I got the Calm app. C-A-L-M. Now I’m not woo-woo. I’m sort of spiritual, but I’m not in a big way, but the meditation and I’m getting really good at it because I’m practicing of course, you know, the more you do something the better you get at it. It has been, it was fantastic in terms of helping me get back to sleep through the night. It was a lady from America, my favourite one. She’d go, “hi, this is Tamara,” and then she’d go into her thing.
Now you might be listening to this and thinking, Oh my goodness me. Honestly, it was brilliant. It helped me to get better. I wasn’t suffering from mental health. It was some other problems that I had. Since used and practiced with it I had a little agitation on, I think I’m just gonna, and I actually like to lay down, lay down for 10 minutes and put on this headphone and I listened to some sort of meditation. I’m on this 30 day thing at the moment, but I like it so much sometimes I play two in a day. So that is really looking after your own self.
Andrea: Absolutely. That’s what I’m saying about people using what works for them. You know, when I talked to, as I said, I work a lot in industry and I’m talking to engineering managers that have just come off the shop floor and I’m talking to them about things like meditation and mindfulness. They look at me as though I’ve, you know, kind of lost it completely. I want to explain to them it doesn’t have to be like brain, an opportunity to relax and to, you know, to kind of disconnect if you like for a little bit.
Dylis: Yeah. Have you any other last words that you would like to share with us Andrea in terms of coping with this,
Andrea: I just think at the moment we just need to be kind to ourselves. I would say probably the top tips if you like, would be to have that routine and structure. To deliberately plan self-care and for managers to be bold enough to have crucial conversations with people that checks in. I don’t know whether, you know, over the weekend the home secretary launched a program called You Are Not Alone, which was about recognising the calls to domestic violence helplines have increased by 120%. Calls to mental health helplines have also increased significantly. So, you know, the last thing I really want to say is to urge managers wherever you are, if you have a responsibility for people please do check in with them personally. You could be the difference for that person, you know, and help them stay safe, and stay sane.
Dylis: Perfect. Perfect Andrea, thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you about what could be a difficult subject, but I hope we’ve given some great insights here to help people. So if we’ve got individuals who would like to speak to you or even managers who would like to bring you into their company, how do people get in touch with you?
Andrea: The best place to find me is online training website, which is A-B-D-C-C-T, that’s Alpha, Bravo, Delta, Charlie, Charlie, Tango, ABDCCT or I’m all over LinkedIn. I’m forever on LinkedIn ranting, and raging, and raving, and people can find me there. Or if you want to download my Stay Safe Stay Sane leaflet. If you go to www.andreanewton.com the download is there and it’s just a PDF document with 12 top tips to help you stay safe and stay sane.
Dylis: Excellent. Let me just check this again then. So www.abdcct.co.uk is that your website?
Andrea: Yeah, www.abdcct.co.uk that’s where you’ll find details of all the training interventions that I do.
Dylis: Right, perfect. Andrea, thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you.
Andrea: You’re very welcome, the pleasure is all mine.
Dylis: Doing this wonderful work that you’re doing.
Andrea: Thank you, Dylis.
Dylis: Alright, bye.
Dylis: Okay, so something different on our podcast today, but very, very relevant to all of us. Whether you are at home as a coach, trainer, consultant, business expert, and you’re working alone at home or whether you are working in a business and you are a leader of a team. No matter what level, whether you’re a leader of leaders or you are a leader of individuals in a team who are doing the work. You know, this is very, very relevant to us all. Mental health as Andrea so eloquently put, it isn’t about necessarily being on medication. This is our mood and the situation at the moment can impact and is impacting on us in a big way.
So, you know, if you are finding signs that you are not coping as well as you did as an individual, that you’re not coping. Maybe not sleeping, eating too much, not eating enough, feeling angry, flying off the handle, not having patience, those things then think about how you can look after yourself, your own mental wellbeing. Look at connectedness, taking action. Don’t just sit and worry. Do take action and think about laughter and creating a routine. I’m just looking at my notes here. Create a routine for yourself, but reach out. The connectedness and connectiveness is so important to us always, by the way, but particularly now.
As a leader of people, please find that courage. Be brave. Reach out to your teams individually and together. So as a team and as individuals and have the courage to reach out and look at how they might need supporting, how they are feeling and have those conversations. People need to know that they have someone that they can reach out to. So as a leader you need clarity of communication because the alternative of that is that the brain will make up things. That is also what creates even more stress. So clarity of communication, those expectations. Helping people with technology, you know. So please support yourself, support others, and we will get through this and I promise you it will pass.
Until the next time. However, I will say if you want to come and join my group Inspired Selling, which is a free group on Facebook for trainers, coaches, consultants, business experts, leaders who want to come and join us and discover how to attract, convert and retain more of your ideal clients, but also look at some of these other areas that are not just all about selling. So that’s Inspired Selling on Facebook. But if you want to get in touch with me, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org or my website is www.dylisguyan.com. I’m also on LinkedIn and you won’t find another Dylis Guyan.
Thank you for taking time to listen. If you like the podcast, please subscribe. You can subscribe to the video on YouTube. Thanks again. Stay safe. Stay well, bye for now.
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