Mental health|Finding the missing link

Matt Stannard | 23rd October 2019

I’m very lucky in my life. I’ve always had a very supportive family, amazing friends and somehow colleagues who are awesome and tolerate my randomness on a daily basis. That said though, sometimes when things do get tough I would say I’m someone who will bottle things inside, probably as I take after my dad and love to try and keep a calm professional exterior at all times.

Fellow parents; I’m sure that you will empathise in that juggling a career and children doesn’t always run as smoothly. If you commute on top of that days can be long, work-life balance is a struggle – with very little room for “downtime” and by that, I mean time to yourself. If you’re married then saying I want time to myself isn’t always something that one’s other half finds romantic and caring so these dynamics can often mean the ability to “switch off” can be harder.

Wherever I’ve worked as the business grows, there are times I have found myself under considerable pressure. That doesn’t mean where I work has unrealistic expectations, it means that sometimes life can be hard. I do put myself in the category of those staff who want to be able to check their email out of hours, or on holiday and so one could argue that much of this pressure is self-created, but I don’t feel alone.

I’ve never really worried about my mental health until the last week where the combination of increased home pressures (juggling childcare, people visiting, parents evenings), early starts, deadlines and increased workload meant my brain said STOP! I wouldn’t call it a breakdown, more a desire to scream at the top of my voice somewhere and go ARGGHHH!

Mental health | we don’t all want to talk!

I am an avid sports fan, and so am well aware of all of the Mental Health Awareness and it’s good to talk campaigns that are out there. But for me, they all assume one thing – their person wants to talk. Whilst helping someone with Mental Health can be about listening if you’ve got a good friend they probably will also want to help and I am sure many people find the thought of this or opening up to being under strain quite daunting to start with. In my case, I just like having a vent. Being able to get worries or concerns off my mind so it can feel clear and move on.

This for me is where The Happiness Index and AlwaysOn come in. I’m fortunate to work for a business which gives me The Freedom to be Human – this means we have frameworks and policies but they’re not rigid and are adaptable to meet my needs.

For over a year we’ve been using our AlwaysOn module – this means at any point in time I can check in how happy I am and say why. When I had a particular more stressful week I was able to use AlwaysOn and just say “ARRGGGH”. I didn’t want anyone to talk to me, I wanted to clear my mind. Immediately after doing this I felt better, as I had lifted things off my chest.

Our AlwaysOn feedback is reviewed weekly and we play back themes openly as a team, but feedback is anonymous. What’s nice about this is when or if people are stressed like I was, we don’t bubble wrap people, more look and say how as a collective do we support each other. This is far more powerful as it helps and encourages openness and support throughout a team.

venting via technology

For me, AlwaysOn and anonymous “venting” is a missing link in Mental Health campaigns. It bridges the gap by allowing people to be honest but without prejudice. One could argue you could ring an independent helpline but even then, there is still a real human on the end. As Head of Robots, you could argue there is a sense of irony, I in the first instance would want to discuss problems with technology but I feel better for it and would advise any business to consider it.

The other thing is AI can help thematically tag and sentiment parse feedback helping group themes and make things better for all staff.

I’d love to know how others cope with stress, and to share tips and best practice!

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