The current state of mental health in the workplace, with Dr Nick Taylor
While we all know that the world has changed significantly, what you might not know is that the state of mental health in the workplace has also been adjusting to respond to it.
One of those changes was that in June of this year, the world's first International Standard (ISO) to address Psychological health and safety at work were published.
To better understand what is happening with mental well-being and the workplace, Damon sat down with the Co-Founder of Unmind, Dr Nick Taylor.
In this episode, you'll learn:
- The macro trends and policies impacting mental health in the workplace
- Why disclosure is such a complex subject when it comes to mental health
- How to focus on your mental wellness before supporting others on your team
- Tips for anyone who's managing a team of humans in this complex environment
Links referenced in the episode:
Damon: So today on the Culture First podcast, I'm speaking with Dr. Nick from Unmind. So first up, I just want to say a big welcome to the show.
Nick: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
Damon: So we're recording this episode in October of the year 2022. World Mental Health Day is October the 10th. I can imagine that it's been a busy week.
It's been a busy month. It's been a busy year. It's been a busy pandemic. I'd like to maybe just start with a question like, how are you personally doing right now?
Nick: Oh, that's a, that's a nice question to start with. Thank you. Um, yeah, it's a funny, it's always a very busy time for us to unwind, as you can imagine, and, and for, for all of us in the mental health community.
Um, and, and we work so hard up to this date and it's actually, it feels like a real celebration when it comes because it's a real opportunity to have lots of conversations around mental health and forums that we might not otherwise have the opportunities to speak in. It's really in the front and center of people's minds.
So I feel very energized and excited. By that, those conversations. But also, um, we have, we don't have an all hands, we have an All Mind at UN might and that's next Thursday, uh, after a lot of the events have happened. I'm really looking forward to celebrating with the team when we get through it. So I, I know everybody is, is pumped, but, but also, um, we, we are.
Operating on full steam, so a degree of tiredness as well. .
Damon: Yeah, I think that's when you have a, like, I guess, such a large pinnacle event, one that is literally, you know, like that the World Health Organization calls out. It kind of really does galvanize everyone around that conversation. But with that comes a lot of pressure, so I'm sure it's a, it's both a busy and an exciting time for you and the rest of a.
Nick: Yeah, absolutely. And, and it, it is incredible, isn't it? That it's called out by the likes of the World Health Organization. And because it wasn't that long ago that that wasn't the case. Um, so it is something really to, to be grateful for that there is this degree of volume around the topic at this time of year.
Damon: for people who've listened to this show a lot, um, you would know that I've covered the topic of mental health in, uh, previous episodes. We've had whole episodes about mental health as well as the fact that I try to weave it in as part of this idea of just talking about humanity at work. But I thought to start this conversation, it'd be really nice to share my aim with the audience just so they know how we're thinking about this conversation today.
So, You know, my aim for this episode is to have a really open and honest conversation about humanity in the workplace, about how we are coping and how we're not coping, what we can do as individuals to increase our whole wellbeing as well as the role of the organization to create an environment where we can be whole as well.
And I re really hope that everyone listening, whether you are leading a team, maybe leading a department or the entire organization that you just leave ready to have a really important conversation about mental health in the workplace. So, How does that sound for you, Nick? That sounds great. All right, let's do it.
So, uh, people know that I like to warm up my guests with a few little checking questions, but I've got a bit of a twist on these ones. So, first, as the CEO of Un Mind, I've got a, a little bit of a different question here. If a curious 10 year old walks up to you and says, Excuse me, Mr. CEO of un Mind, what do you do for work?
How do you describe unmind and how do you describe your job?
Nick: Oh, it's funny you should ask that question because I have a five year old son and I asked him recently, um, what do I do for work? And he said to me, You talk to people and make choices, . And I thought that was the best description of my job, , that I've, I've ever heard.
Um, so that was a really good childhood description of my job. Um, and in terms. What do we do with unmind? We help people to look after their, their, their minds. We help people to look after their how they feel. That's how I describe it to a child.
Damon: I talk to people and I make decisions. I feel like we should all get that on a t-shirt just to remind ourself that sometimes life can be as simple as that.
Nick: It's quite funny, isn't it? Cause he must have watched me over Covid and all the lockdowns and just that, that must be his conclusion of my work. So, but when he said it, I thought it's, it's a really good summary cuz that's basically
Damon: what I do. Does your answer differ if you're speaking to a venture capitalist or is it the same answer for what does unmind do?
Nick: It's a little bit more. When I'm talking to venture capitalists, um, I really talk about how the historic approach to mental health has been too heavily focused on illness, and I'm waiting for people to become unwell before we think about what treatment we can provide them, as opposed to actually how we should approach all areas of healthcare, which is focus on prevention.
It's why we brush our teeth in the morning. It's why we exercise. It's why we, um, eat well, sleep well, cuz we know preventative approaches are best with healthcare. But with mental health historically, we've not taken that approach. And, and that's really what unmind was predicated upon.
Damon: So I thought to start this episode, um, you know, you get access to a lot of amazing companies, a lot of interesting data, and I wanted to do, I guess a bit of, a bit of a check in about our experience right now.
Um, you know, it's been a couple of years in this new environment that we found ourself in. Uh, back in 2020 I did a series on, on the Culture First podcast called Working Through It, where I kind of felt like I was a bit of a Guinea pig for our experience of trying to work through these uncertain times.
And I'm not sure about you. You know, I think for me, I, I think to expect people to be okay right now is still a bit unrealistic. I know maybe some people feel like we have come out the other side. Maybe some people still feel like they're in it. But for me, my experience is that like I'm still trying to emotionally regulate the experience of working for this time.
And I still think that there's a lot of, uh, grief spoken, unspoken in the workplace. And I don't think that's a word that gets used a lot in the workplace, but I wish it was. I think what I'm sort of seeing is that we're seeing physical, we might be grieving a physical workplace, maybe colleagues we used to work with or a structure that used to reward certain ways.
Um, so like I wanted to do a bit of a check in with you, like, these are some of the things that I'm thinking about. I don't think that everyone is coping as well as maybe society is trying to paint. What are you seeing right now? I
Nick: really like that use of the word grief, actually. And I think maybe we don't reach for it enough because, uh, and there have been multiple points of grief over the past period, haven't there.
Like initially when covid hit, we lost a way of life, um, and we had to react to that and change life and change is hard. Um, and then people, many, not everyone, and there were so many different stories of, and different journeys people took through covid. But for some people, They found a new life and a new way that worked better, um, for them.
And then they lost that when this return to post covid world started happening. Um, so that, that again was a period of change and challenge. I think what's what's really important here is. To recognize that our mental health, we, you know, we're not islands that are disconnected to the world around us. Our mental health is informed by what's going on in our life and, um, what is often called a, like social determinants of health.
So we know that we're, we're in many ways living through a kind of age of multi crisis. At the moment, it's either. Climate change or it's, um, you know, cost of living crisis or it's health pandemics, or it's world recessions or it's geopolitical instability. Yeah, there's lots of big things going on there.
Um, and, and they actually do have an impact on, on us as human beings and, and will impact on our. Health and wellbeing. Um, and of course they also impact on how our businesses are, which then in turn impacts on how our life is. So it's good to acknowledge that all of the feelings complex at the moment, um, and it's a challenging time to live through as a human being.
And I think it's really helpful to use words to describe that, such as grief or kind of anxiety or whatever. Um, and we know also, like if, if you look at. The research in the first year of Covid, um, in the Lance that there was a article published, it showed that there was a global increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression by the tune of 25%, which shows how big an increase, uh, that is in, in mental illness.
And, and then what's, what's scary is that that. Economic climate impacts on health based significantly. And the presidents of the Royal College of Psychiatrists recently predicted that the impact of the cost of living crisis would have a pandemic level impact on the mental health of people. So if that's right, which I suspect it is, then we can forecast that we're gonna see another increase in mental illness as a result of their this new crisis that we're going.
Damon: Yeah, it kind of feels like any way you look, there is going to be some sort of thing that is requiring your attention, or at least maybe not even requiring your attention, but like deserves it, right? Whether it's the geopolitical, you know, nature of the world right now, of things that are happening in Ukraine or Iran.
If you're looking at economic uncertainty and how that plays out at the individual level for a family all the way up to the organization, um, you know, I think leaders are very aware that we're operating in uncertain. And that, you know, that employees might be struggling right now. I did read a, a study recently, um, I believe it was by Deloitte that kind of said that employees are recognizing that their mental wellness isn't great right now, but leaders actually think that their wellness is higher, so that like employees are saying like, I'm not coping, but managers think that they're coping better than they actually are.
So I wonder what your take is on that. Do you feel like maybe leaders are a little bit out of the loop about how well or not well that their, their teams are doing? Right.
Nick: That's a really interesting question though, isn't it? There is. Between, um, 2019 and 2022 there, the number of employees at risk of burnout increased by 29%.
So we, we, we know, and that, that was, uh, a Meer report that showed that, and it's so we know that there is a, um, There has been a, an increased prevalence of people at risk and an increased prevalence of mental illness. But we also know, um, I think it was McKinsey, um, did a report recently that showed that employers, um, rate the work that they're doing around mental health as, um, 22% more favorably than employees see it.
So, So in other words, Organizations perceive that they're doing a better job than employees feel they're doing. Um, so I think it's really interesting that disconnect and it, and it does show the importance of listening to employees and it shows the importance of data. Um, but it also shows the importance of education because.
Leaders are often gonna be in a, in a, an advantaged position in life. They might have better, uh, access to finance or more secure like financial life and perhaps a bigger home to live in. Perhaps more autonomy in their, their roles and, and perhaps their sphere of their view of the world perhaps can become too dominant to the point that they perhaps don't consider.
Their team's world might look very different and feel very different. And, um, so I think we need to, we need to think about data education, um, and listening, but we also need to be compassionate to leaders as well, because it's also not easy to mm-hmm. To understand the, the mood of your employee as well at all points.
Damon: Yeah, I think that is, uh, one of the most common conversations I've had this year is that, When I think about humanity at work, I deeply think about an individual's experience as just being one human inside of an organization, as part of society and what they're experiencing. But then also, you know, through my kind of part marketing part, HR brain, I think about personas and the personas where we can do the best work.
And I think managers play that role, which is like, if you can, uh, increase the resilience and the wellbeing and the infrastructure and the support around a manager. They have that ripple effect for the rest of that team. You know, if, if, if they are feeling well, if they are feeling supported, they feel like they have access to resources, they can increase the psychological safety of their team, they can make sure that that team feels like they have more support.
And you know, I think that's why it's this like constant need to like, yes, let's focus on the individuals, but there's certain individuals inside of the organizations that just have this much bigger impact on how the rest of us actually experience the work.
Nick: Yeah, I, that's a really interesting topic and the theme of that topic is interesting.
So, if you think about how the trend of wellbeing has happened at work, it's, it's historically been very focused on the individual. Um, and, and there's good reason for that. That's a re let's not say all of that's wrong. We still must provide the individuals with support for their mental health. But, but it comes back to the social determinant piece again, which speaks to the fact that the environment, the individual is in.
Impact on how able that individual is to flourish. Um, and it's a little bit like if you take a, if you take a seed and you put that seed in the wrong soil with the wrong water and the wrong light, that seed is not gonna grow into a beautiful plant. But if you put that seed in the right water, in the right soil, with the right water in the right light, it has a great chance to flourish and become the plant it can be.
And human beings are not that different in that respect. And in, in this example with the workplace, that workplace is the kind of. and, you know, managers and leaders can play a pivotal role in fostering the right culture that facilitates our employees to flourish. And, and I think for, for leaders to do that well, we need to educate them.
We need to, um, Um, provide them with insights and data. Um, and, and, and critically, I think with the, Cuz you and I are both passionate about mental health as many people we know and it, we live and breathe this, we think about it a lot and, and the impact of culture and all of these things. But for many people it's just not what, it's not their thing.
And so, um, we, there's a, we must always remember that the journey we need to take everyone on as a leader to understand this topic. Um, but also, It's so important that we see this as a long term game as well. There isn't a, there's no a quick fix here. There's an amazing, uh, psychiatrist in America called Thomas Insel and, and a highly, highly accomplished man and, and lovely man.
And he, um, he, he said in his recent book, he said, Nothing about healing our mental health crisis will be simple. Um, and I love that really because it, it, it, it's so important to recognize that this, it takes, this is a long. Play. This takes perseverance. Um, and critically when it comes to educating our leaders and empowering our leaders to lead well in the topic of mental health, it needs to be continuous and multifaceted and, um, and fit around their busy schedules.
I think the way we've historically thought about educating leaders around mental health resembles kind of like a Victorian bathing habits, you know, it's like once a year type event. Um, whereas actually what it needs to resemble is like the modern sharing habit. You know, it's like every single day, you know, there needs to be a kind of, uh, kind of piece of information or empowering of that leader to lead well around mental health.
Damon: So I think we touched on, um, you know, some of the things from an organization, uh, perspective as well as a manager. And I wanna, I wanna come back to that towards the end, but I think although, um, you know, we just mentioned this idea that like, you know, this is not just an individual thing. I think maybe sometimes from an organizational perspective, we can be really focused on just the individual.
But, you know, I think this is where this crossover, where I think about this stuff, which, which is like an individual is a, is a part of society first, right? And I just wanna talk about maybe the difficulties of disclosure when it comes to mental health. As a human first before we try to tell ma managers how to like, have more conversations about it and tell employees to open up.
Because I just, you know, to me, I don't know, like my own work around stigma reduction in the mental health space is, has been focused on how hard this can be for an individual. Um, so yeah, I want to kind of touch on this subject about the difficulty of disclosure. And it is a complex one because, you know, to open up to ourself first.
Is incredibly vulnerable and challenging then to imagine how hard it's to open up to a partner. You know, someone who you trust and you love, you know, these are incredibly hard things to do. So you can only imagine how much harder this is gonna be in a workplace, telling a, a colleague that you're struggling.
Or even like the idea of like, we're gonna talk about creating. Psychologically safe environments and talking to your boss, but like we have to remember that, you know, a boss is someone who, yes, they can provide more accommodation and more support to your needs, but also like they're responsible for your performance and they can fire you and they can, they're responsible for your compensation and all these other things.
So it's so complex to know that, that this, this disclosure does come with risk. Maybe the risk. Being vulnerable with yourself and saying that you're not okay. And the risk can be telling your organization that you're struggling. So, considering that, you know, we're having this conversation so close to World Mental Health Day, I want to kind of just get your thoughts on the difficulties of disclosure before we try to tell every manager out there to go have a conversation with their team.
Nick: I think it's really tough. I, and I think we need to be honest about it. I think, I really love the question and the re, the acknowledgement you're making around this. I don't think we all get it right all the time. I could, I've definitely got it wrong at point. Um, and even my, myself and I find it difficult to disclose how I'm feeling and sometimes it's because you don't recognize how you're feeling.
Um, and I think that's one of the reasons that empowering people to track their mental health is so important. It's one of the things we're really passionate about it on mine, cause then it helps us check in and understand what's going on. Um, And sometimes it's because the topic's difficult and there's probably a hierarchy of things which are hard to disclose here.
Um, generally speaking in society, people seem to find it quite easy to talk about sleep. Um, I'm really not sleeping well. Last night I didn't, I had a awful eye and I had to take the day off. That seems to be kind of acceptable. Um, I think that if people said, I'm, I'm just being a bit anxious at the moment, I'm being learned.
Or that, that's quite challenging. I think that if it's something to do with your family into personal relationships, if it's to do with finance, that can be really difficult to talk about for people, especially if they're, let's say they have a role in finance and they're saying, Well, my financial situations cause me a lot of stress.
That that could put them in a very vulnerable book place. But also I think it's important to think about people with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or psychosis, like somebody to about to say, Look, I'm having intrusive thoughts, um, that are, are causing me a lot of chance. There is probably a hierarchy on this, and that probably matches onto how the stigma applies on the different areas.
Um, I think again, it comes back to, One, we must acknowledge this, but two, we must empower people to have conversations. Um, and two, uh, help people to ask properly, like, how are you? And really mean it. And, and ask it twice even in a conversation. Make space in conversations, help people to know how to listen.
Human beings remarkably bad at listening well, um, and it's not something we really teach ourselves to do. Typically a bad, a good, a good example of a bad listening would be someone saying, Oh, I've had a really tough. And then the person listening says, Oh, so have I. And they think that by saying they also have had a bad day, that somehow that's kind of making the other person feel good.
Well, actually it's awful because you've taken the conversation away from that person. The right response would be more like, I'm sorry to hear you've had a bad day. Um, so I had think helping people to listen well is really important. And I then again, I think also really educating people about mental health because for those who don't know about this topic, Just feel quite bamboozled or scared to have to engage in it as a topic.
But if we can help to educate that actually mental health is made up of biological factors, psychological factors, social factors, so every aspect of your life will impact on your mental health. Um, that there are common mental health problems, that there are places you can sign people for care and support.
Um, I think that level of education can really help empower people to talk about mental health. But again, coming back to my earlier point. This needs to be really continuous because we can't expect people to remember this stuff on an ongoing basis.
Damon: That's why I'm such a big fan of, um, you know, people going through like mental health first aid training or people educating themself on this because every single person has mental health and training yourself up, understanding how to listen to your own needs, understanding how to disclose how you're feeling to yourself.
Even just tapping into the raw emotions that we've all been experiencing over the last few years. Like, you know, I know I have better weeks if I sit down and. And journal and give myself space to think out loud. You know, I, I can't always wait for like a monthly therapy session. I know I need to be doing that work myself.
So just cause I've got the tools and I know that I should be doing this doesn't always mean that I do. And I think that's what I would love to see more from a, a society like you said. Why has it become so easy to talk about sleep ? Why can't we talk about, you know, why can't we talk about mental health in the same way?
And, um, so yeah, like I really wanted to spend some time on this before we start telling managers to go have this conversation about, like, go talk about mental health. Cause I just wanted to acknowledge that the, the self-disclosure is also a huge challenge.
Nick: Yeah. But, but, but, but maybe I, I would, I would challenge you a little bit on that because, um, because you, you kind of like, um, the way I heard it was like almost like we separate sleep well at sleep.
But actually my challenge would be let's, let's, let's embrace all of that as mental health. Mm. Um, it used to frustrate me, frustrate me when I used to see, um, Nintendo did the brain training games. Yeah. And, um, and I always thought in a way what they had done is that they'd taken some of the coolest bits of mental health and kind of.
Not mention mental health at all. And, and actually what we've got to do with mental health is, is help people to understand the good is also mental health, cuz that helps us to break the stigma. Mm-hmm. You know, like I know for, I love running. Um, and, uh, I know that my mindset or my attitude, my, my, the way I think.
When I'm feeling exhausted in a run in my mindset about breaking through that exhaustion and keep going is a mental health topic. You know, Um, my ability to focus really well is a mental health topic. My ability to communicate really effectively is a mental health topic. When I'm feeling happy, that is mental health.
When I'm laughing, that is mental health. I want, I want us to somehow, Like expand the territory that we claim when we talk about mental health because that's how we'll help to normalize the top conversation and that's how we'll help to break the stigma. I don't think it's easy to break the stigma by trying to continually like look at the challenging aspects and try and break the stigma just around that.
I think we need to get people to recognize actually, if we can say, Hey, I slept really well last night and it's good for my mental health. You know, if we can, some might get people. Yeah, bringing the positive to the language mental that will help us spread the stigma. And then I think leaders can do the same.
I know, um, there's a lot historically that's been spoken about how powerful it is and normalizing it is when executives or leads and businesses speak openly about their experience with mental ill health. And I agree with that. I think it is really powerful. Yeah. But I also had this dream that wouldn't it be great if leaders stood up and said, um, you know, this weekend I slept really well.
I spent time with, um, my loved ones. And, um, I felt real sense of purpose in my work and my mental health. Therefore, this week is feeling really good. Yeah, because that, that also helps to, to tie, to weave mental health into every aspect of, of, of life in the way that
Damon: it. Yeah. You know, we want our brain firing together, so at Wise Together, right?
We want those things to be connected. We want to know that like, yes, like sleep is mental health. This is a part of these other things. Yeah. And actually start connecting that all into that. And like, it's kind of like the, the yes end. Like, Yes, I slept well and it's good for my mental health, or no, I didn't exactly.
That's not good. Like being able to kind of connect those things together. And I think, you know, for people listening, maybe that's a nice way to start to, you know, have some of those conversations, is to think about all of the other aspects when you think about your own wellbeing and how you're feeling in your emotions, and include mental health as part of that conversation.
Nick: th I think that's, that, that is, I think, a really important step. And, and, and if we educate leaders around that, and managers particularly, or, or champions in the workplace, or employees in the workplace, then, then hopefully that can weave itself more into everyday work conversations.
Damon: So on the subject of I guess some of this changing of perceptions and the language and the workplace, I know, um, in the, in the men's mental health charity that I co-founded, a lot of our initial campaigns were really about knowing that on one side over here there is, um, you know, three, uh, free therapy and things that you can see and you can go see a doctor, and all the way on the other side is a lot of, uh, and we, you know, my campaign focused on Australian men.
Over here who weren't willing to like even acknowledge that there was an issue. So what we were trying to do is not say that we need, um, you know, we couldn't keep telling 'em that there was free resources. What we had to tell them that it's okay to even talk in the first place. And I think there is still this a lot of stigma.
In mental health in society. I'd love to maybe focus this conversation on stigma inside of the workplace about this topic. You know, you are trying to get organizations to make, you know, both a, a commitment as well as a financial commitment to increasing the mental wellbeing of employees. What is some of the stigma that you're still trying to fight when it comes to actually, you know, bringing things like unwind into an organization?
Nick: I think it's changing rapidly and I think that's really encouraging. You know, we're seeing now CEOs of top organizations talking about mental health and President Biden at the State of the Union address spoke about mental health on that stage. You know, we're seeing it's more normalized now for leaders to speak about this, but I still find it periodically.
I have a conversation with a leadership team. I'm struck by how far away that mindset is around this topic to where I had hoped the conversation had got to across all com leadership teams. Mm-hmm. . Um, but I think it's really important to. Remain really compassionate, remain really, um, uh, kind of positive in taking those leaders on the journey to understand the topic better.
Um, because I think once people get it, once people understand what you're trying to do with helping people to flourish at work, it becomes. Really obvious, like it's actually, if you help someone to understand, Well, look, you are, you are, and people don't understand this intuitively, but it's worth digging into a bit more.
Your most valuable asset as a business is your people. , do you think your business will be more successful if your people are well or unwell? Uh, to which obviously it's well mm-hmm. , but fine? Well, currently your people are not well because the evidence shows that, and you as an organization can help not only foster a culture that helps them to be well, but also provide them with tools to look after their wellbeing as well.
Um, and. By doing so your business will be more successful. Do you wanna take part? And then it's obvious like, well of course, of course I do. So it's like, it's a kind of, it's an education piece. And then, And then I think it's about helping people. Cause I still think generally, if you go up to the average person on the street and you say, What's mental health?
Generally speaking, people don't have a good paradigm to describe or or framework to describe it. And so I think it's helpful to get people to understand that mental health is all consuming part of human life and, uh, is impacted by multiple factors and that we can actually maintain and look after our mental health in the same way we do our physical health.
Um, and I think taking that educational journey is really the root to breaking the stigma. I personally have a real bug bear. Seeing kind of black and white images of people holding their head in their hands, uh, to represent mental health. Because I've worked in, as a clinical psychologist, many healthcare settings over the years.
I've worked with some extremely unwell people, um, and I've never seen anyone in black and white. So I dunno at what point we decided to represent mental illness with black and white images. Um, but also I don't like the characterization of like sitting in the corner with your head in your hands. Again, I think it's like mischaracterizes the reality of it.
I think that human beings are immensely complicated and wonderful and, and we need to try and. Understand the complexity of individuals and, and part of that is recognizing that actually somebody can have crippling anxiety, but still you might see them standing in a busy environment talking to someone.
Um, and equally it's possible to have a mental illness, but have it in control and be a really valuable, contributing member of society. So I think there's a risk that sometimes we. Uh, we accidentally characterize people with mental illnesses, therefore being unproductive or not valuable, or not engaged in society, and that that also is not really a, a, an appropriate characterization.
So I think we need to approach this topic with maturity recognized, but dive the, the, um, complexity, um, and have a commitment to. The agenda that we're promoting, um, and know that it is explainable to people and once they hear it, they engage in it, and that helps break the stigma for other people as well.
Damon: I'm very like, I'm very much a storyteller. You just mentioned some stories that we've heard about mental health. This idea of the black and white images or the like, the things and like, Yes, I could not agree more. I was literally imagining like someone standing on a bus smiling. I'm like, that person is just as representative of someone who is suffering from mental health as someone sitting on on the end of their bed who you know can't leave the house.
And I'm wonder. You know, are there any stories that you are using that are helping people better understand this? Like I'm, I'm thinking, you know, I'm just making this up on the spot. If, you know, anxiety and depression has increased by 25%, if we're telling people that, you know, 25% of your workforce doesn't have access to a hundred percent of their laptop battery every single day because they just don't have access to tap into that, would you want to actually increase their battery?
Like, are there any new stories that we should be telling to help leaders better understand that this is real and that they should be doing something about it?
Nick: I really like metaphor because I think it's helpful to help people understand there's a whole world of like, uh, multiple books written about the role of metaphor and therapy and how impactful it can be.
And, um, I, we, we've talked a lot in our mind over the years about kinda giving people a toothbrush for their mind. You know, like I'll often give talks and I'll say to people, you know, the very start of the talk, I'll get everyone to stand up and I'll say, If you brushed your teeth this morning, now sit down.
And then everyone sits down and I say, Isn't it interesting? We've all made two, three minutes this morning to brush our teeth, but how many of us can say the same about our mind, but what's more important in your teeth or your brain? And it's like kind of like just highlighting gently the kind of that as a society we might have, we might be playing this a little bit wrong.
I think that's, that's really important. And then the other thing I think that is helpful to point out because as a psychologist I've had definitely had situations where some people will say they'll, Here, will I, here I'm a psychologist. And they'll almost say, Oh, well I better hadn't talked to you as though you'll kind of like have a Jedi.
Um, which, you know, I would love to have that, but I don't. But, but I think, um, what I think is interesting is that there might be a perception that mental illness is easy to see, um, but it's really not. And human beings are incredibly good at hiding it. Um, you we're so human beings are the most wonderful things, you know, we're such a remarkable species.
But we are really, really complex and we're really good at hiding how we're feeling. So I think it's under, it's really helpful to get people to understand that you can't see mental illness and you can't necessarily see somebody's state of mental health. Um, and that's why language and conversation is so valuable in helping to give people space to open up.
That's why it's important in the workplace to create psychological safety, to enable people to be able to be themselves, to share what might be going on in their, in the world. On that
Damon: subject of psychological safety, Um, you know, I think it's a term that gets used a lot and there's probably leaders who have read some article and gone, Yeah, I need to increase psychological safety on my team.
And then like, they stress and they, and they freak out cuz they don't know how to do it, which only leads to, you know, increasing their own anxiety and stress. So do you have any practical advice for leaders who are wanting to create a psychologically safe team?
Nick: I think it's definitely worth checking out the new ISO standards around this, um, which hopefully brings parity with the, the physical health standards in the workplace.
Um, uh, I think investing in. Measuring and understanding. So I know something our mind we're passionate about and it's something, a culture I you're passionate about. We both have a real commitment to that measurement piece and excited about our partnership, um, there as well. And I, I think that to measure, understand, really help people to understand.
How to think about their own mental health, how to think about others', mental health, uh, and then educate to increase awareness of how to actually act on that understanding. Um, and, and you know, for me that kind of measure, understand, act kind of link is really critical, um, within teams. So as a leader, you should always be thinking about how can you understand this better, or how can you measure this, How can you understand it better than how can you act on it?
And there's so many tools available, um, around mental health and, um, it, you know, I would encourage organ, any leader in a business to really understand what is the mental health strategy, um, what are the tools and services available, and how can they kind of use those and leverage those in, in their role as a leader.
Damon: Yeah, and I think that's where our organizations are very much aligned cuz you know, culture s had that same philosophy about measure, understand, and act for a long time is, you know, measure what's happening inside of your organization, understand the nuances of it, dive, you know, dive real deep into that data to understand all of the different cuts that you can see and the drivers.
And then ultimately act, do something, sit. Make sure that your employees know that when they share that their voice and their opinion that things change because of it. And I think, you know, that's, it can sound simple at times, but like at the end of the day, You know, committing to change is an incredibly hard process, but that doesn't mean that, you know, we shouldn't be doing it.
Nick: and actually interestingly that works across a business when you think about the whole organization and how we create psychological safety, et cetera. But it also works for the individual as well. Like a lot of cognitive therapy and the various iterations of cbt, which I know is like third wave of cbt, um, are pre also predicates on that measure understand act.
You know, like that that model is so key and learning is a central component to this, you know? Um, it's quite interesting, isn't it? If you think about. Being a human being is complex, um, but we don't really get an instruction manual with it. Um, so, um, I think it's a really important thing to, uh, to build the habit of continuously self-discovery and self-understanding.
And not only about ourselves, but also it's, it is like the i, the we and the all and recognize that how can you understand yourself better? How can you understand others better and how can that understanding create a better environment for all of us?
Damon: That's a great segue into my next little section, which I've called this chapter of the episode, the Challenges of managing Humans.
I was reflecting on, on the challenges of just the team dynamic and this idea of creating enough safety in order for people with opposing feelings to be able to communicate what they're experiencing at the same time, so, For everyone listening, I'll give you an example. You know, Dick, let's say that there's two members of your team and one of these people on your team right now is struggling.
You know, they're having a really hard time and they don't know if they can talk about it because they don't wanna feel like that they're stuck in the past, that they're reflecting on things that have already happened and they don't wanna bring others down with, With these current. You know, maybe this is to do with some of the ambiguous loss from the workplace.
Maybe it's to do with other things going on in their personal life, but for whatever reason, they don't feel like, like talking about is the right things. They don't wanna bring down the rest of a team and a team meeting in that very same team meeting. You might have another person in that team who has kind of got through the last few years, they've moved on.
They're doing quite well right now. They feel really well. They're also fear fearful of talking about it cause they don't want to feel like that they're gloating or that they're partaking in toxic positivity. I'd love to know, do you have advice for a leader who wants both of these voices to feel comfortable in sharing what they're experiencing within the same team?
Nick: That's a great question. It's a really interesting question that isn't it? Um, we're social animals, human beings, so we will, we will to an extent, often be a chameleon based on the environment we find ourselves in. And it might be appropriate if somebody's really struggling not to then share that you are doing really well.
So I think that that, and, and you might also know outside of that team meeting, Context, Um, and therefore withhold something you might be feeling. Uh, the ideal that of course we all can aspire to is that you walk in as a team and everybody is able to explain exactly how they feel. And I think some basic things like as the leader in that group modeling the behavior that you're hoping to see, um, making sure that when things are good for you, you are sharing that.
But equally when things are not good for you, you are sharing that as well. I think really making space for people to speak is important. And, um, there's some amazing things that, uh, the, you can take from. Kind of group work and group therapy, for example, around, um, you know, having silence where people are allowed to speak and no one else is allowed to interrupt for like two minutes.
And that really gives people opportunity, but that can be quite anxiety, especially if you're not in a bigger place, um, to try and do that. But, um, so I think try and find what works for you and your team. Um, I think. I know I'm a bit of a stuck record here, but like really empower people by educating them about, um, how to communicate well, about how to listen well, about how to understand one another.
Um, there's an amazing philosopher called Martin Buer who wrote a book called I Vow, which is, uh, a lovely concept and it's complex book, but on the very end, so, Slightly trash it in my description. Yeah, I suspect. But what I like about it is, is it essentially talks to how human beings have two states, um, on earth.
They have a re in terms of relationships as iron it. So, for example, iron in it is me and my headphones. It's uh, me and my dog. It's me and the bus, you know, I, that's iron in it. And then there's this other relationship the human beings have on earth, which is iron thou, which we can only have with other human beings because we see in them.
What we recognize in ourselves, it's an equal, like we are, we are, we are unique on earth together. Um, and that in a way speaks to with hopefully if, if we're able to operate in that state and really recognize the vow in the other person, we're with it. It should put us in a compassionate state. Because we recognize in our own lives how complex our lives are and how challenging they can be, and being able to create an environment where when we're with others that we're truly with them, we're present with them, and we're recognizing them as an individual and their uniqueness, um, and respecting their description of their lives in any given time.
That's kind of the ideal place we want to get to. But of course, life is busy and um, and it's hard sometimes to be present with others. So maybe there's something. Team session to really help people to be present with one another in that session. So you could start it with a say a two minute mindfulness exercise to get everyone in the present moment.
You know, um, what we know about the human brains is a great time traveling device. We're either thinking about the future or thinking about the past, and not always in the present moment. So maybe trying to get everyone to be really present with one another and be compassionate and listen to one another.
Damon: Yeah. Uh, the term that I use, um, is like this idea of being a, a generous listener. You know, what would it look like to be incredibly generous with your listening within that team meeting? And also like, I guess, removing some of that language around saying like, I don't wanna bring the team down with this, or, like, I don't wanna, like, gloat.
It's also just like, like the, like both of these things. Within the same team meeting, you know, like, you know, we will see, we'll, we'll mirror some of, uh, the behaviors that we're seeing. We will see the positive when people are sharing the positive and be reminded that there's things that we're experiencing that are full of joy and that there's things of sadness and there's things of despair and hope and other things that we're trying to clinging onto.
And how can we hold all of these things together? And I think that's, Makes work so complex right now is that like we're actually talking about the, like we're on a, we're on a podcast that is, you know, a management podcast according to Apple and Spotify, and we're talking about these things. We're talking about how complex it is to be human and you know, that's why managers have this beautiful but also challenging role right now is that they're trying to find space for this.
Yeah, I agree.
Nick: Isn't it interesting, And I, in a way, one of the things I think that came from Covid, And again, I wanna be careful about recognizing that lots of different people had different journeys on this. But I think one of, one of the things that potentially came for some was that there was a, a greater blend between work and life.
That integration became more natural. Um, we all got used to seeing children in the background, Amazon delivery. Um, you know, the doorbell ring, the boiler being fixed, people win their pajamas, all of that stuff. And we suddenly remembered actually that we are human beings and, and we have this busy life going on outside of work.
And I, I, I hope that that gets carried on because I think it's healthy cuz it allows people to, to bring their whole self to work. And, you know, whilst I think this is. Yeah, I, I, it's a slight, there's limitations to what I'm about to say, but it's, it's interesting. I think it was Schopenhauer who said to live is to suffer.
Um, and it speaks to the fact that life is actually really hard a lot of the time. And things are com you know, as much as we celebrate and have joyous moments and great. Great experiences. There's often a lot of struggle. There's a lot of kind of friction or strife and challenge in life and, and maybe because work and life are better integrated in some ways, we're better able to bring that, that suffering into our day to day conversation and the f the points of friction or challenge that we might be experiencing.
But again, it does rely on that psychologically safe environment by which to do so. So
Damon: yeah, and I think just acknowledging that, that that's true and I think it's. To the organizations that are out there. You know, if you're not listening to your employees, then basically you're not acknowledging that to live is the suffer.
To know that there is experiences happening inside of your organization that you're just choosing not to listen to, and that there's things that you could be doing to actually. Have a better, like create a better employee experience for those people and like listening to their needs, acknowledging it using language.
I think that's why these conversations are so important is that, you know, at an organizational level, leaders can be doing things to create safer workplaces for humans and then humans. Also at that very core level, just need to acknowledge that, you know, to live is to suffer and that emotions are real and that we don't always need to feel ready to be that perfect zoom.
Check in at nine o'clock in the morning every day. Like we don't always have to be bubbly that we're allowed to bring some of these things in. As long as the organizations and the teams are ready to meet us halfway and have that conversation. That's right. And it's like, it's,
Nick: yeah, obviously, like we want our people to flourish.
I mean, on a very basic level, like that's what we should all want because not only is that brilliant for our people, but that's brilliant for our businesses. And in order for our people to flourish, we need to equip them to flourish both as individuals and within the
Damon: culture of their organization.
Nick: Um, it's, it's just a no brainer that this should be a business.
Damon: So I've got two questions to bring us home. One is a one that you know nothing about that's very fun and part of my deep research. I do wanna guess, and one that will be a little bit more about the conversation that we've had today, but imagine that you and I are having another conversation in it's October month of October, 2023.
In an ideal state, what does the world look like? What are the conversations that we're having? How have we become better at all of the challenging things that we just spoke about?
Nick: 2023. I mean, I, I, I think this wouldn't be possible in a year, but I hope it would be like, well, first off, I hope the world at large is, is feeling more stable and secure and safe and all of those things.
Um, and then I hope within organizations we see that. The shackles of stigma that have held the topic of mental health have fallen away even further. Um, that we see, um, a really mature approach to understanding human wellness in the workplace that we, um, are measuring, understanding and acting when it comes to both employ mental health and organizational, uh, wellbeing.
Um, and that we can proudly demonstrate the progress that we're. Um, and have ongoing commitment from the leaders. We need to, to go on the next journey or the next chapter to use your word that we're we're
Damon: planning, and then to bring it all the way home. And that, let's hope we can get there. We've got 12 months, everyone listening.
We all have to play our part. Now this is a, a fun little question to end on cause we've, we've had some serious conversations, some powerful conversations here. As part of my research on guests, I try to listen to as much as possible to find one little weird nugget about them that I can kind of bring up.
So you have that moment where you're like, When the hell did you learn that about me? So , what I would like to know is my final question to you today is, which Radiohead song taught you the most about you and how you see the world?
Nick: That is a great question. I love that. You know, I'm a radio head fan. Um, So, um, I like to joke that, that, um, Radiohead taught me that sadness is also beautiful in places.
Um, but you know, that it wasn't a song as much that changed my life with Radiohead. It was when I met my wife Mary, we listened on repeat in rainbows. The album by Radiohead and it's the kind of song that we've, the album that we've fell in love to. Um, and I once then found myself at Glastonbury Festival and I walked past Tom York and I, I went, who's the lead singer of Radiohead and I.
And I, I, I never do this. I never got to, famously I'm not really very interested in it, but I went up to him and I shook his hand and I said, Tom, thank you so much. You know, your music's changing my life. And I fell off to my wife listening to him rainbows. And uh, he was really sweet about it, you know? I said, Oh, thanks.
That's really great to hear. And off I went on my way. But I've always been glad, I've always been really grateful that I was able to express to him the impact that radio had had.
Damon: I'm so glad we're not ending this episode of you saying, I met my hero, and it like it. It was a disaster. , which I think is, is the experience many people have sometimes.
Nick: No, thankfully
Damon: not. I am, I'm, I'm glad you were pleasantly surprised by that. And yes, there is definitely, um, sadness can, um, be beautiful and I think a lot of the deep, reflective music that I find myself, uh, listening to and not trying to tap more into my emotions, especially when I was going through some of those things with my family.
When I was learning about the impact of depression on members of my family, it was like very much bands like Bright Eyes, City and Color, uh, things like that, that really got me to really tap into those raw emotions. So when I learned that you were a Radiohead fan and you were had to squeeze in one little question about, uh, you know, how their, um, how their work has impacted you,
I love it. And, but I was listening to Bright Eyes yesterday, by the way, thinking how, you know, Great. They're, and I haven't listened to 'em for a while too. Beautiful.
Damon: Well, Nick, thank you so much for joining me on the Culture First podcast. Um, you know, Culture Amp and UnMind are very much aligned in the creating a better world of work together.
And I just wanna say thank you for all of the work that you are doing and for being a guest on the show today.
Nick: Thank you so much for having me on. It's been lovely speaking with you.