On Monday the 18th May, I attended my first remote mental health conference, the G24 Summit led by Rob Stephenson. Over 65 speakers from 12 countries took the virtual stage via the Remo events platform for three simultaneous events in different time zones. I’d like to share some key takeaways from the EMEA event and reflect on how the mental health agenda is evolving, including the impacts of COVID-19 on the direction it is taking.
“If only… It makes me… I have to… When this is all over…”
My favourite moment of the conference was when Poppy Jaman from the City Mental Health Alliance posed the above stem sentences to the audience in relation to our experiences with COVID-19. What came up for me?
If only it didn’t take a huge crisis to create a call to action for vulnerability and courage.
It makes me grateful for the things I did not fully appreciate before – simple things I love to do and the people I cherish.
I have to practice self-compassion during this time.
When this is all over, I will be more resilient.
I feel these touch on many the resonant themes that came up for me throughout the day.
“When there is silence on the other end (leaders), we make up stories about why that is”
I think it goes without saying that there has been a great need for daring leadership from business leaders over the past few months. Before COVID-19, ‘leading from the front’ was often spoken about in my mental health network as essential for businesses to effectively address it, but I’d say those truly walking the walk have been the outliers – the ones who are wholeheartedly, intrinsically motivated to drive this kind of change. However, I do not feel it has been a 'nice to have' during COVID-19… It’s been essential. I loved this quote bolded above from Kristoff Duboseduring the summit reiterating the impact that leaders’ inaction can have on their people; clarity of intention, putting thoughts into action, and powerful and inclusive communication are all key ingredients for a positive business narrative on how mental health and wellbeing are being addressed.
I have been noticing a shift in myself and others in my business recently towards work and life being far more integrated rather than the traditional language of having a balance. During a panel
discussing what the future of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace will look like after COVID-19, Geoff McDonald, Co-Founder of Minds@Work, and Melissa Salibi, CHRO at Kempinski Hotels, shared that they feel blended working will become a part of the ‘new normal’, which for me is a healthy transition in many ways as that I think that creates space for people to be their full selves across life contexts. That being said, it can also cause challenges as the different roles we play on the day-to-day blur together so there are important ongoing conversations to be had about how people navigate this in the long-term.
The personal development plan for H&W
As a learning and development professional and qualified coach, I have often found that the work I do with individuals to flesh out their non-technical development plans does not stay strictly in the confines of their role responsibilities, but also gets into the realm of how they look after their mental and emotional health in order to thrive in their roles. There are many businesses who still approach personal development planning and yearly reviews in a technical KPI-centric way, which I think is a missed opportunity. I loved hearing Geoff McDonald extend a call to action for development planning inclusive of holistic goals like wellbeing. For me, this would ensure wellbeing does not sit in a silo or become minimised to a buzzword topic only discussed on a few key occasions every year. It would undoubtedly require line managers to better develop their human skills!
“What if Starbucks was run by Samaritans?”
Maff Potts from Camerados brought loads of energy into the virtual space and no doubt left other people with a smile on their faces. I loved this thought-provoking question from Maff
on what the world would be like if everyone felt confident they could have open, nonjudgmental conversations about the whole continuum of mental health. Maff talked about the fact the Camerados initiative is not about fixing people; it’s about creating safe environments for people to be seen and heard. As a Co-Active Coach, I believe that people are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole, and when we engage with others seeing the whole person in front of us is what allows real connection to happen… So Maff’s message really resonated with me.
Don’t let a good crisis go to waste
To bring this to a close, I think the overarching takeaway message is that we are truly all in this together on a global scale – not that it was not the case before, but it’s more obvious now than ever. That collective vulnerability affords us many opportunities to bravely address how we create communities where people can openly speak about mental health in meaningful ways. I’d like to leave you with an enquiry: Since we all play a part, what will your ongoing role be in smashing the stigma related to mental health?
If you would like to discuss any of the topics shared, or how Acre Frameworks can support you to create a psychologically safe, fulfilling work environment for your team, contact Kendelle at Kendelle.Tekstar@acre.com.