Proudly sponsored by: Victoria’s Small Business Festival
In this podcast episode of In The Company, we chat with Nick Arvanitis, Head of Workplace Research and Development at Australian mental health organisation beyondblue. Nick leads projects that support workforces to create and maintain mentally healthy workplaces, including HeadsUp.org.au We chat with Nick about ways small business owners and employees can foster greater mental health and work and in life.
Heads Up: Healthy Workplaces
“One in five Australians will experience a mental health condition during their lifetime. Over one million Australians live with depression, and over two million have anxiety. As one of the largest employment sectors in Australia, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) are highly likely to face a mental health related issue in their workplace at some point.” Source
• 1 in 5 employees are likely to be experiencing a mental health condition
• Untreated mental health conditions cost Australian employers $10.9 billion EVERY YEAR
• PWC research shows: $2:30 is the average return on investment for every $1 invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace.
This episode is bought to you by Victoria’s Small Business Festival, happening across the state from in August and early September 2017. Check out festival.business.vic.gov.au/ to access over 500 free and affordable events to elevate, support and inspire you and your business.
Kylie: You’re listening to In The Company, a podcast about humanising work and designing better working lives. Each episode is curated to provoke you to think more deeply about things that matter in your career and life, and how to build your toolkit on how to thrive as a human in business today. We explore how we work from the inside out. I’m Kylie Lewis, and it’s great to be in your company. Welcome.
Today, we’re in the company of Nick Arvanitis, who is the head of Workplace Research and Development at Australian mental health organisation beyondblue. Nick leads projects that support workforces to create and maintain mentally healthy workplaces, including headsup.org.au. One in five Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Over one million Australians currently live with depression, and over two million have anxiety. As one of the largest employment sectors in Australia, small to medium enterprises are highly likely to face a mental health related issue in their workplace at some point. So I think it’s a really important topic for us to cover.
Nick: Thank you.
Kylie: So Nick, before we get into what your role is at beyondblue today, what I’d like to find out is a little bit more about who you were as a child and how might have that impacted at what you do today at beyondblue?
Nick: Well, as a child I was very physically active. I really enjoyed playing sports and I remember playing in the school quadrangle things like basketball and downball. And what I found was that in the early part of my life, I really had a strong focus on my physical health. But probably neglected my mental health. And as I became older, I started to appreciate the value of looking after both physical and mental health.
Kylie: They go hand in hand, right?
Nick: Oh, they are very very related, and people with poor mental health often have poor physical health, and vice versa.
Kylie: Yeah, I know from my experience that when I have physically taken care of myself, so when I’ve gone for a run or taken an exercise class or just gone for a long walk, my overall sense of well-being is lifted. So that connection is important.
And so, can you also tell me about three things that you believe as the person that we are today.
Nick: Three things. Well the first thing would be that, generally speaking I think people try to do their best with the knowledge and resources they have. Everyone out there is trying to do a good job. The second thing that I believe is probably the most challenging experiences probably provide the greatest opportunities for learning and development. And the third thing probably is that as one person, one person can still make a significant difference, whether it’s a difference in the workplace or with their family or in the broader community. So not to underestimate the power of one.
Kylie: Absolutely. And so one podcast at a time, we are chipping away at that idea with you as well. So let’s dive into beyondblue and talking just briefly about what beyondblue does.
Nick: Well, beyondblue aims to raise awareness around mental health issues and to reduce the associated stigma, but ultimately what we aim to do is for everyone to achieve their best possible mental health. So we have a number of programmes and resources that we’ve developed that enable people to achieve their best mental health. Part of that might be enabling people to seek treatment and support when they are struggling with a mental health condition, and we have a number of programmes that focus on particular settings, such as workplaces or schools that try and communicate our broader messages to those settings.
Kylie: So you look after those programmes, so Heads Up is one of those programmes.
Nick: Heads Up is our main workplace mental health initiative. And it’s all about highlighting the benefits of mentally healthy workplaces and providing organisations of all sizes, including small businesses, with practical tools to take action.
Kylie: Fantastic. And that’s what we’ve been talking about today. Can you give us a definition of what is mental health?
Nick: Well, that’s interesting because whenever we talk about mental health, we traditionally categorise people as having a mental health condition or not having a mental health condition. Probably a better way to think about mental health is across a continuum or occurring across a range where people range from positive mental healthy functioning to experiencing those severe systems of having a mental health condition.
And the general definition about mental health is where people can cope with the normal stresses of life. They’re able to work productively. They have a sense of purpose. And they’re actually able to provide a meaningful contribution to the community. So it’s all about people achieving their potential.
Kylie: So you mentioned in the opening that you as a child focused on good physical health, which is something that we can see from the outside what the potential good biomarkers are of good physical health. What would be some indicators of good mental health?
Nick: Well I think people who generally feel happy and well during the day. People that are socially active. People that enjoy life in the day to day basis. Are able to keep things in perspective. Are able to perform at work and be quite productive. And just having good energy levels of being able to go through the daily activities of life and coping well with those daily challenges.
Kylie: And are there specific mental health issues for small businesses?
Nick: Well I think there are a number of aspects of being a small business owner that potentially place them at higher risk of developing a mental health condition. There are significant demands on small business owners. They generally work very long hours. They don’t often have time during the day to take breaks. There’s often the issue of the work day encroaching on sort of their relaxation or private time at the end of the day. So that there are these huge demands that also include being responsible for all aspects of a business. There’s no HR support. There’s no employee assistance programme that they can turn to. They basically need to manage people issues. They need to manage financial issues.
And there’s also the risk associated with being isolated socially as a small business owner, particularly if you’re a sole trader. You don’t necessarily have access to the supports that someone would in a large organisation would have. It’s very easy in a large organisation just to turn around to a work colleague to debrief or download. But often as a small business owner, you don’t have that luxury.
Kylie: So the isolation factor that you just mentioned is big. The fact that they are juggling so many things, often on their own, by themselves. And the lack of being able to kind of switch off at the end of the day and longer workdays. All of those things contribute to the specific setting of a small business.
Nick: Oh, definitely, and the basic definition of job stress is where the demands of your work are not matched by your resources available to you. So there are lots of aspects of very stressful aspects of work that face small business owners. So most reasonable people can’t cope without it leading to some kind of negative impact without it leading to some negative aspect like job stress or potentially it developing into a mental health condition.
Kylie: And yet so many people are self-employed, or seek to even be self-employed perhaps because they want to feel that they have more control over their lives and their time and their energy and how they spend that. So do you … How does a small business owner kind of straddle that paradox?
Nick: Well you hit the nail on the head in terms of some of the benefits of being a small business owner. We know that there are roughly 1.2 million small business owners or sole traders within the country, so there’s lots of people out there that are working as sole traders. But we know that some of the things that can actually protect against mental health conditions are the things you speak about in terms of that flexibility and the control that you have over your working day. Being able to organise your time and to take breaks, hopefully, when you can organise them yourself. You don’t actually need to speak to your manager and say, oh, can I take a break at this time? So there’s aspect of that control and flexibility that are actually good for people.
Probably the other thing to keep in mind is that generally speaking we know that work is good for a person’s mental health, because it provides a sense of identity. It provides a routine and structure for the day. It contributes to a person’s sense of purpose. So generally speaking, we know that work is good for you. And as a small business owner, that can be a really rewarding employment model for people who prefer to work in that style of way, in that way.
Kylie: So for someone who is self-employed, how do they keep their own mental health in check?
Nick: There’s a lot of simple, practical strategies that small business owners can adopt. And I think the first thing to note is that, being a small business owner there are going to be some inherent stresses that no one can change. There’s always going to be some fairly significant work demands.
What we do know is that mental health is quite closely related to physical health. So strategies that aim to improve physical health like regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, limiting alcohol intake, are good for physical health and mental health. We also need to be thinking about how business owners can manage stress levels and how can they sort of unwind at the end of the day. There are lots of good evidence-based strategies like mindfulness and stress reduction techniques that small business owners can apply.
But it’s also about thinking how as a small business owner you can disconnect from your work, so that you have hobbies or social networks that enable you to relax and unwind at the end of the day. It’s also keeping in mind that if you find that you are struggling with stress or feeling like you are developing a mental health condition, that it’s really important to seek treatment and support early on so that you can get the help you need and hopefully recover as quickly as possible.
Kylie: I always find it quite an interesting scenario that often when you are in most need that kind of care can be the hardest time to recognise or reach out for that kind of support. I think in my personal experience, sometimes I’ve felt so overwhelmed that it’s hard to actually get your head above water in a way to even recognise that you need help. Do you have any strategies or insights around how do we, if that happens, how do we take care of it? Or how do we look out for ourselves.
Nick: That’s a really good point. And the starting point is to have a basic understanding of what the signs and symptoms are of a mental health condition. So hopefully you can recognise that within yourself as a small business owner, or potentially in your staff if you’re an employing small business owner.
But as you pointed out, often when you’re in the midst of a mental health condition, it can be often difficult to recognise those signs and symptoms. So that’s where having a social network, having family members who can actually point out to you that you don’t actually seem yourself today, to be considered about you. Have you thought about seeing a GP, or have you thought about accessing some information or resources around mental health to help you get the support that you need or to better look after your mental health?
Kylie: So one of the things that I noticed when I was researching for this interview was that beyondblue talks specifically to anxiety and depression, as sort of the two leading mental health issues for Australia. Could you give us a little bit of an indication of what both of those mental health conditions look like?
Nick: Certainly, and they are very prevalent when we know that at any one time, two million individuals will be experiencing an anxiety condition and one million will be experiencing depression. So the symptoms are similar, but also different in other ways.
So with depression, there’s generally a lowness in mood, there’s lacking energy, there’s a tendency to withdraw socially, to be feeling overwhelmed. So there’s a combination of feelings and behaviours there, that when they persist for a long period, so over two weeks or so, that’s when someone can be really concerned that they might be experiencing a diagnoseable depression.
Mental health conditions, there’s actually a bundle of anxiety conditions that sit under a broader sort of description of anxiety. There’s social anxiety. There’s also generalised anxiety. But generally speaking, they’re characterised by excessive worry, thoughts of anxiety, and not just the stress of anxiety that results from having to deliver a presentation, but this is ongoing stress and worry, which really can be destabilising and disrupt a person’s life.
Kylie: So you mentioned that having sort of a good baseline of understanding who you are when you’re well, when you’re functioning well, is really important, because understanding yourself and saying I know that I’m functioning well when I’m getting enough sleep, when I’m eating well, when I’m socialising with my friends, when I’m having some boundaries around work time and personal time. So that sounds like that reflective pace, encouraging people to really pay attention of what’s going on in their life when things are going well is super important to being able to keep an eye on themselves, perhaps when things aren’t going so well.
Nick: Definitely. And also thinking about what might be potential triggers for stress or sources of stress, because often it’s easy to get a little bit complacent when things are going well, so it’s helpful for people to be proactive and to be thinking about, well, if I’ve got a really busy period coming up in my work, that is a potential source of stress for me. So what am I going to have in place that’s going to hopefully offset that or prevent the stress? So it could be things like making sure you are, regardless of how busy you’re going to be, to take your lunch break or a small break. It might only be a ten minute walk around the building. Or what’s some other strategy? Or it might be related to making sure you sort of find time to socialise with family or friends at the end of the day so that even if you’ve had a very long stressful day, you’ve still got that opportunity to engage with others. Potentially debrief or have a conversation with them just to share how you’re travelling and to take advantage of the support that friends and family provide.
Kylie: So that pre-planning is something that I talk a lot about with my coaching clients, with my individual coaching clients when we’re talking about the things that they’re looking to achieve in their life. And one of the questions I’ll often ask is what might get in the way of being able to achieve those things. So they’ve got some sense of having a look ahead to think, well maybe I might need some extra help or maybe I need to push something else down the pipeline, so you’ve got some indication of backing yourself the best possible way in order to get that done. So I find that having a conversation with somebody to actually help you bring that to light is also a really important factor in the people that I have worked with.
Nick: And every small business owner would appreciate the value of having a business plan as well. So as part of that business plan, you’re thinking about marketing, promotion, revenue. You should also be thinking about within that plan looking after your own mental health. What plan of actions do you have in place to look after your own mental health, recognising that potentially there’s going to be a number of stressors. Particularly during the early start-up phases of running a business. And also within that plan, if you are an employing small business owner, what are the strategies that you’re going to introduce to support the mental health of your staff?
Kylie: And the business plan doesn’t have to be a 60 page document that sort of has a particular format with all of these things. Some of the things I do with my clients is just sit down in front of a calendar and just plan out, well what does the next four weeks to three months look like, and how is that going to work out making sure there is space in there to get things done that is realistic? So I totally appreciate that perspective.
So let’s talk about then small businesses that do employ others and cultivating that sense of a mentally healthy workplace. What are some of the things that employers or employees even within small businesses could be doing to foster a good mentally healthy workplace?
Nick: Where I think there are a couple of simple things that actually don’t require a huge amount of resourcing or time. Things like normalising conversations about mental health or mental health conditions in the workplace so that you’re creating an environment where if a staff member is struggling with a mental health issue, they’re more likely to have a conversation with you and get the support and treatment that they need.
Kylie: So can you give me an example of how you would normalise that topic? Because there is a lot of emotion around talking about mental health, and perhaps a lot of shame around talking it. How can we normalise it? Could you give an example?
Nick: Well one of the most powerful ways that a business owner or anyone within the workplace can normalise conversations is to actually talk about a personal experience that they’ve had around mental health condition. It might be they themselves or a family member. Because you know that is very powerful in opening up the discussion and encouraging others to do the same. And if you have an environment where people feel comfortable to talk about mental health, then it’s more likely that they’re going to initiate a conversation with you and let you know what’s going on with their lives. Rather than sort of suffering in silence.
Because although some people with mental health conditions manage their conditions well after they get treatment with all these medications, a number of people will actually suffer in silence. And that will impact not only their social life, but also their productivity and performance within the workplace.
So it’s actually, in the interest of business owners to be encouraging of conversations. Particularly when we know the gamut of mental health conditions are very prevalent. So it’s likely that most employer small business owners will have an employee that’s experiencing a mental health condition.
Kylie: Yes, so what you’re touching on their is the vulnerability piece around staying open to being brave enough to be vulnerable, to have a conversation where you’re sharing an insight and connecting with somebody on a personal matter or on a deeper personal level rather than just business matters.
Nick: And it’s interesting, because even in relation to your last point, essentially what we’re talking about is good business practise, you know? I think often the conversation is about mental health and a mentally healthy workplace, but in any workplace, if you’re creating an environment where you’re speaking openly with the staff, you’re encouraging them to talk about mental health conditions. If you’re being mindful of some of the stressors that are impacting on them and taking in about their work clothes or whether they have parody of what’s expected of them, that’s all contributing to a positive mentally healthy workplace. But it’s also just good business practise.
Kylie: Yes, and I really despise that saying that says that it’s just business, it’s not personal. Business is personal. Without the personal relationships that exist within a business and between people, you don’t actually have a business. So you mentioned that normalising conversations about mental health was one thing that could be done to foster a good mentally healthy workplace. Did you have other suggestions?
Nick: We had a look I think, it’s also not about being an expert in mental health. But it’s being someone who’s mental about other people are travelling in the workplace. So if you spot someone and their behaviour has changed over the past couple of weeks, it could be that they’re withdrawing socially or it could be that they’re not as productive as they normally are, then it’s actually very helpful for a business owner to approach that person in a sort or private, constructive way. Just to check in with them. Not necessarily to suggest that they have a mental health condition. Just to say, is everything okay? I’ve noticed these changes in behaviour. I just wanted to check in with you.
So being prepared to have that conversation and to assist someone to get the help and support they need. And ultimately what we want to be doing is preventing any sort of work-related stress in mental health conditions as well. So there are actually legal obligations on small business owners to create a mentally healthy workplace in the sense that they actually need to be taking steps to as much as possible minimise risks. And not only physical health, but risks in the mental health of their staff. So that’s where it comes back to, am I checking in with my staff around their work lives? Am I providing them with the support that they need? Do they have clarity around their position descriptions or their roles and responsibilities? It’s actually an obligation for business owners of all sizes to be taking steps to support their staff in that way.
Kylie: This episode of In The Company is brought to you by the 2017 Small Business Festival, which is run by the Victorian government in Australia, and is designed to help start-ups and small to medium businesses go from strength to strength. Check out the festival website to find free and affordable events all across Melbourne and regional Victoria all throughout the months of August and early September. There’s over 500 events, including workshops, webinars, mentoring, and podcasts just like this one. Visit festival.business.vic.gov.au to learn, grow, and connect.
There was some research that came out from Google a couple of years ago about what creates a high-performing team. The number one contributing factor was the psychological safety of the team.
Nick: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kylie: So and I take psychological safety to also mean mentally healthy, so it’s essential to good business practise. What happens in a business where perhaps some of the contributing factors to mental health is outside of the workplace, but impacts that person’s behaviour within it?
Nick: Oh, look, it seems to you because we know as individuals we can’t just check our problems at the door as we walk into the workplace. And slightly the majority of mental health problems that people experience are unrelated to work. So that’ll be a common scenario that business owners will experience when a person might be struggling with mental health issues that are related to financial issues or family issues.
The bottom line is that regardless of what the cause or contributing factor of that mental health condition is, it’s in the interest of small business owners to create an environment where people are comfortable to speak openly and say, I am struggling and I realise that I’m not so [inaudible 00:24:57] or as productive as normal. But thank you for approaching me and checking with me to see how I’m going, and I guess I will take up your suggestion of visiting your GP.
I think the other thing to mention is that we also need to realise that as a small business owner, ultimately you want your business to succeed. And although there are some obligations to support staff with mental health conditions, it’s not reasonable to provide the level of support that some people require. Obviously it’s a difficult decision to make, but there’s no general obligation to support business owners to support staff who are experiencing mental health conditions, and that’s really impacting on the business. So what we encourage business owners to do is to create an environment where people feel comfortable to seek treatment and support, and provide support that’s reasonable for that person. And unfortunately the sad case is that some people do experience severe mental health conditions. It does impact on their productivity and performance. And it’s just not feasible for some business owners to continue to employ those individuals.
Kylie: So, yes, so being able to recognise when you’ve displayed a reasonable duty of care, I guess, but that yeah, it is a spectrum.
Nick: Oh, and particularly when you can compare smaller businesses to larger organisations. If you have a large organisation of several thousand staff, and you have a number of people experiencing mental health conditions, often those larger organisations would have the resources and the infrastructure to support or provide greater support than a small business owner.
If you’re a small business owner and you’re employing four staff, and one of your staff members has a mental health condition that is impacting on their performance so much that they’re unable to sort of fulfil the requirements of their role, it’s clearly not feasible for that small business owner to sort of continue to employ that person. So it is about creating a supportive environment, providing reasonable support to staff members, and assisting them to get the support that they need. But also balancing that with the needs of the businesses. Because if someone is experiencing a mental health condition that is preventing them from performing, that can impact on the small business. And it can also impact on their fellow work colleagues as well.
But ultimately, we want people to seek support as early as possible and hopefully recover. And that’s why that early intervention, creating environments where people feel comfortable putting their hand up, is really important.
Kylie: Yeah. And the more that we’re able to, as you say, normalise conversations around checking in with each other’s mental health as we would if they had a broken leg and it was repairing, and being able to foster environments where that’s actually done.
So I was wanting to see if you had any good examples of where early intervention, or where any intervention I guess at any stage, has shown what the outcomes could be. Because the other thing I think we need to remember is that mental health doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a lifelong condition. As you said, we can experience periods in our life. So where are some examples that you’ve researched that has shown up as somebody having a hard time and has sought help and what the outcomes of that have been?
Nick: Well it’s interesting because there’s a lot of individual examples which really highlight the human aspect of where a small business owner or even a manager within a larger organisation has taken the time to approach someone that they’re concerned about and help them get the support that they need. But more broadly, we know that research actually shows that creating a mentally healthy workplace benefits the bottom line for businesses. So we know that staff who feel that they’re supported and work within a mentally healthy workplace are more likely to go above and beyond, provide better customer service, are less likely to take time off work, are less likely to turn up to work and not be fully productive as well. So there’s actually a number of benefits, including financial benefits, that flow onto business owners from creating a mentally healthy workplace.
And we’re just about to release some new videos on our Heads Up website which feature small business owners talking about how they look after their own mental health and how they’ve created a mentally healthy small business. And they talk about some of the really specific benefits that have followed on from them creating a mentally healthy workplace.
Kylie: There’s a bit of a viral email going on at the moment about a female web developer in the US, I think it was, who sent her employer an email saying that she was taking two days for her mental health. And his response was incredibly supportive, and thanked her for being so honest, and saying that he understood. And that’s a great example of where there’s obviously upsides to the employee, upsides to the employer, and upsides for the broader community to see that we can do that.
Nick: And it’s amazing seeing that email trail, because I did see it, is a bit of a shock to a lot of people that a CEO would actually respond in that way. But the gain is drawing some of the principles of how you would approach the issue from the fiscal health perspective.
Now if someone had a sore leg or a sore arm that prevented them from fulfilling the requirements of their role, you wouldn’t have any hesitation in saying, well take time off, rest, make sure you get your arm or your leg right. So the same principles apply, but it’s still novel to a lot of people that some workplaces would treat mental health and physical health in a similar way.
Kylie: So if we can normalise that, if we can bring parody to those two sides of what it is to be human, and many more sides, but just those two sides to being human, that’s a really great starting point.
Nick: I think so. Because often people aren’t sure what to do when it comes to mental health in the workplace. And for instance if someone’s taken time off because they’ve injured their leg, you will see that when that person returns to the workplace, people will be checking in with them. They’ll be offering support and saying is there any way I can help you in terms of your role? But often if someone takes leave because of stress or because of a mental health condition, people don’t approach that person in a similar way. So I think that having business owners and people think about, well what would I do if someone was experiencing a physical health issue? What kind of support would I provide them? What would I say? What would I do? Is a really useful principle to apply when someone’s struggling with a mental health issue.
Kylie: Do you think that we often don’t ask because we don’t have the language around how to tackle something that people feel is a bit tricky to talk about?
Nick: Oh, definitely. I think people feel like they don’t have the language. They’re concerned about saying the wrong thing or making things worse. And that’s where beyondblue tries to make available some information and resources about, now how would you approach having this conversation that you’re concerned about or someone that’s returning to work. And what’s appropriate and useful support to potentially provide. And ultimately, it comes down to actually asking the person and saying, well, I’m mindful that you’ve been away. I want to support you. Is there anything that I can do to help you transition back into work or to make life easier for you as you’re recovering from sort of a mental health issue?
So ultimately it comes down to that genuine concern and consideration. And we hope everyone in the workplace feels like colleagues to enable those people to feel engaged and to enable them to stay at work or return to work. Because again, we know work, generally speaking, is good for a person’s physical or mental health.
Kylie: That’s right and that sense of purpose. As you were talking, I was thinking about Cheryl Sandberg’s latest book, Plan B, which is all about grief and how hard it was for her to go back to work at Facebook not only for her grief but also for her colleagues, because they didn’t know what to say. And like you said, they didn’t want to make it worse. And trying to have some kind of framework for saying it’s okay to actually talk about this and to recognise a person who is struggling. But as you said, ask the person how they would like it to be handled. Because there’s privacy and just personal preference, I guess.
Nick: And we have a case study on our website which of a woman called Emma. And Emma tragically lost her son to suicide. And she talks about the kind of support that she received when she returned to the workplace. And one of the things that she mentions is that one of the most helpful things for her was actually being treated like everyone else and not being singled out in a way that made her feel different or unusual. She just wanted to feel like she was part of the team. And having her colleagues treat her like everyone else was something that provided a huge amount of comfort for her.
Kylie: And so do you have more examples of that on the website?
Nick: Oh, there’s lots of specific case studies of people talking about their personal experience of having a mental health issue. We also have an number of videos of business owners, large and small, talking about how they created a mentally healthy workplace and a workplace that supports their colleagues. So the aim of our Heads Up website, which is headsup.org.au, is to provide business owners and managers and senior leaders with simple practical tools and resources to help them manage those issues.
Kylie: So people who are listening today, they can go to the Heads Up website and are they short videos that they could watch? Are they bite-sized? Small business people have got a lot on their plate. They generally are doing a lot of things.
Nick: Yeah, the new small business owner videos that we’re about to launch in early August will definitely have a longer three minute video as well as a 30-second video, so we’ve got that bite-sized grip of practical information. But the aim is it’s good to keep in mind that fact that small business owners are going to need time for. They need to be able to provide the information they need as quickly as possible to help them manage this specific issue that’s front of mind for them. So that’s the aim of the Heads Up website is to make it as easy as possible for business owners and other people to work fast to access the information that’s going to be helpful.
Kylie: Great. So the website is headsup.org.au. What other ways can people get involved in accessing resources or education or events around mentally healthy workplaces?
Nick: Well in Victoria we actually have the Small Business Festival coming up in August and beyondblue is going to be working quite closely with the Victorian Small Business Commissioner, and we’re sort of grateful for the commissioner’s support with this podcast, but also we’ll be working with the commissioner in terms of workshops, webinars, and a presentation at the festival. So we encourage everyone to come along and to learn more about mental health in the workplace and all these events that are free to attend. And you can also sign up on the Small Business Festival website.
Kylie: I have one more question for you, actually. How do you take care of your own mental health?
Nick: Well, that’s a good question, because I should be practising what I preach. Look, I definitely make sure I find time at the end of the day to unwind. I have a couple of mindfulness and relaxation apps that I use generally on a daily basis. I try and look for other ways to disconnect and unwind at the end of the day, so my physical health as I mentioned before has always been very important to me. So I do exercise daily. And try and spend lots of time with friends and family.
Kylie: So to wrap up our conversation, what are three things that you would like people to walk away with after this interview?
Nick: Well I think we want workplaces to normalise conversations about mental health and to be thinking about mental health in the workplace just as they do physical health in the workplace. I also would want workplaces, particularly small business owners, to have the conversation to not sort of put off approaching someone that you’re concerned about, or if it’s a performance-related issue, to have the conversation and not to have any assumptions about what’s going on in that person’s life. But to let them know that you’re concerned about them and you want to support them.
And the other thing I’d say is I’d encourage people to visit the Heads Up website, because the aim is to develop resources and information that’s going to be useful for small business owners and managers and that’s all freely available, you don’t have to sort of pay to access the resources. They’re all based on research evidence. The aim is to provide that simple, practical information.
Kylie: So to have the courage to have a conversation around that. And an awkward conversation is potentially better than no conversation at all. And I think also too is recognising that, yeah, it is a bit tricky to talk about this stuff, but there are plenty of resources there to help you and you will only get better and more comfortable at this kind of thing by actually doing it.
Nick: Exactly. I think if you’re approaching these conversations with a genuine concern for the mental health and well-being of the staff member, that’s going to put you on really solid ground. And as you said, you might fumble through the conversation in the first or second instance, but that’s really important to let that person know that you’re concerned about them and you want to support them in any way that’s going to be helpful.
Kylie: Fantastic. Thanks, Nick. Thanks for doing the work that you do here at beyondblue and the research area so we can try and identify some of these things and help normalise some of those conversations. But before we go, we have a 10×10 segment that I have invited you to be part of. So you have ten questions and ten seconds to answer each of these questions. Are you ready?
Nick: I think I am.
Kylie: Let’s dive in. Let’s just see where it takes us. So the first question is, what I like about myself is…
Nick: I think I’m a really good listener. I really take the time to let people share their thoughts and I really try to not interrupt people.
Kylie: I beat procrastination by …
Nick: Well I think it’s the whole adage of how do you eat the elephant, and it’s through one piece at a time. So I try and break down the challenging tasks into sort of simple, manageable tasks.
Kylie: A song on my life soundtrack is …
Nick: The long and winding road.
Kylie: So appropriate! The world needs more …
Kylie: A phrase I live by is …
Nick: Just have a go.
Kylie: A book that changed me is …
Nick: Well I did read a lot of self help books a long time ago. One of the ones that I quite enjoyed was Feel the Fear, But Do It Anyway.
Kylie: On that topic, fear and I …
Nick: Don’t really get along. But again, just have a go and do your best.
Kylie: Something that always makes me feel good is …
Nick: Spending time with my wife. And I’m sure my wife will appreciate that.
Kylie: Gold star to you for that. And finally, my legacy will be …
Nick: My family, I think. My family has always been important to me. And they will definitely be my legacy.
Kylie: Well thanks so much for your time today, Nick. It’s been terrific to talk to you.
Nick: Thanks, Kylie.
Kylie: This podcast was made as part of a series for the Small Business Festival, which is run by the Victorian government in Australia to help small and medium enterprises and start-ups. And you can look up hundreds of free and affordable events all across Melbourne and regional Victoria throughout the month of August and early September. This includes workshops, webinars, mentoring, and podcasts just like this one. Visit their website festival.business.vic.gov.au and learn, grow, and connect.