I posted a question on LinkedIn yesterday & it certainly got a few reactions...
'If a colleague is returning to work after being off with stress, depression or anxiety should you mention it?'
I left it quite ambiguous on purpose so that people would interpret it in a way which was personal to them.
I got the reactions I was expecting -
OK, so you can tell that I am not a fan of someone pitching their services on my feed when I'm trying to get people talking - openly.
Anyway, you probably want to know whos right.
Well, they all are.
You have got to speak to them and conduct a 'return to work' as you would someone off with a physical illness, you have to make sure that you are discussing reasonable arrangements for their return and you have to make sure it's individualised based on them, not on a blanket policy.
But, for those who said 'it's no different than a physical illness,' there was a shocking outcome.
I gently reminded them that mental illness really is different.
If you break a leg you very quickly get full support to recover and if you are working in an environment which requires you to think and function then having the odd twinge in the leg shouldn't affect your work too much.
However, if you are off with stress, depression or anxiety you are very unlikely to receive the support you need (and if you do it's unlikely to happen quickly). When you return to work, it's highly likely that you are in fact still unwell, you are just no longer ill enough (in your mind) to be off work.
& this will absolutely affect your ability to function.
It also affects how you'd respond to someone talking about your absence, whether they're your line manager or your colleague.
Individuals who are struggling with either depression and anxiety (of which stress is a precursor) are often plagued by 'negative automatic thoughts' (NATs) and an emphasis should really be placed on the word automatic.
If you are the line manager asking about their time off, you could very well trigger their subconscious to go on a negative rampage - very much without either of you being truly aware of the fact.
But, that does not mean it will not affect their behaviour and how well they are able to function in their role.
So, how can you make sure you cover your legal obligations without triggering an automatic negative tirade?
Simple, follow these steps:
But, how can you do this without coming across cold, uncaring and a little ruthless?
You have to make sure that you have a 'mentally healthy map' for each of your employees before they are unwell. This gives you the opportunity to let them know 1) about NATs & 2) why on their return you'll support them by being very factual.
Having this conversation on day 1 will enable you to have a comprehensive conversation and help you break down the taboo of speaking out.
It also enables you to recognise early if things are starting to go south...
If you have no idea where to start, how to recognise when an employee is starting to struggle or what to bring into your organisation to help reduce the likelihood someone will develop stress, depression and/or anxiety use the link below to register for the FREE online webinar which helps you understand how to safely identify, understand and manage mental illness in your workplace:
A proactive and holistic mental health strategy helps to increase employee engagement, employee wellbeing and most importantly organisational profitablity.
See you then x Kaite x
p.s., don't forget to have a fantastic Tuesday & I'll be back tomorrow with a non-confrontational way you can support your child to make decisions.