With mental health week upon us and with one in four adults experiencing mental health issues in their life, we look at the experiences of our own team and how we can all create workplace environments where people thrive.
The following is an account from our own Robyn Berry. We are extremely grateful that Robyn feels able to share her story here.
“It is 2013. I am sat on my bathroom floor crying and feeling completely unable to face another day at work. I am working full time in an office where from 8am to 5pm we sit in silence and have the usual “workplace politics” (we’ve all been there!). I cannot take it anymore. I have panic attacks driving to and from work to the point where I am almost passing out behind the wheel, am completely depressed and can’t see a way out, I am signed off by my doctor and do not want to ever go back to that place of unfriendliness and zero support. Accounts regularly “forget” to pay me to penalise me for my mental illness. A few months later my employer suggested that I went self-employed instead and that was the start of my recovery from mental health problems and the discovery of alternative ways of working.
Self-employment worked for me. I could set my own hours, my own workload and take the time I needed if I was having a bad day. My client base grew, and I was making good connections and a similar salary to normal employment. Some of my clients were sub-contracting me to take on work when they were overloaded themselves and this is how I first met Build Energy. For a few years I would take on their surplus jobs and it gave me time to get to know them. Then Covid hit. Work dropped off for everyone across the Building Sector. I was starting to think that maybe a return to traditional employment might be a good idea, but I was apprehensive that it would trigger the old problems. So, when in 2021 Build Energy approached me to ask if I would be interested in a full-time position in the company, I decided there was nothing to lose. I was completely candid. “If you employ me, you should know I have mental health issues at times and need an employer who understands this”. Expecting a swift change in interest from them, I was pleasantly surprised when instead I ended up having a very long and open conversation about the struggles everyone can experience and how they could accommodate my issues if they came up.
Covid has already significantly changed the way we work, home working is now very common and a blessed relief from the workplace office environment for some. It has also flagged up how employers can provide more help and support for their employees. As a growing company in its infancy, I feel that Build Energy is at the forefront of the curve on this, thinking and operating in new ways and therefore experiencing a happy and fulfilled workforce. I have now been with them for 6 months and I have loved every minute. Not only does home working suit me, but now I have the benefit of team talks with others in my industry to share our knowledge. It is an incredibly supportive environment, and most recently they have introduced 2 hours “well-being” time per employee per month that we can take for anything that we like, be it a lie in, early finish, spa appointment or long lunch with friends. It is things like this that make me, someone who said they would never return to “proper” employment a complete convert. My confidence and happiness has increased since joining the company. I have gone from being someone who has believed they are not capable, to realising that the possibilities are endless! I am a true believer that companies that invest in their employee’s well-being and support them will see it paid back to them in dividends.
Let’s hope that more businesses begin to think out of the box and treat their employees as the different individuals they all are, for when an employee feels valued, they are more productive and less likely to suffer from mental health issues – that surely is a win for everyone.”
If you are concerned that you are developing a mental health problem you should seek the advice and support of your GP as a matter of priority. If you are in distress and need immediate help and are unable to see a GP, you should visit your local A&E.
The Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day – in full confidence.
Call 116 123 – it’s FREE
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can call the Rethink advice and information line Monday to Friday, 10am-2pm for practical advice on:
- different types of therapy and medication
- benefits, debt, money issues
- police, courts, prison
- your rights under the Mental Health Act.
Call Rethink on 0300 5000 927 (calls are charged at your local rate).
Mind offer an information line to answer questions about:
- types of mental health problem
- where to get help
- drug and alternative treatments
Call the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 (UK landline calls are charged at local rates, and charges from mobile phones will vary considerably). Or email email@example.com.