This week I, resident HeadBlogger, am continuing my chat with Steven Murray, because we had so much to talk about it couldn’t possibly all fit in just the single Head Blog. To recap, just in case you missed it, Steven plays the character of Derek in Headtorch’s The Guessing Game, and often speaks publicly about his battle with mental ill-health.
Steven has just told me his story, about how after a period of ill-health he was brought back into work without proper support, and how this didn’t help him feel any better, it only made him feel worse. We talk about what support he felt was available to him, and how the situation might be different now. Human Resources (HR), incorporates the department you can go to for support – that’s a big positive change that Steven has noticed in the workplace. Yet for a moment I hesitate, and confess to Steven that in my own period of mental ill-health at work I never told anyone in HR about it, and nor did I feel able to.
Since talking to Steven I’ve been trying to figure out why. What was that resistance, that pull in my stomach? It’s the same feeling I get when I go somewhere new for the first time, or speak to someone I don’t know, only amplified a tonne.
A fear of something unknown.
I come to realise that I don’t know what an HR department do, who they are accountable to, and what they can offer me as an employee. This means I’m scared of speaking to them, because I don’t know what would happen. Casting my mind back, HR were pretty visible, and their door was always open – it wasn’t like I didn’t know they existed. I just sort of, avoided them.
HR of course have a responsibility to make their presence known, but this week I wanted to write about the power of doing your own research, about how understanding what compliance means for your employer, and what compliance means for you, can help you feel more reassured and supported in the workplace today. I wanted to write about how arming yourself with the knowledge of rules and regulations can give you the confidence to turn to HR if the problem ever arises.
For me, this meant understanding the Equality Act of 2010. Now it is a pretty dry read, and a lot of it doesn’t seem to be in English, but there are lots of summaries online, and better yet there are programmes like Headtorch WORKS which help bring it to life. Even just knowing that there are rules and guidelines in place to protect employees in the workplace can be incredibly reassuring, and perhaps it is even more useful as a means to empathise with your employer. It will help you understand what position they are coming from, it can act as a common ground, sort of a level playing field from which you can work together.
A wise puppet once said…
I’m pretty sure that dark side is where divisions like ‘us’ and ‘them’ first emerge, where suspicions and prejudices spread, where my own resistance to speaking to HR stemmed from. But picking up something and giving it a read, making yourself more aware, more informed; that will always get everyone on the same page, and that can’t be a bad thing, that’s only going to help.
Speaking of being on the same page, why don’t you get those hands in the air and take a wee picture? World Mental Health Day is on October 10th, and we’re asking as many people as they can to celebrate their mental health. Click here to find out more.
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