This is the third and the last post on anxiety at the workplace. Today, the founder of a medium-sized company talks about how she handles her employees’ anxiety.
Are you aware of mental health issues in your workspace? If yes, how do you play an active role in supporting your employees?
I have generalized anxiety so yes, I am sensitive to the fact that my employees might be dealing with anxiety too. I actively encourage my employees to come and have a word with me if something at work is causing them anxiety.
Do you feel your mental health has taken a backseat or isn’t given priority since you are the boss?
When I started my company three years back, I let my mental health take a backseat. I chose to focus on work more than anything else, which in retrospect, was a stupid thing to do. I used to be highly caffeinated and therefore, high strung all the time. My partner helped me see how I was messing with my mental and physical health by having too much coffee and working super long hours. But I didn’t stop. I only changed my ways after I had a severe panic attack that felt like a heart attack.
Today, I meditate when I come to the office first thing in the morning. Most importantly, I have switched from coffee to tea as tea doesn’t keep me on edge the way coffee does. And I make sure I get a thirty-minute walk in every day, no matter how packed my day may be. My mental health is now my number 1 priority.
Does your company have facilities that tackle mental health issues?
As of now, not really. But I do plan to conduct group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sessions at least once a week when our budget allows it. For now, I have implemented an open door policy that actually works; I am a very approachable person and my team knows it.
Have you been in a situation where an employee confided in you with a mental health issue? How did you help them deal with it?
Yes, it has happened a couple of times. Mostly, people get anxious when the deadlines are very tight. I am a realist and I encourage my team to be the same. I always tell them to only commit to deadlines that they can meet realistically. Also, I do not encourage working overtime as that causes unnecessary stress and anxiety. Time management is a skill everyone is supposed to learn and implement. For most of my employees, following these rules has helped alleviate their anxiety. Only one or two of my employees needed professional help, so I encouraged them to find themselves a therapist.
Do you deal with anxiety at work? How do you cope with it?
As I said before, I meditate before I begin work each day. When things get very stressful, I practice mindful breathing. My daily walk also helps.
Could you tell us about a situation in which your anxiety was at its peak? Do you know what triggered it? What did you do to deal with it?
In the past, here were many times when my anxiety was at its peak. In fact, I was highly anxious all the time. When I changed my lifestyle and incorporated meditation and exercise in my daily schedule, things turned around. My anxiety is now mostly under control thanks to my lifestyle changes and anti-anxiety medication.
Do you believe we need to work on our work culture to support employees with mental health issues and improve their efficiency? What changes must be implemented in order to do so?
The work culture in India is, frankly speaking, toxic. There is zero work-life balance, employees are treated like dirt, upper management couldn’t care less about the needs of the employees they manage, etc. We need to completely tear down the existing system and build a new, sane one. And we have The Netherlands to look up to for inspiration.
PS Due to personal reasons, I am sorry to announce that the ‘mental health at work’ series that Krsna and I started back in May will be on hold for a while. In the meanwhile, go check out earlier posts here:
Does your employer address mental health issues at work? Let us know in the comments below.