Taking Time Out
I’d normally apply the term ‘time-out’ to when I have to deal with my 3-year-old. She sits on a chair for 3 minutes while she thinks about what she’s done (lately it’s been over throwing what can only be described as Oscar-winning tantrums) When she’s had her time she then has to talk to me or my partner about why she was there and apologise. The point is that she reflects on what’s happened and takes appropriate action. I have been back at work for 2 months now and I took a weekend off last week to take time to reflect. One thing I’ve said repeatedly throughout this has been that I will not give in. I’m still not, but I’ve had a lot to think about.
There have been some good points, certain colleagues have been amazing in their understanding and support. Two particular colleagues have been nothing short of amazing! I’m constantly humbled by how selfless and wonderful these particular two friends are, even when they have their own problems to battle. If they’re reading this, I want to tell them that I cannot thank you enough. For the listening, the patience,the hot chocolate, the quick trip to the shops and just making me feel like I was wanted at work. Thank you!
What I’ve also had time to reflect on is how the return to work process has gone. Considering the company I work for are currently all over Twitter encouraging people to #GetTheInsideOut, I was surprised by how badly the process has been handled. It’s been disorganised, improperly documented and generally left me feeling unwanted in the workplace. Every little thing, I’ve had to fight for. It’s taken a huge toll on my mental health.
I will not give in.
It could have set me back even further. In some ways it has. I’ve been experiencing serious bouts of sleeplessness, I’ve had 2 relapses into self-harm and only the other night I was lying in bed feeling like every part of my soul was being ripped through my chest while I sobbed. This process has been a struggle and has been much harder than it should have been.
I would even argue that the only reason I’ve not ended up signed off again is because I’m innately stubborn. I WILL NOT give in. To support my family I need to work, I’ve just needed some support from my employer to be able to do this. But my manager seemed to not have the time, training or support he needed to be able to do this. None of this was his fault. He was left rudderless and without support from his line manager. When he was being made to go on the phones with a frightening regularity to help relieve call volumes, it left little to no time for him to complete basic HR with his team, let alone the additional requirements of a colleague with mental health problems.
That’s the thing though. Like a lot of larger companies, the company I work for loves its catchy little by-lines. You know the sort of thing. Those wonderfully generic phrases that are supposed to make us see them as friendly and warm, not giant corporate machines. Things like ‘we’re here for you’ and ‘putting customers at the heart of what we do’. Big phrases that in actuality don’t really mean much and are vague when it comes down to how it relates to the individual. Especially when to achieve what they think of as putting customers first it’s at the detriment of their employees. What’s the point of saying you support people with mental health issues if you aren’t willing to give your manager’s time or training to do just that with your employees?
Like Alex said in his place workplace workout, we need to make changes. Employers need to stop paying lip service to their employees. If you’re espousing your company as one that supports sufferers of mental health problems, then do that! Allow your managers the time and training to be able to do that!
Also, we as employees need to not just grumble around the coffee machine. I am probably seen as huge pain in the bum by my managers over the last few weeks. When things haven’t been going as they should I’ve raised it with the senior management, I’ve spoken to HR, taken advice from ACAS and from other employers. When at my wit’s end that despite the senior manager getting involved and nothing changing, I finally went to the union.
For the first time in eight weeks, I’m finally seeing effective progress. I’ve been moved to a more experienced manager, one I’ve worked with before but one who also is a recognized expert within the department for her skills in HR. I have had to battle, tooth and nail for very single little thing. I’ve had to reveal far more about my struggle with managers, colleagues, union representatives and more than I ever thought I would have to or that I was comfortable with. But I will not give in and let it break me.
There have been times when this process has nearly broken me. I’m worried it still might. That’s what I really think needs changing. I came across an image a while ago with a quote from someone who can arguably be described as one of the most successful business men in the world; Richard Branson.
More companies need to think like this. Because speaking as an employee, I know that when I’m supported properly and treated with dignity and respect I can look after my customers to a higher standard than can be dreamed of in your catchy by-lines.
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