CII president Julie Page highlights the importance of addressing mental health issues in the next 12 months
As we welcome in the new year, it is impossible to look back on 2020 without considering how Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have impacted our lives – both professionally and personally. And unfortunately for many, these events have served as a trigger for mental health issues.
The key theme for my presidential year is our profession addressing unmet client needs and I believe that a failure to tackle the challenge of mental health and wellbeing within ourselves and our organisations will hinder our ability to service our clients’ needs as this risk grows.
Uncertainty breeds mental health issues. While many of us feel we can cope with an uncertain today when we are planning for a more certain tomorrow, the pandemic has meant we haven’t known when that will come. Before Covid-19, we had a rising challenge around mental health and wellbeing in our workplaces and the events of 2020 have accelerated that challenge. I recently heard the analogy that the ‘success’ of an organisation can be expressed as the sum of ‘performance’ multiplied by ‘health’, so it goes that if our health is low, our success will be low. That then puts us in a poor position to meet the needs of our clients. The change needs to start within ourselves and our organisations.
Kindness – and how we all treat ourselves and each other – has an intrinsic role to play in promoting and preserving wellbeing within our profession and wider society
I am in a privileged position as a senior leader in our profession and leadership by example is a great place to begin. Failing to practise what you preach leads to people following what they see, not what they hear. That could mean, during these dark winter months, taking time out during daylight hours to exercise, doing walking meetings and using our annual leave – even if we are just pottering in our homes.
Thankfully, there is a cultural shift in which we are increasingly being given permission to make work activities coincide with our life needs and empowered to reach out to access support for mental health and wellbeing. And we need it more now than ever.
In these tough times, the value of kindness can also go a long way – and I have personally learned that if my approach is kind, then the outcomes are usually better. Kindness – and how we all treat ourselves and each other – has an intrinsic role to play in promoting and preserving wellbeing within our profession and wider society.
We may have been unable to fly abroad in recent months, but we will all be familiar with the instruction ‘put your own mask on first’ – and we must apply that logic here. Putting our own mental health first is crucial if we are to continue to serve our clients and champion our profession. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to overlook and a positive ambition for 2021. On that note, I wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year.
Julie Page is president of the CII