FIVE MINUTES WITH KEDGE MARTIN
As the CEO of professional coaching company Rutbusters, Kedge Martin has experience helping professionals find renewed energy in their work-life balance. She discusses professional dissatisfaction and the perception of mental health in the business landscape, giving advice to those professionals looking for help
Why do you think there’s been a rise in mental health awareness?
There have always been mental health issues, but people weren’t allowed to see themselves as vulnerable before. This is particularly true in the English culture, but the issue is broader than that. It affects males in particular; there’s a fear to be seen as vulnerable and to display one’s own weaknesses, but the mental health debate is changing that.
I think it’s an amazing thing that all the mental health organisations are now coming together to raise awareness. We’re putting a name to it, we’re recognising it, giving it the regard and attention it should have.
Do you think employers are doing enough to fight mental health issues at work?
To be honest, I don’t think they are. Employers are tasked with running a business, and to look after the employees is obviously a part of that. But I think that mental health, at the moment, is lip service in many organisations. They do things like mindfulness sessions and they have smaller benefits like gym membership, which all fit into a whole great little element. But there isn’t enough discussion and openness within organisations where people feel they can’t speak up. And this is truer the more senior you are, because no one wants to share that they’re vulnerable.
Transparency is an important keyword; people don’t want to be transparent, they don’t want to be authentic, they want to keep their mask on. And keeping that mask, saying that everything is going fine, is part of the problem. If people are allowed to just put it off for a moment, saying they’re not feeling great or there’s too much going on, it would be a wise investment in terms of payback for the wider organisation.
How can organisations best tackle dissatisfaction at work?
I would like to think of a car. We all take a car to an annual maintenance; it’s part of the government’s requirement, but also a basic safety requirement. And there are many organisations that I talked to whose leaders are great and are facing forward, but they don’t realise the wheels of their car have got punctures in them. Nearly 50% of the people that we spoke with are suffering from some form of disengagement or rut. That needs to be addressed before it becomes a mental health problem.
A solution might be for organisations to do independent reviews. Which would not be work performance appraisals. You’re probably not going to open up with your manager on your mental health, because you fear for your job, so I think every firm should have an external ‘auditor,’ someone who can come in and actually talk to the employees at all level. The auditor can then work out where they generally are with their wellbeing, what is going on in their lives, where they are struggling, where they might need some help. And that just means talking to people, allowing them to articulate their concerns. Most of the times they’re all covering up those concerns, they keep driving that car until the tyre becomes flatter and flatter.
How is mental health perceived in the current business landscape? Is there still a long way to go?
Everything has to begin somewhere, but we’re still very much in the fledgling state. I don’t think we are anywhere near halfway of where we need to be. There needs to be just more focus on mental wellbeing. We need to be mentally well, we need to be happy, feel successful and fulfilled. That should be part of our daily life; there’s no use in dealing with the problem when the horse has left the stable.