Jack Dell, Project Manager and Great Minds Co-Chair:
Let’s face it chaps, we generally aren’t great at articulating how we are feeling are we? Ever thought about that much?
Like most 30ish year old men; I’m a sociable guy that enjoys playing football and having a laugh afterwards in the pub over a beer or two with my mates. And, along with all the other 30ish year old men in the UK, I land in the bracket of age (under 50) that the thing most likely to kill me, is me.
We can’t change that shocking statistic without making it ok for men across the board to start talking about their mental health and how they are feeling.
For the last 5 years of so, I have often struggled with my mental health, through periods of Depression and Anxiety. Weirdly though, I’ve realised that talking about it regularly and without stigma is what often makes it easier for me to manage it more effectively.
At first, it can feel difficult and strange to articulate what’s going on in your mind – but when you realise how to do it and linking it to how you are feeling, you are on to a winner. You’ll also soon realise that there are loads of us talking about how we are feeling.
Try it now. Pick up a pen and draw a horizontal (title it ‘2020 to date’) and vertical axis (title it ‘my mental health’ on a page. From the left hand side, start to draw a line – go up for moments you felt good/content/happy/proud and go down for the times you felt low/sad/lonely/angry/anxious. It’s likely you’ll end up with a wiggly line. Mental health is a continuum, for all of us and ups and downs are completely normal. Notice that line over time varies a fair bit? Notice any trends? Did you speak to anyone at the times you see those lower curves, about your feelings or mental health? Now ask yourself ‘why not’?
If you are a man, reading this, thinking about how difficult you are finding it to articulate you feelings and mental health, then my message to you is give me a shout. I’ll make the time to listen to you. I’ll talk to you about what I did to get help. We can chat about our feelings together without judgement. You aren’t the only one.
Zubair Hamdani, Test Engineering Manager:
Being a working father can bring challenges and conflicting feelings, such as guilt that you’re working too much and not seeing your family or guilt that your work is suffering because of family commitments.
When my wife and I looked into hiring babysitters to help us out with childcare during the working week, we decided that we didn’t feel comfortable leaving our child alone with them.
My wife’s employer allowed her to work from home three days per week and her timings were flexible, so I decided to investigate working from home the other two days.
I approached my manager to discuss the idea and found they were supportive, but it was up to me to set things in motion. Not everything was easy at the start. I had to be disciplined with my time and very clear to my team and other stakeholders about what this meant.
I’ll admit I wasn’t confident about how successful this arrangement would be, as it meant stepping back from daily, direct and visible team involvement, but it’s actually benefited my team in many ways by fostering a greater sense of autonomy and freedom in how we work.
It’s also worth noting that although we didn’t see the Covid-19 pandemic coming, when it did arrive we were already well practiced in working remotely.
On a personal level, the additional time I’ve spent with my son has resulted in us growing a lot closer. Whereas before I would leave for the office early and get back late, sometimes finding him already asleep, I now have quality time with him throughout the working week. This is a benefit I will always be thankful for.
"I would encourage any father, or parent, who thinks they might benefit from a flexible working arrangement to speak to their managers. You’ll never know unless you ask."
Zubair Hamdani, Test Engineering Manager at BAE SYstems Applied Intelligence