Mental Health in the Workplace: Q&A with Sukh Randhawa

We’ve had great feedback from our digital event series, with attendees finding real benefits in the sessions. With that in mind, our upcoming event is tackling a topic that affects all of us, now more so than ever: mental health in the workplace.

Hosting the webinar will be Global Transformation Leader and qualified Mental Health First Aider Sukh Randhawa. Sukh will be sharing the importance of ‘holistic leadership’ that takes mental health and unconscious bias into consideration, and what we as leaders can and should do to facilitate positive mental health for ourselves and employees. It will be a useful mix of theory and reflection, combined with practical tools that we can all start implementing.

Ahead of the event on May 6th, we sat down with Sukh to discuss what inspired her to become a Mental Health First Aider, how negative mental health manifests in the workplace and the relationship between leadership and mental health.

Hi, Sukh, could you tell us a bit about your history in transformation?

I have worked internationally for 20 years across a wide range of sectors, from financial services and private equity to construction, retail and consumer goods. In that time, I have worked across almost the full spectrum of business, covering finance, human resources, legal, privacy, marketing, and digital transformation.

I have participated in 2 international post-merger integrations in Australia and Europe, where I utilised ‘holistic transformation’ which means I bring people on the journey, regardless of what transformation is taking place – process, technology or organisational.

So, what inspired you to become a Mental Health First Aider?

Having worked in such fast-paced industries, I’ve experienced the struggle of maintaining a balanced lifestyle first-hand. I have always recognised the importance of taking care of my mental health, but over the years I found that I was able to support friends and colleagues by lending an ear and talking through their challenges – that inspired me to train as a coach some years ago.

When the pandemic started, people were openly discussing mental health, even those who I never would have expected to. That was the catalyst for me to get the Mental Health First Aider qualification. I thought that if I could help in some way then I should, and the formal training would give me a greater understanding of the issues and how to get people the support they need.

How does negative mental health impact people’s work?

Poor mental health affects all facets of someone’s life, especially during lockdown, where the line between work and home life has been blurred. Many are finding themselves working more hours at home or picking up extra personal responsibilities, leaving them with less time to release stress. Lockdown also meant people have fewer options to destress at their disposal – we couldn’t go to the gym, head to the pub or even see our friends.

Without a release, the stress builds up and people become overwhelmed and burn out at work. Inevitably, this reduces their productivity and the quality of their work, which can subsequently affect the wider team.

Do you see specific issues within business transformation?

People often seek stability at work, but the nature of business transformation means employees may be unsettled – we are probably all familiar with ‘change fatigue’. This can occur due to a combination of business change, fearing redundancy and personal factors, but what is certain is that it puts additional stress on people. That’s not good for individuals, the team, nor the company. As change professionals, I feel it’s our duty to be able to spot potential signs.

What’s the connection between leadership and mental health?

I am a believer in holistic inclusive leadership. That means allowing people to bring their whole selves to work in order for them to thrive. It’s our job as leaders to nurture talent and provide equitable opportunity for people to reach their full potential.

In my eyes, providing mental health support is no different from providing access to physical health support. We should encourage our teams to make time for their mental and physical wellbeing. This will bring out the best in them, allowing them and the business to flourish.

Some would argue that mental health is an issue to be dealt with outside of work – what are your thoughts on that?

I couldn’t disagree more. You can’t detach the mental health from the person, they’re one and the same. In my opinion, being a good leader involves taking care of our teams’ wellbeing, because that will make our teams more productive.

In fact, figures published by Deloitte show that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year. This has risen by 16% since 2016 – an extra £6 billion per year. With the stresses of the pandemic, the cost is predicted to increase further. Even if you look at it solely from a financial perspective, it is our responsibility as leaders to promote positive mental health.

Thank you, Sukh. What do you hope that attendees will take away from the event?

I hope that people understand the importance of mental health in the workplace and the parts mental health and unconscious bias play in holistic leadership. I will be sharing what we can all do to facilitate an inclusive environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work and I am sure that attendees will reap the benefits if they try it.

If you’re interested in connecting with Sukh, you can find her on LinkedIn.

4th May