One in six New Zealanders will experience a mental illness at some time in their lives and as we spend 60% of our daily lives at work, it’s key for employers and employees to know the best way to handle mental health within the workplace.
I recently read a CV to find a highly skilled applicant but with one issue, there was an 8 month unexplained gap on their CV. The applicant’s strengths and experience shone through, so I decided to call and find out more. Half way through our conversation I asked what the reason was for this 8 month gap, and the candidate openly told me that they had suffered from mental illness and needed some time to get help. My automatic response, as someone who is all too familiar with the impact mental health can have on your daily life, was to thank them for being so open and honest.
I proceeded by asking “how would you like me to present this to the hiring manager?” The candidate responded, “I think honesty would be best, I’m better now and I’m not ashamed”.
About 20 minutes later I sent through the CV to the hiring manager and called them to discuss the details. As was expected, the hiring manager asked why such a long gap between roles and I explained my candidate’s situation as requested. The hiring manager’s response wasn’t hesitant, it had no hint of concern, their response was “ok thanks for letting me know when can we get them in for an interview I have time tomorrow”.
This small example gives me hope, that we as a country are getting past the stigma attached to mental illness. If the job seeker had said to me I broke my back and had to be on bed rest for 8 months I wouldn’t have questioned it and I can proudly say that I represent a hiring manager who sees it in the same light.
Mental illness is just that; an illness. It can affect anyone and with open communication and support in the workplace, we can ensure that employees and employers are able to perform at their best.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week from the 9 - 15 October 2017 and the message is Nature is Key. This Tuesday, the Mental Health Association is encouraging employers across New Zealand to lock their staff out of the office for an hour between 12-1pm and give everyone an opportunity to connect with nature.
Shannon Barlow, people2people New Zealand’s MD and I, will be going for a walk by the water in the viaduct this Tuesday and we invite you to join us.
Noho ora mai ra