My wife Caroline and I have our own family business providing wellbeing training and coaching. One thing that is clear to us, is that there is much resting on our shoulders, and we don’t really, or easily, find a break from the work and all of the associated responsibilities. Other businesses and organisations switch off at the weekend and at holiday times, we and you, as a family business don’t have that privilege. It’s a 24/7 responsibly which can have a negative impact on our state of mind, well-being and overall health, which then affects the business and relationships.
The family business environment can be a place where on the one hand, by proximity to one another, it is easy to talk and communicate. Or it can create an environment where things can be brushed under the carpet and ignored, avoided or misunderstood. One of the big issues that we have found within family businesses is that we just don’t talk about how we are doing, really. Mix that with our very British stiff upper lip and the organisation can become a storehouse for difficulties that are never really addressed. It’s a proven fact that conversations around mental health play a significant part in maintaining good mental health. The difficulty arises largely out the fact that we don’t have the language available to us to even enter the conversation, which then leads to fear and silence. It is silence that creates the most enduring difficulties for our mental health.
You may have noticed in the media over the last year or two that the conversation around mental health is very much a live one. Our health and well-being, especially in the workplace is a hot topic. Absences, both directly and indirectly linked to mental health, account for the greatest amount of working days lost in this country. One could go so far as to say that poor mental health, or at least a lack of awareness, is one of the biggest issues causing dysfunction in how an organisation is managed and the prevailing culture. For too long mental health has been a subject that we have ignored within our culture and by default within our workplaces.
There is good news though. There is strong evidence that points to the benefits of a culture shift in an organisation where mental health is part of the conversation. This invariably leads to a significantly healthier workforce, reduced sickness absence, lower turnover of staff and an organisational culture that attracts the best new recruits.
A family business can be a place of great support and unity of purpose driven by history and a shared vision. A family business can also be a dynamic and significant agent for change in the community. For change to happen in your organisation it starts with you.There are many ways to start the mental health conversation – so let’s start talking.