An inspiring conversation with your manager, the satisfaction of helping a customer find what they’re looking for, the confidence that comes from a successful presentation, the joy of having a good laugh with a coworker. Our jobs have huge potential to boost our spirits and positively impact our well-being. But if that’s the case, it also means that the reverse is true.
Many, if not all of us, have experienced the repercussions of a “bad day” at work. Perhaps we have low energy, take out our negative emotions on others, or struggle with motivation. Because well-being at work is not a guarantee, we must do our best to cultivate it, at the individual level and in our workplace cultures.
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, we invited members of the ESCP community on Instagram to send us their questions about mental health in the workplace. Below you will find the responses to these questions from a few of ESCP’s health & well-being professionals across our campuses: Kasia Zimirska, mental health counsellor on ESCP’s London campus; Benjamin Ensall, health & well-being practitioner on the London campus; and Sabrina Saase, health & well-being manager on the Berlin campus.
1. How can we ensure that the workplace is a harmonious rather than stressful environment?
Kasia: What does it mean to have a harmonious workplace? When I think about harmony, peace and synergy among colleagues come to mind. And these two cannot exist without respecting ourselves and others. In a diverse workplace, recognising and embracing differences is key to fostering a sense of peace and synergy among colleagues. We must be aware and respect the fact that we all come from somewhere else. We’ve all had good and bad experiences and, what’s important, we do not have to share the same opinions.
So, how can we respect each other on a daily basis? It starts with the simplest steps: be kind, helpful and thoughtful of others. That’s enough. Maybe have a chat with someone who is alone. Smiling at someone could brighten up a difficult day. Or perhaps reconsider saying that hurtful comment or joke.
Synergy within the workplace is not solely the responsibility of a select few; it’s a shared commitment. Believing that kindness is a collective effort ensures that necessary actions are taken, preventing tasks from going unattended to and addressing issues where they are most needed.
When I think about harmony, peace and synergy among colleagues come to mind. And these two cannot exist without respecting ourselves and others.Kasia Zimirska
2. How can you deal with being neurodivergent in the workplace?
Benjamin: The workplace can be a challenging environment for many, especially if one is considered neurodivergent. This often means that one’s cognitive processes operate slightly differently than what is perceived as typical, and therefore, it may sometimes seem like it is more difficult to relate to others.
There are various types of neurodiversity such as Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dysgraphia to name a few; each one has specific characteristics that could involve a high-functioning proficiency in one area but a deficit in reading social and emotional cues (could be misinterpreted during interpersonal interactions), limited ability to concentrate on the task at hand or instead, a cognitive delay or misunderstood when processing information. This can create a barrier to one’s learning journey and performance within the workplace.
However, it is vital to understand that we all have a different frame of reference and lens on the world, yet, simply put, we are all human beings trying to get along, cooperate and produce quality work.
Sabrina: Managing neurodivergence in the workplace involves recognising that diverse brain functioning is part of a spectrum that encompasses all individuals. Beyond raising awareness and normalizing neurodiversity, it’s important to emphasize the advantages it can bring to the workplace.
Similar to the concept of “situated knowledge” within power structures, neurodiversity brings “situated behaviours”, offering unique perspectives and resources through individual experiences. For example, what might be seen as impulsivity can also manifest as spontaneity, which is invaluable for creative processes and entrepreneurial endeavours within the workplace.
That said, the impact of these arguments is amplified when you have a supportive community. Consider taking inspiration from individuals like Olga Maksimuk, a business acquisition manager at Google and a passionate neurodiversity advocate, who decided to create an Employee Resource Group (ERG) focused on neurodiversity to foster a more inclusive and understanding workplace at her company.
Still curious? I highly recommend exploring the Neurodivergent insights blog from Dr. Neff, a neurodivergent (Autistic-ADHD) clinician, parent, and advocate.
There are numerous neurodivergent individuals out there who are thriving and making a difference. Embrace your unique strengths and become your own neurodivergent hero.Sabrina Saase
3. Why do people act like “sharks” in the workplace?
Benjamin: The workplace can be a very competitive environment at times, and when one is swimming in the sea of productivity, ambition and personal improvement, it is important to be mindful of the “sharks” that can sometimes be circling – waiting for their professional prey to make a careless mistake.
There are a variety of reasons why sharks may lurk beneath the surface and this can often stem from the strong intention to ‘climb the career ladder’ without regard for others around them, a perception of superiority based on knowledge and skillset or conversely, in other cases, a deep sense of insecurity in which their actions may often be considered a protection mechanism to prevent them from experiencing perceived inferiority.
All of these factors are potential gateways into seeking power to move up the hierarchy and maintain a level of security within the organisation that reduces the likelihood of losing one’s job. On the other hand, one of the greatest qualities of good leaders is the ability to spot the sharks from a distance who are aiming to disrupt the peace and address each situation in a respectful, calm and honest manner as soon as possible – through a place of empathy, recognition and professionalism.
The sharks can come in many forms, ranging from those that will belittle and those that speak behind one’s back to others that take all the credit for a collaborative effort or just enjoy a good gossip about others in the office. If you allow the sharks into your area and provide them with the resources to feed, there can be consequences that may result in you falling into their trap.
It is imperative to be aware of who the sharks are so that your professionalism and subsequent action can help to keep them at bay. In terms of gossip, you can simply change the topic. If you notice one taking advantage, you can speak up if you feel comfortable doing so, as this will give others their voice when they feel drowned out by intimidation. Additionally, if we can develop our social and professional network by fostering positive relationships with the uplifting “dolphins” of the office, the sharks soon become the minority and their appetite and thirst for power normally diminish, and the result is for them to either change their ways to join the team or swim away in defeat.
If we can develop our social and professional network by fostering positive relationships with the uplifting “dolphins” of the office, the sharks soon become the minority and their appetite and thirst for power normally diminish.Benjamin Ensall
4. Is it okay to say “I feel burnout” or is that just an excuse not to work? Or to say I can’t do this today?
Sabrina: Everyone is low on energy now and then, and we’ve all experienced exhausting, high-peak work periods. Communication is key in these moments of intensity.
If you fear you’re using “burnout” as an excuse to not work, now might be the time to reassess where you are in your career. Have you lost motivation for your work? Is there a project you are avoiding for fear of failure? Rather than hiding behind burnout, being honest about these feelings can help you and your manager find solutions within your team and company to help you reconnect with your work.
If you feel burnout and need a change: why not become a change maker and help implement a well-being culture in your company? The more concrete your needs and wishes are formulated, the better HR, leadership and your team can develop preventional and continuous employee well-being strategies including physical, emotional, social, purpose-related, financial, career-related and community-related factors. Implementing a culture that promotes employee well-being is a win-win for your company and you. In the modern workplace, it is a critical factor of organisational success.
On an individual level, it might be a good idea to practice mindfulness, resilience and relaxation strategies to make lasting positive changes in your life. Maybe you can rethink the need for perfectionism or being in control. Maybe giving 80% is already enough? The earlier you know your own limits and alarm systems the earlier you can communicate wishes to restructure your team roles or working procedures.
If you need to recover from burnout, try out these first steps:
- Identify the signs and source (tracking stress symptoms or journaling ritual)
- Examine your options for immediate and long-term changes
- Build a support network (Talk to people you trust. Talk to a therapist)
- Speak up for yourself and take back control (explore your needs, set boundaries, prioritize, delegate)
- Exercise mindfulness, relaxation techniques, self-love, self-compassion, and remember what makes you happy (I like to recommend the 7-Mind App to provide guidance on the journey to more peace).
5. I am not sure what professional path I should take, I’m afraid I chose/will choose wrong. What should I do?
Sabrina: This feeling is fully understandable: The world is big. Globalization and digitalization have maximized professional opportunities. Imagine yourself at 60 years old: In how many companies do you think you will have worked? Probably way more than one. Thus, there is plenty of time to find your path or change your path as you grow and your tastes and interests with your professional challenges change.
My ESCP Career Service colleagues are equally familiar with this dilemma. “It is an interesting question, one that we hear a lot,” Mansi Bansal, manager of business solutions, custom programmes & career development at the Berlin campus, told me. “Career development is a lifelong journey marked by the continuous acquisition of skills and experiences that enable you to make choices aligned with your evolving career values.”
The question I encourage you to ask is: what are you afraid of? Is it disappointing yourself, your parents, and your friends or do you feel responsible for changing the world? I advise students to consider that maybe it’s time to put yourself first, not others. One tip I regularly give is to embrace failure. Failure will improve your life. It can lead to personal growth and insights, fostering a deeper understanding of business, life, and love.
Of course, you don’t want to wait to find your career path in your sixties. Many career portals for students and graduates offer online tests that help you discover your occupational values in less than 10 minutes – for example, try Freya from Jobteaser. The better you know your needs, ideals and goals you want to achieve in your profession the better you will know where to start out on your career path.
Career development is a lifelong journey marked by the continuous acquisition of skills and experiences that enable you to make choices aligned with your evolving career values.Mansi Bansal, manager of business solutions, custom programmes & career development
Kasia: When faced with uncertainty about your professional path and the fear of making the wrong choice, gaining certainty isn’t as simple as thinking and coming up with an answer. It requires testing your ideas against reality. Unless we verify our ideas, they are just ideas and dreams, without real substance.
When someone comes to me and is afraid of whether or not they are on a “good” path, I don’t have the magical answer like “Yes, absolutely” or “No, you shouldn’t be doing that”. I usually try to talk through what led them to choose this path. Does it actually work for the person, how do they feel, is it something they “generally enjoy” or something they deeply hate? I use this phrase, “generally enjoy”, as there will be always some disadvantages to the path we decide to take. There is no ideal profession or job position. I believe it’s all about trying our ideas in the real world, testing and learning as we go.
Members of the ESCP community seeking health and well-being support are invited to reach out to the dedicated department on their respective campuses. The team available at email@example.com will be able to help you reach the right support.
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