Just Being At Work Isn’t Enough

When an employer is paying you for work you’ve agreed to do in exchange for that income, they’ve got every right to expect you’ll not only actually show up, you’ll also be productive when you’re there. And believe me, there are many people who have a good attendance record but fail to really do much work.

I’m sure you’ve see these people; they might be the kind of people who are lying low, keeping to themselves. They could just as well be the ones who are always walking around, popping in for a chat all around the office; never very long with any one person, but add up all their visits and they waste more time socializing with their colleagues than doing the work they’re paid to do.

Some organizations have productivity targets; ways to measure an employee’s success. They might even go so far as increasing those same quotas and targets if and when an employee reaches those goals. So when you’re new and relatively inexperienced or learning on the job, your targets might be lower than those who have seniority and a wealth of experience. The longer you’re with a company, the more their expectations rise, until you get to the point where you’ve reached what the organization deems your working capacity.

If you’ve ever worked in a commission environment, you’ll understand this model. The sales targets each person has is largely determined based on experience level, with newer employees expected to sell fewer units than well-seasoned workers. If those targets never went up, sales staff would potentially become complacent; never reaching their full potential, and of consequence, the company wouldn’t sell as many products or sell the number of products they’d like. Now while commission sales isn’t for everyone, you get the model. Some people love commission sales; they can determine their own income based on the energy they put out and the more they hustle the more they make.

In many work environments, work isn’t commissioned based. The expectation employer’s have however remains consistent. Come in, do what you’re getting paid to do and at the end of the day, ensure you’ve given your best and repeat this the next day and every day. If and when you’re not working at work; not being as productive as your employer deems is required, you will find your services are no longer required. They may tell you things just aren’t working out; pretty much as saying, “You’re not working out.”

While this can be difficult to hear, sometimes being released from a job where you’re not working out can be a good thing. Without that push out the door, you might not have left voluntarily, and you’d have been trapped for a long time perhaps in a job that was a poor fit for your interests and your skills. Many a person has been fired or let go only to find a much more satisfying job doing something else for another employer. Looking back, many will claim losing their job was the best thing that happened to them; although at the time it wasn’t so great!

So, when you’re at work, be productive. You should know what it is you’re expected to do and you should spend your time doing that work to the best of your ability. If you get to the point where you’re not really being mentally stimulated and this is important to you, you can talk to others in the organization about additional work or relocating to another area. This might be identified as cross-training; learning another job in addition to the first one you’ve mastered. This cross-training makes you more of an asset to the organization because you can be pulled from one job to work in another if and when someone is absent or demand for productivity increases in an area outside of your typical job. It can also help make you an asset worth keeping around if and when layoffs occur.

The one person in the organization – any organization by the way, who knows if you’re not working up to your full capabilities is yourself. Now, we all have a day here and there where our minds are elsewhere; we just can’t focus or work near as hard for some reason and as a result our productivity drops. A day here and there is one thing, but if you find those days are becoming more and more frequent – perhaps to the point of becoming the norm, this is a huge sign to change things up. If you read the signs and do something about the situation before others notice, good for you. But if you ignore the warning signs, you might find yourself brought in for a chat about your performance, put on some kind of probation or at worse, released.

As you’re reading this piece on being more than just present at work, is it speaking to you directly? I mean, do you see yourself being described; not really invested in the work anymore, and spending more energy at work trying to look busy than actually being busy? If so, heed the reason behind the symptoms. In other words, it might be time to move on, ask for additional responsibilities or even a change in work completely but remain with the same employer.

Continuing to miss or waste time at work is a warning sign you can’t afford to ignore.



Giving Notice That You’re Leaving

Whether due to retirement, leaving for another job, (hopefully better) or you’ve just had all you can take, one of the things you have to think about is how you’re going to go about leaving. Will you or won’t you provide them with advanced notice of your decision and if you do, how much notice will you give?

There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re about to leave. The extent to which each one applies or not to your personal situation may greatly influence how much or little advance notice you give. So let’s look at some of the most common things that go into most people’s decision.

Still Within Probationary Period

If you’re in you’re probationary period, both you and the employer aren’t compelled to provide any notice to each other. They could let you go and simply say it’s not a good fit and the same applies to you.

Will I Want A Reference?

Before you just walk in and quit, consider that if you plan on putting this experience on your resume as your most recent employment, count on interviewers expecting someone from this organization to be a reference of yours. By giving sufficient notice, you won’t leave a sour taste in their mouth, and it’s likely they’ll say positive things about your contributions.


You might never plan on working again and therefore not need a reference, but you may find you still deal with the employer regarding pension, health benefits, retirement and/or buyout packages. Leaving on the best terms possible definitely won’t hurt. Depending where you live and work, there may be rules on what’s required in terms of notice and consider that some employees retire and then end up returning to work for the same employer on a part-time or contractual basis.

Your Personal Code Of Ethics

While you might feel an obligation to repay your employer’s faith in hiring you, you may also be someone who gives zero thought to their situation. If you don’t feel any remorse about leaving, you may be comfortable just walking away. Good advice however is to consider the employer’s situation. How easy or challenging will it be to replace you?

How Easily Will You Be Replaced?

If you work in an entry-level position where turnover is high and you’ve only been employed a short time, your departure will not present the same challenge as someone working in a senior position with special working knowledge acquired in a niche market. The longer it will take to replace you generally means the employer would appreciate more notice.

Good Terms Or Bad Terms?

Why you’re leaving is a critical consideration. If you’re at the end of your rope and being severely mistreated by an employer, you have to put your own physical and mental health as a top priority. In an abusive employment relationship, walking away with no notice is always justified. You may or may not report the employer and you should consult with an Employment Counsellor/Coach about how best to answer some future interview question such as, “Why did you leave your last job?” or “Describe your previous employer.” Leaving on good terms on the other hand generally means you might want to give appropriate notice.

Succession Planning

In some of the best organizations, employer’s sit down with their employees and develop personalized plans of advancement. Some organizations expect you to move on and up and this planning means they have others already training to replace you, just as you’ll be getting prepared to move into a role held by someone else. Giving them notice of your departure within or beyond the organization let’s them set things in motion for a seamless transition.

A Trigger

What’s a trigger? A trigger is a single event, conversation or action that may cause you to come to the decision to leave. Your 65th birthday, a health diagnosis, your spouse accepting a job in another city, an opportunity to take an early buyout of your services; these are a few examples. Be careful that your decision to leave is well thought out. Sometimes a knee-jerk decision to quit on the spot, made hastily is one you might regret 24 hours later.

Another – A Better Job

Congratulations! You might be fortunate to find yourself accepting a better job – closer to home, more income, a better fit for your education and experience, etc. When you have the luxury of another job, you’ll undoubtedly be happy, but again, leave on the best terms possible. Life has a funny way of sometimes bringing us back to work for companies we left in our past.

Volunteer To Paid Employment

Let’s not forget that walking away from a volunteer position because you’ve landed a paying job while understandable, may still leave one organization in a bind to replace you. No different than a profit organization, non-profits appreciate notice so they can get the right people too.

If you work for an organization with a Human Resources Manager, inquire about the requirements around providing notice. It’s a good idea to leave on the best terms possible whenever possible.

Could be that depending on your role and how professional the boss you work for is or isn’t, that when you offer to work for two weeks before leaving, they accept your resignation immediately and tell you not to come back. So be it if that happens.


Life: Pack Only What You’ll Need!

Picture yourself going out on a journey. In the relative safety of your home, you look into the future and visualize what you’ll need to pack. After all, forget to pack it now and you’ll either have to do without or pick it up along the road and there’s a cost associated with doing so. If it’s a short journey; a weekend getaway; forgetting something and not being able to replace it might be inconvenient but hardly a disaster. In two days time, you’re back home and you can better equip yourself next time you’re out the door for a weekend.

The thing about a weekend away though is you know where you’re going and you therefore have a pretty good idea what to pack and take along. When the weekend comes to an end, you can assess your success or lack thereof in terms of planning and either repeat your success or make some additions and deletions; things you needed but forgot and things you packed and didn’t use.

Life however is a one-time trip. You never know the final destination and if we’re totally honest here, you don’t even have a map showing you the route you’ll take. How on earth do you prepare yourself for that kind of trip? (Incidentally, these are my favourite holiday trips; heading in a general direction, hitting the open road with a general idea of where I want to go but no planned itinerary; no having to be in a certain town on a certain day; heading down some sideroad because it looks interesting and there’s an unspoken promise of an amazing something not to be missed.)

Now the one thing that excites and invigorates one person will confuse and cause anxiety in another. Some people need to know exactly where they’re going; who they will travel with, where they’ll stay. These folks like to pay in advance where all is known and just not yet experienced. If this is you, excellent and enjoy your trip. Life for some is like this too. Careers are mapped out, school is a given and paid for, weddings are arranged, investments made in stocks and properties, funerals prepaid. It’s all so nice, neat, ordered and arranged.

Ah but for the rest of us life is nothing but flux. Change is constant, plans are made with good intentions but often chucked or amended as life brings us into contact with other people, other places, new information comes our way and stimulates us in new directions. Change for us is good! We do things we never imagined we would, we fall in and out of love with people we never imagined ourselves with, then never imagine ourselves without. We lose jobs, move to new places, get confused at times, live the highs and lows. At times we know what we want and then at others we haven’t got a clue. We’re hopeless one minute, on the right path the next, go years seemingly drifting and then bazinga!, we’re suddenly successful!

How on earth do you plan for a journey like this life you’re living? It’s easy actually. You pack as best you can with the information you have and you tell yourself right at the start that you’ll be needing to pick up more supplies as you go along. When the weather turns, you drop the shorts and t-shirts and pick up some sweaters and thicker socks. You adapt my friend. Although you knew this time would come, you were smart enough to know there was no need to pack the long underwear and mittens way back when the weather was hot, muggy and the streets were steaming.

Life is the same way. When you start out thinking of a job you don’t know where you’ll end up. You’ll get exposed to different jobs, meet people doing work you don’t even know at this moment exists. There’s no way you could prepare yourself now for those jobs you want in 10 – 15 years because they haven’t even entered your conscious thought or perhaps they haven’t even been created yet.

Some general direction is great but a detailed master plan with all the career changes and jobs timed and mapped out? Highly improbable and unrealistic. This might cause you some minor or major anxiety if you’re the type who must know everything in advance.

Life is organic and if you’re to fully thrive in it, embracing all the changes, influences, suggestions, advice and yes – warnings is required. There will be good and bad, highs and low points. You’ll meet good people and some bad unfortunately; those who will help you and those who will hold you back. Be wary but don’t cocoon yourself from the world or they win. Get out in it; breathe deep.

Your age? Inconsequential. You’re still living aren’t you? Your finances? Not everything expensive is worth having. At some point in your future, you’ll come to the Point Of Reflection. You know, that time when you stop, pause, slowly turn and look back from some vantage point on the path you’ve taken. You’ll forget many of the things you thought you never would, you’ll remember many faces you met and feel satisfaction over much of what you’ve done. Regrets? Sure. You’ll have some. Big deal.

Get going. That’s the sum of it in two words. Job? Career? Relationship? Travel? No matter what you want, get going.

Out Of Work, Not Out Of Options!

Imagine yourself sitting down in an interview for a job you actually want. It’s been a while since you’ve had a job, and you’re a little sensitive about that growing gap on your resume. Things get off to a good start and you’re feeling fairly good; better if truth be told than you thought you might. After all, interviews haven’t been coming as frequently as they used to, so you wondered how you’d perform, but like I say, your confidence is rising.

Just as you finish off an answer and notice the raised eyebrow on the interviewers’ face that seems to communicate, “Impressive!”, it happens. They ask you what you’ve been doing since your last job finished; apparently 2-3 years ago. All good interviewers are skilled at both listening to your answer and observing your body language as you process the question and start off your answer. That short sigh you took just now; was it more than just gathering your thoughts? Was that a quick look of exasperation? Was it your facial reaction screaming, “Oh great! Honestly I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself and done absolutely nothing you’d find impressive, but I can hardly say that now can I?”

This awkward moment can be avoided with some action on your part now. As long as we’re imagining, why not imagine you’ve got an interview in 4 month’s time. Between now and then you have this window of opportunity to get going on adding some things to your dormant employment record.

First up, you could volunteer. I know, I know, you don’t want to give away your talents for nothing. I don’t see volunteering that way though. No, volunteering gives you an opportunity to hone your fading skills, get a reference or two assuming you perform well and possibly try out a new kind of job or role without the stigma of getting fired or quitting a paid job if it doesn’t work out. Giving of your talents also benefits an organization and those who go there. And make no mistake, giving of yourself in a non-profit organization also looks good to a lot of employer’s. It can show a commitment to your community, a cause that’s near and dear to your heart or simply a way to pay back the help you’ve received in the past.

Another thing you can do is focus on your health, if in fact you have some issue that needs your attention. While you shouldn’t walk into an interview and say you took the time to address a recent heart attack, you can allude to making your health a priority through undergoing some changes in lifestyle; and that the commitment has paid off. You’ve been pronounced healthier, fitter, have the necessary stamina and perseverance requested in order to succeed. Depending on the job, you may or may not actually share the now rectified health concern. If you do, stress that it’s no longer a problem; precisely because you took the steps necessary to overcome the challenge.

Many organizations are big on training and development both on a personal and professional level. So during your unemployment, you could take a course. Hey something like First Aid and CPR training or Health and Safety training are beneficial in a number of professions. These are certainly in the realm or transferable training skills. Of course, something specific to your sector, field or industry is even more advantageous. Get your Food Handler’s or SMARTSERVE Certificate if you work in Hospitality. Update your Forklift training to include a Raymond Reach or Working At Heights certification.

Heading back to the classroom to invest in your future might be an option too. Get that Diploma, Degree or take a general interest course in the evening. Sharpening the mind keeps you in the know, using best practices and will pair nicely with your Life experience in an interview. You might come across as mature and up-to-date on new technologies, practices and procedures.

Invest yourself in getting active on social media; enough at least so you have a presence. It takes some time to build up a following and get some dialogue going that will result in a strong profile, but like I say, you’ve got the time and all that’s needed is the effort.

Doing a self-inventory is an extremely helpful phase to undergo. More than just your strengths and weaknesses, be able to articulate your preferred learning style and know the kind of environment you will excel best in. If you don’t know what you want to do next, talk to people and network to learn what they like, what the struggles are, how much a job pays and where you have to go to find it.

Other things you can do is seize this opportunity of time to get your eyes checked, have a physical, book a dental cleaning and check up. Visit the Nutritionist at your local shopping Centre, make an effort to get out more and go for a walk. Little changes can lead to bigger accomplishments.

The important thing about this time is to fill it consciously and deliberately. It’s going to go by and you’ll find yourself seated in a future interview either glad you took the time to make this productive, or wishing you had done so and kicking yourself for having wasted it.

Looking for work is one thing, not the only thing.


The Biggest Problem With Unemployment

What do you suppose is the biggest single problem with being out of work? A lack of money? The frustration that comes with all those applications and not getting anywhere near enough calls for interviews? Thinking you’re doing well in interviews but not getting job offers? All of these are valid without question, and yet, I don’t believe any of them come close to being the biggest problem with being out of work.

It’s both simple and challenging to explain at the same time really. In my opinion, it’s the change in self-perception; and this change affects everything you experience in the world around you. When you’re employed, a part of your identity comes with the job title and the name of the organization whom employs you. Me? I’m an Employment Counsellor working with the Regional Municipality of Durham. If you’ve had any dealings with my employer, their reputation extends to me, and I certainly contribute to the reputation of my employer as I interact with people both within and beyond the organization.

When out of work, that identity is severed. You can’t go on telling people you work for an organization, so you might drop that part of the statement. Now, I’m an Employment Counsellor by profession. Or if I’m moving on entirely from that job, I might tell people I use to work as an Employment Counsellor but am now moving into something new. My identity; the, ‘me’ I put out to the world, has changed.

If you’ve been out of work for any period in your life, you’ll identify with the morphing and change that alters who you see yourself to be. And while all your life you’ve had various ideas of what you wanted to do or become in terms of a profession, it’s not likely you grew up believing or wanting to be unemployed. So it is that when you find yourself unemployed, you are largely unequipped to deal with the psychological difference between what you are and how you see yourself. The longer your unemployment persists, the more time you have to reconcile this new identity with your conscious thought. In short, the longer you are unemployed, the more comfortable you may become with this new self-identity.

It’s when you want to work but can’t seem to find an employer to give you a shot that this new identity is one you experience with the most anxiety. After all, you’ve never seen yourself as this unemployed person, and coming to grips with this reality is not something you are comfortable with. You might even ramp up your job search in an effort to stave off this growing feeling that your unemployment is the new norm. If that burst of desperation works that’s great. If however, your efforts don’t succeed, it just reaffirms much of what you were feeling.

And so when you’re all alone with your thoughts, more and more you find yourself re-evaluating your self. Because you always saw success as working in some capacity, and success being how you wanted to see yourself, you measured yourself in part by the job you had. Having no job and not being able to get one, you’re confronted by the reality that if a job means success, the lack of one means failure. “So I am a failure?” you ask yourself.

It’s important to realize that a job is only one of many ways to see yourself. You may be a parent, a spouse, a friend. You may have a spiritual side, contribute to your community, etc. Without question you have many skills and attributes too. Perhaps you’re great in the kitchen, handy with repairing things around the house, an avid gardener, maybe you’re in good physical shape and/or are a wiz with numbers. You are so much more than solely who you defined yourself as when you were working.

Now the dangerous part. While other people are likely to point out many of your good qualities, only you know how you truly see yourself. If you keep your self-perception entirely private and put on some happier face to the world that lacks authenticity, you run the risk of having yet one more thing to feel bad about. You may start feeling phoney, a fraud. Dark thoughts can cloud your judgement and how you see yourself can spiral down to a point where you honestly believe you’re a failure in all aspects of life. This isn’t just unhealthy, it’s wrong and it’s dangerous because you might eventually start wondering, “What’s the point in doing anything?”

You can see that this is far more of a problem than lacking money or a job title. By changing how you live, you can always manage the money part – even though yes I agree – it may not be the way you’d like. I’m far, far more concerned with your self-perception and your self-esteem than how much money is in your bank account.

Having meaningful work is important for many people; having a job important to even more. If work is important to you and you’re struggling (to put it mildly), get help. If the help you’ve received to date hasn’t worked, get more help from someone new. Keep pushing both those that help you and yourself. If someone lends you a hand you have to reach out to grasp it. If you need help, seek it out.


Do You Use These Words?

Sometimes we don’t even realize it, but the words we use in our language send the wrong impression. Should these words be part of our everyday typical language, they can be hard to replace because they come to us naturally. It takes conscious effort, practice and a good friend or mentor to point them out when we use them too, because like I said in the opening line, we don’t even realize how often we use them.

One word to avoid is the word, ‘just’. I hear this word quite often actually in the course of my work. I’ll ask someone what they do for a living or the kind of job they are after and what I hear them say is, “I’m just a Waitress”, “I’m just a mom”, or “I’m just looking for a job in a factory”.  The inclusion of the word, ‘just’ changes the sentence and the message significantly. When it’s added, it implies that the speaker doesn’t have much regard for the role in question and even worse, very little respect for anyone else in that position.

If you remove the word, ‘just’ from the sentences above, what you hear them say is, “I’m a Waitress”, “I’m a mom” and, “I’m looking for a job in a factory”. These three statements are more assertive without placing a value judgement on those roles. Do you see the difference and how the message you send along with the words is either positive or carries a negative connotation?

A second word to remove from your vocabulary is the word, ‘if’. When used in sentences such as, “If I get an interview”, “if I get a job” it communicates a strong lack of faith in your belief that the interview or the job will happen. By substituting the word, ‘when’ for ‘if’, the sentence once more becomes an assertive statement. “When I get an interview”, “When I get a job.” Now it’s no longer in doubt; it’s going to happen.

When these words are used in consecutive sentences they double the message being sent out and the impact on the person receiving them. Here’s how they look with, ‘just’ and ‘if’ together followed by removing, ‘just’ and substituting, ‘when’:

I’m just looking for a factory job and if I get an interview…”

I’m looking for a factory job and when I get an interview…”

The first sentence downplays the job sought and reveals a lack of confidence in getting an interview; they may get one and they may not. The second sentence makes the goal known and there’s no doubt an interview will be forthcoming.

Now another word to avoid is the word, ‘guys’. I hear this often and just yesterday I heard it used by three different people who were making phone calls to  potential employers. What I overheard them say was, “Are you guys hiring?”, “I’m sending my cover letter to you guys” and, “Where are you guys located?” When you use this word, ‘guys’ in this context, it’s assuming a familiarity, like we’re best buds standing on some street corner having a casual conversation amongst friends. There’s a professional respect that gets lost when this word is used.

By removing the word, ‘guys’, the intended message is the same, but it translates better for the person receiving it. “Are you hiring?”, “I’m sending my cover letter to you” and, “Where are you located?”

One more for you to mull over and hopefully make an adjustment to. Do you see anything wrong or weak in this next sentence? “I’ll try and call three employers today.” What do you think? Did you pick up on the word, ‘try’? When it’s included in the sentence, there’ a possibility that you may or may not achieve this goal. You’ll try to do it, but your language opens up the possibility that you won’t succeed. Why not remove the word entirely and leave it at, “I’ll call three employers today.” This slight revision of the sentence leaves no room for doubt; you’re calling three employers today. You might think this is being a bit nitpicky but I’m telling you, at the end of the day, I’ve observed time and time again that those who say they’ll do something succeed far more than those who say they’ll try.

Here’s the thing about these words. In all the examples above, the change is small but the message you’re sending changes significantly by those you’re speaking to. It’s not as if you’re being asked to introduce long words you may or may never have heard of and don’t entirely understand into your everyday language. These changes in language are ones you can work on right now too.

Finally, here’s an idea for you to consider. Because you may not catch yourself using the words above and remove them or substitute a better word, give permission to someone to listen in on your conversations when on the phone with an employer or over a mock interview. Tell them what you’re trying to avoid doing and tell them it’s okay to interrupt you if you’re practicing with them, or if they sit off to the side while you’re on the phone, give them the okay to give you feedback when you hang up.

Quite often we’re good at catching others and not so good at catching ourselves.

Just consider it. Try and do it. If you want to improve.

Consider it. Do it. You want to improve.


Mental Health Issues At Work

A lot of people don’t get it do they? They may be sympathetic alright, but their sympathy doesn’t translate into fully appreciating or understanding why you falter. When they see you running late, having to leave early, missing days entirely, they wonder how much you really want it in the first place. To be fair, they only see you when you’re experiencing days that are good enough for you to get out in public. If they could see you on your worst days; the ones where you can’t even get out of bed, they’d have a different point of view – perhaps – and maybe their sympathy would turn to empathy.

These mental health issues aren’t what you want in life. It’s not like you go out of your way to take time off. When the anxiety and panic sends you running for the security of your home surroundings; one of the few places you can actually breathe and feel somewhat safe and protected against what assails you, you’re not bolting because you want to, you’re leaving because you have to. When you do get home and shut that door with your back leaning against it out of sheer relief, you don’t always feel happiness at being home but rather, sometimes great frustration that once again, you couldn’t finish what you’d hope would be putting in a full day.

Being normal; it’s not too much to ask for is it? Just getting up, feeling good, having a shower and washing away all the remnants of bad dreams and thoughts along with the water. Dressing, looking at yourself in the mirror and liking what you see as you lock the door and head to work with confidence, looking forward to meeting people, being productive, getting things done. Normal. Sigh… “Why can’t that be me?”, you wonder. Just a normal, average person living free of these constant mental health challenges. Oh to have a day free of meds, free of worry and fear, no anxiety – “do I remember a time when I didn’t have these things?”

Now we all have times in our lives when we experience anxiety and worry. We’ve had moments of panic, a few days or maybe a couple of weeks when something has caused us to feel added pressure and stress. Some major project at work, year-end inventories, staff shortages, some invasive dental work etc. The pressure and anxiety we feel in these moments gives us a small glimpse into what others with mental health issues feel; a good thing of course. However the downside of these moments is that we might feel we know exactly what someone with constant anxiety and depression feels. This can cause us to expect them to snap out of it eventually, put in the effort to pull themselves past the panic attacks and be stronger than their mental illness. After all, if ours passed, theirs should too.

Like I said, this is the downside of having moments here and there where we all experience stress, anxiety and sadness. Oh it’s completely understandable that we evaluate others behaviours based on what we’ve experienced ourselves. As humans, we all do this. We try and understand the behaviours and actions of others using whatever we’ve experienced that comes closest to what we see and hear. The problem in this case is when we see our own short-term challenge; one we’ve overcome, and we compare it to someone with an ongoing mental health challenge and expect them to put it behind them as we’ve done. That’s just not realistic. If these are the expectations we hold, we’re really not being empathetic.

It just may not be possible to fully appreciate and truly understand what we ourselves have not experienced. And many a person with anxiety, depression, panic attacks and constant pressure has told me they wouldn’t wish on anyone what they struggle with every day. I for one can only imagine the strength of character, determination and immense mental and physical effort it must take just to show up some days and then on top of that, work with a smile, look like you want others to see you as. What I can’t imagine is how hurtful it must feel if you were present on the job, thinking you were blending in (finally!) and then someone said, “You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to smile.” It would have to feel like a dagger bursting what you believed to be a pretty impressive rebuilding of your self-esteem.

This blog today is therefore meant to be for both you who struggle with mental health and those of us who work alongside you and are fortunate enough to live free of. Show some compassion; what you can’t understand do your best not to criticize or judge harshly. When your workload goes up because someone is absent again, be mindful that they aren’t, ‘goofing off’, or ‘having a good time lazing about’. Keep them in your thoughts and welcome them back with words of encouragement.

And you who have mental health challenges, problems, struggles – choose what you will – all you can do is your best and your best is all that can be asked of you. May you be surrounded by considerate, compassionate people who lend support, have your back and excuse/forgive us if every so often we fail to act at our best with words that may hurt unintended.