Amy Evans, YGAM Education Manager for Yorkshire & Humber, writes about what makes a positive working environment and reflects on her experiences at YGAM.
We spend over 90,000 hours at work over our lifetime and yet one of the biggest causes of poor mental health is our jobs. My previous career was a notoriously stressful profession and so I am a strong advocate for positive mental health in the workplace. I therefore decided to write this blog to talk about what makes a positive workplace and how some organisations get it spot on! I chose to describe my working life here at YGAM in three words: Trust, Support, Recognition.
The key to being mentally healthy for me is trust. It’s important to check that staff are on track with their actions and targets. However, so many places of work struggle to do this effectively and essentially end up de-professionalising their staff, leaving workers feeling anxious, stressed and undervalued. At YGAM I work remotely, often not speaking to my line manager for a few days at a time. However, I feel trusted to get on with my work, trusted to move forward with my ideas and trusted to manage my time effectively. I therefore feel like a professional, I feel valued and I feel intrinsically motivated to do well.
We don’t always get it right – particularly in lockdown! I’ve started a brand new job in a brand new career, I’ve had to rewire my brain to work all sorts of terrifying technology and I’ve had to practise a whole new skill set! I’ve probably asked my manager the same question 10 times over! However, not once have I felt alone despite working remotely. Providing important lines of contact, assigning work buddies, calling to chat and check in, modelling every tiny detail – all of this has meant that I’ve felt fully supported by YGAM and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the steep learning curve! Never underestimate a text, whatsapp or call to check in.
I remember in my previous career being told to praise and reward exceptional work only. However, I was also told that positive reinforcement allowed people to thrive. The latter is key! Since starting my role here in March, I’ve received kind messages of praise and recognition every week. Sometimes a simple Whatsapp, sometimes a card, today it was a virtual sticker! When we grow up, we still need that recognition – whether we’ve been exceptional or we’ve got through a tough day intact!
It’s so important to be mentally healthy at work and I count myself lucky that I work for such a forward thinking, people centred organisation. Let’s hope these turbulent times will at least lead to a new, mentally safe way of working for all.