Does work have to make you mad and sad?

Jo Hooper

Work can be a huge confidence booster, giving you a sense of worth, purpose, validation. 

It was for me for more than a decade.

Then I realised it was all going wrong. Where work used to make me feel that I was really good at something, it started to do the exact opposite.

I started to feel that I wasn’t good enough; that I didn’t know what I was doing – I felt totally and utterly out of control.

Work made me ill. 

mental health at work

What was it about work that contributed to my mental health issues?

It’s a hard one to pinpoint. 

I think there were a number of things:

  • My own relationship to work – I think I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with work. Always worked long hours, taken on all the responsibility, pushed myself. But those were just symptoms of the bigger problem – work was my validation. I needed extrinsic validation to prop up my sense of self worth
  • The need to prove myself – that link between work and my self worth, my value, pushed me to a place where I felt I needed to prove myself to everyone to show that I was valuable. I had some worth
  • Culture – the need to prove myself was fed by an underlying toxic culture. Instability, power struggles, constant change, undermining, these things chipped away at my confidence and pulled the rug out from under me
  • Feedback – poorly given feedback, at times used as a weapon in a power struggle, often felt like a slap in the face. Feedback is needed and useful, but it needs to be given in the right way and with the right intentions
  • Unrelenting pace – I worked in comms for more than 10 years, ran press offices, managed major crises, worked on multiple accounts at a time, I know pressure, I understand pace, can deal with volume. But after 10 years, that way of working just stopped working for me.

Those things made me feel….

  • The feeling that I wasn’t doing well enough
  • The feeling that I wasn’t reaching my own or others’ standards

And those feelings swept aside any sense of self worth I had. I felt worthless, crap, a failure. 

Does work really need to make you feel that way?

I bloody hope not!

I genuinely believe it doesn’t need to.

There are workplaces where the health, happiness, passions and needs of their people are as important – if not more so – than the turnover. 

These places pay attention to, spend time on, talk about and actively work on their culture. 

They want their people to feel valued, considered, part of a team and able to bring their whole selves to work – as messy as that can sometimes be.

These holy grail workplaces do exist and I’m making it my job to uncover them.

How do you make your workplaces healthier and happier?

That’s exactly what I want to find out! 

It’s why I wanted to work together with the lovely Jo Hall, to create A Place to Thrive.

We’ve spoken to inspiring people in some great workplaces, doing things differently and seeing the rewards. 

Insightful, passionate people have joined us to dissect what a great place to work looks like.

And we’ve looked really closely at what it means to create a workplace that people enjoy, can thrive in and be happy and healthy.

The trailer is out – thank you for your feedback! – and today, we’re releasing episode one. The who, what, why and how of A Place to Thrive.

We genuinely want to help you create healthy, happy workplaces where people can do work they enjoy, in an environment that helps them thrive. 

How can I listen?

The first season of A Place to Thrive will have weekly episodes for 10 weeks, and you can listen on Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, Google Podcasts and any other platform where you get your podcast fix.

Please do let us know what you think of the podcast by leaving us a review and get in touch with Jo or I if we can help you create a workplace where people can thrive.

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