Tag Archives: Workplace Tips

Work-from-home-burnout

The real dangers of Work-From-Home burnout and how to properly tackle them

Work-from-home (WFH) burnout is a real, serious, and increasingly common risk for remote workers across the globe. Learn the signs of WFH burnout, how to combat it, and where employers/virtual managers and employees can reach out for help.

The world is grappling with the novel coronavirus pandemic that continues to take a toll on nearly all aspects of people’s lives. The vast majority of the workforce across the globe has willy-nilly adapted to a new work environment — the new “normal” in the context of the pandemic. But working from home has also opened a Pandora’s box of workaholic tendencies, anxieties and fears, proneness to overworking and burnout, and potential mental health problems.

While the virus itself poses a risk to our physical health, the impact of the whole unnerving situation on our mental health is anything but negligible, and this is especially true for remote workers whose home has transformed into their office. Between working harder and longer hours from home and juggling family responsibilities, people who have been working remotely due to government-imposed restrictions are facing an increased risk of WFH/ lockdown burnout, with potentially long-term repercussions.

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Different Remote Workers in Different Industries, All Overworked and Burned Out

What used to exclusively be their own oasis of relaxation where they’d spent quality time with their loved ones and unwind has also become their work environment for several months now. In a recent BBC News video, three professionals working remotely in different industries share their WFH experiences in terms of feeling the signs of burnout and overworked during lockdown in the UK.

 

“When I used to work at the gym I’d finish my work at the gym and then get home and rest but this just feels like there’s no end”.

Ana, a young personal trainer living in the UK, has been intensely working from home since March. Stuck at home, she started posting more educational content and live streaming workouts on Instagram, which quickly increased the number of clients from different countries. To provide her services online to clients in different parts of the world, such as the US and Australia, she’s been working almost round the clock. “I’m constantly working”, confesses Ana. From 30 sessions per week, Ana now manages 50-60 sessions per week.

 

“Because I lost all the gig income, I had to really buckle down”.

For David Altweger, a middle-aged musician and owner of an independent record label, the pandemic has had a devasting impact on his gig income. Running a record label online requires a lot of hard work and longer hours, so it’s no wonder that David’s workload significantly increased. He starts his day at 5 a.m. with a strong coffee. David’s workday is around 16 hours, as he’s got to handle every aspect of his business himself, including design work, office work, and, with his distributor closed due to lockdown, even CD deliveries, which are quite time-consuming, taking him at least 2 hours a day.

“Sometimes I feel like Covid Father Christmas delivering music to people’s door”, confesses David. His Moka pot is his “secret weapon”, but at the end of the day, he feels “completely knackered”.

 

“Lockdown has brought out the workaholic in me”

Abbey, a young art director working remotely for an ad agency in the UK has been feeling the pressure to stay productive and has been experiencing the effects of overworking due to fear of losing her job too. “I’m doing ten times more because there’s so much uncertainty around jobs and everything”, laments Abbey, for whom “the need to keep working” at all costs is so strong and deeply embedded that she oftentimes refuses to tend to her physiological needs for food.

She finds it difficult to take a break just to have lunch because she “doesn’t know how to switch off”. A major contributor to her inability to switch off is the fact that work and relaxation take place in the same environment i.e her home. Separating the two is as difficult for Abbey as it is for other remote workers around the globe.

In America, where over 30 million people have filed unemployment claims since March, the pressure to stay productive and even be more productive than prior to the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of overworked people working from their homes. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll , 45% of US adults say that this whole situation associated with the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.

I find myself working all the time, even when I should be getting ready for bed”

41-year-old New Jersey resident and mother-of-two Alana Acosta-Lahullier is overworked and feels burned out to the bone. Alana says she feels “an obligation to get everything done right”, even if doing so is detrimental to her mental health and well-being. Between her full-time job, working remotely for an electrical contractor, parenting, and helping with the schooling of her daughter and son, who has ADHD on the autism spectrum, she’s “constantly on the verge of a panic attack”.

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Panic-Working Is a Manic Defense

Even Gianpiero Petriglieri, a psychiatrist, MD, and associate professor of organisational behavior at the Business School for the World (INSEAD) admitted in late March that “by the time I went to bed at 3 a.m., I was exhausted, edgy, and miserable” due to “panic-working” from home.

The obsession with staying productive at all costs is considered a “manic defense” by psychoanalysts. Panic-working gives us a false sense of security and the illusion of being in control. It numbs us in the short term but this defense comes at a high price – feeling disconnected from reality, our experiences, and other people, and completely burned out.

Fighting Fire with Fire: A Vicious Cycle

Remote workers are oftentimes pushing themselves too hard as a way of coping with their anxieties and fears caused by the pandemic and the recession. But overworking in an effort to stay productive does not serve them well; in fact, it’s akin to self-sabotage because it eventually leads to burnout, more anxiety, depression, and other repercussions on their mental and overall health.

Both employers/virtual managers and remote workers need to be aware of the increased risk of burnout associated with working from home, recognise the (early) signs, and effectively combat it as early as possible.

Working Harder and Longer Has Become the Norm

Transition to a work-from-home culture has been challenging for managers across the globe. Finding new ways to ensure that their remote teams stay productive is one of their main priorities. However, instead of worrying about their teams’ underperformance, virtual managers should be on the lookout for overperformance, which has been found to be productivity’s enemy rather than its ally.

According to a 2017 working paper published by researchers at Harvard Business School, task selection is a common way through which workers manage their increased workload. More specifically, they tend to complete easier tasks, a behavior labeled as Task Completion Bias (TCB). Although TCB has been found to improve short-term productivity, it negatively impacts long-term performance measured by revenue and speed alike. Workers who do not exhibit this behavior tend to be significantly more productive than those who exhibit TCB.

Research shows that the vast majority of remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts. They work harder and longer hours than ever before for different reasons, including the fact that employers apply increasingly more pressure for efficiency purposes. for financial rewards, and out of fear. Remote workers fear for many things – they fear for the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones; the economic fallout and uncertainty of the future; they fear for losing their livelihood/financial security and no longer being able to provide for themselves and their family, and more.

But the reality is that overworking makes a remote worker more prone to WFH burnout.

The Warning Signs of WFH Burnout

Work-from-home or lockdown burnout refers to a state of exhaustion on physical, emotional, and mental levels caused by prolonged and excessive stress associated with panic-working/overworking from home and disruption to the work-life balance.

Although burnout is still not classified as a medical disorder, the World Health Organisation (WHO) included it in ICD-11 last year as an occupational phenomenon and is defined as “a syndrome” that results from chronic and unsuccessfully managed workplace stress.

What to watch out for:

  • Chronic fatigue/exhaustion and apathy
  • Depression and/anxiety worsening over time
  • Constantly elevated stress levels and reduced energy levels
  • Feeling overwhelmed and mentally drained all the time
  • Inability to focus and forgetfulness/memory issues
  • Lack of motivation, feelings of negativism toward one’s job
  • Declining performance, avoiding work or inability to switch off
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath and/or heart palpitations
  • Irritability, anger, and sleep disorders (e.g. insomnia)
  • Dizziness and headaches/migraines
  • Loss of/reduced appetite and/or gastrointestinal issues

Early recognition of these signs via virtual channels such as chat apps and video calls is of the utmost importance. It’s worth noting that a worker who is affected by WFH/lockdown burnout does not necessarily have to exhibit all of the above signs, because it manifests differently in different people.

Burnout can also weaken a remote worker’s immune system, which in turn may increase the risk of getting infected with the novel coronavirus.

Tips To Combat Lockdown Burnout

  • Establish clear boundaries that separate work from personal life to prevent work-life balance disruption
  • Set office hours and create a schedule designating work, free and family time to regain control
  • Avoid the tendency of being the perfect worker, which adds extra pressure
  • Take time off to unwind and discover a new hobby
  • Maintain social interactions/connections to avoid social isolation and detachment
  • Don’t suffer in silence -Talk to your team, virtual manager and reach out for help
  • If you are a manager or supervisor, make sure you can provide first aid for mental health incidents involving anxiety, stress and burnout.
  • As an organisation, provide workplace mental health training and resilience building skills training for your managers, supervisors and leaders.

Reach Out For Professional Help From Therapists

It’s absolutely crucial for virtual managers to learn to recognise the telltale signs of work-from-home burnout as early as possible in order to minimize its long-term impact on remote workers’ mental well-being as well as to properly address it in a timely and efficient fashion. The Workplace Mental Health Institute ( WMHI) is here to help virtual managers across the globe with a suite of tailored, top-tier and results-driven telehealth training courses and services, counseling, and coaching sessions on mental health, well-being, and resilience of employees working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you’re an employee working from home and you’ve been feeling the effects of burnout and overworked during lockdown, it’s in your best interest to take some time off to decompress and to speak with a qualified therapist. In case your job offers free counseling sessions through an employee assistance program (EAP), then do yourself a huge favor and take full advantage of it for the sake of your mental health and well-being in these uncertain and difficult times.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Products or People? Systems or Staff?

Will you invest in your product or your people?

If your budget would only allow you to invest in one area of your business this quarter, would you invest in developing your products or your people? Would you enhance your systems or your staff?

Providing coaching to personnel from their direct manager could be an investment that continues to pay returns. The Sales Executive Council conducted research into the impact of coaching effectiveness within organisations1. The global study, including more than 3000 participants identified findings which include:

Group-with-White-Board

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  • Developing the coaching abilities of sales team managers is an effective way of boosting sales performance of mid-range achievers by up to 19%.
  • Retention of high performing sales people is increased when they consider their manager to be an effective coach. Below average ‘intention to stay’ was recorded for sales people whose managers were rated in the bottom third in terms of coaching effectiveness.
  • Neither ‘Experience as a Manager’ nor ‘Experience in Sales’ had an impact on ratings of managers’ coaching effectiveness.
  • Sales teams receiving less than 2 hours of coaching per month achieved 90% of their sales goals, compared to teams receiving 3 or more hours of coaching per month and achieving 107% of their sales targets2.
  • Research into the retention of training information showed that training alone resulted in a 13% retention of training information at a 30-day reassessment of knowledge, whilst those who had ongoing coaching were able to retain 88% of the information2.

Unfortunately, despite considerable benefit to the sales team when managers provide effective coaching to team members, this is the area that consistently scored lowest on a Manager Skill Index examining 10 manager abilities3.

Which begs the question: will you invest in your product or your people? Still not sure? OK, one final statistic: Research has shown that organisations achieve a 1700% ROI when investing in training their managers to be internal coaches4.

  1. October 2005, Teleconference Series, Building a World Class Coaching Program: Upgrading Rep Ability to Engage Customers with Solutions Hypotheses.
  2. “Executive Coaching as a Transfer of Training Tool”, Public Personnel Management, Winter 1997
  3. “Why Do Salespeople Fail?” Industrial Distribution, 1 March 1996; Sales Executive Council Research Solutions
  4. Rock, D & Donde, R. (2008) “Driving organizational change with internal coaching programs: Part One.” Industrial and Commercial Training, 40, pp 10-18.
Author: Alison Skate
Alison Skate author

Alison Skate is a Workplace Mental Health Specialist for Workplace Mental Health Institute. She began her career as a psychologist in the Australian Army more than twenty years ago. Alison is a leadership coach and workshop facilitator.

Mental-Health-and-Productivity

Mental Health and Productivity. Why Managers Need Mental Health Courses

Workplace Mental health is an issue of grave concern. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of absenteeism from work. Mental health problems at work can cause immense suffering to those experiencing them, and those around them. As such, there is an overwhelming need for managers, business owners and employees to address the issue of mental health at work. Managers particularly should play a significant role in promoting mental health among employees. However, it is essential that managers receive the right support to assist them to handle this task efficiently. If we are to empower supervisors and staff to make a positive impact on mental health it will involve giving them the proper training from industry experts and professionals through mental health courses.

Mental-Health-and-Productivity

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A course on mental health would create awareness and understanding among managers, as well as teach them important lessons such as how to categorise common mental health disorders. Besides learning how to classify the signs and symptoms of mental suffering, they would also be counseled on practical strategies that can support members of their organisation.

The major benefits of taking a mental health course include:

  1. Gaining the ability to understand and appreciate the stigma surrounding mental health at work.
  2. Giving employees the confidence to handle clients or workmates suffering from mental health conditions in a humane manner.
  3. Awarding employees and business owners the opportunity to understand the legal requirements surrounding workplace mental health care.
  4. Teaching people techniques and strategies for managing employees with mental conditions.
  5. Improving one’s understanding of stress and how it impacts morale at work.
  6. Reflecting on our own attitude towards mental health problems. If the attitude is a negative one, then we can take measures to change and improve.
  7. Allowing participants to learn possible interventions for workplace mental illnesses.

Did you check our Mental Health Courses?

The outcome of a good mental health training course should be to help management and their employees create a work environment where personal resilience is enhanced, and the comfort and safety of all employees are protected. This will enable the workforce to respond effectively to the challenges that arise while working, which in turn will enhance their confidence, allowing them to produce their very best.

Organisations often lose out on the expertise of capable workers due to mismanagement. Knowing what to do and how to manage the mental health of teams can be tricky. For most people suffering from mental health conditions, their last resort is often, sadly, a choice between a decline of their mental health or abandoning their jobs. Employers have a duty of care to their employees and investing in a course in mental health is the best way to secure the mental health of a workforce. The training should be practical and applicable so that the psychological safety and wellbeing of the whole organisation and its employees is enhanced. Good workplace mental health is good business and at the Workplace Mental Health Institute we want to help.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Mental Stigma And Stress In The Workplace: Employers Need To Pay Attention To Workplace Stress Factors

Why employers should manage the mental health of the workplace

Employees undergoing mental distress affect most, if not all, organisations. This trend explains why people often take a day or two off work. To make matters worse, many individuals often experience anxiety when faced with the thought of confronting and discussing the subject because mental health continuous to be a taboo subject. Promoting mental health at work is beneficial to all parties involved including the supervisors because poor mental health will ultimately affect corporate productivity levels and, with it, the bottom line.

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Although companies are bound by law to protect the physical and psychological well-being of their employees, they often lack specific guidance as to how to go about improving and protecting employee health. Issues in the workplace that impact on the mental stability of an employee include:

  1. Stigma or any form of discrimination
  2. Professional burnout
  3. Substance abuse
  4. Bullying and abuse in the workplace

When the mental health of employees is secured in the workplace, it means that the employers care for their employees and that they are interested in promoting their wellbeing. One of the best ways to safeguard the mental health of employees is to eliminate or handle negligent and reckless behavior that may add to an employee’s stress level. Another way to promote the mental stability and safety of employees is by eliminating anything that induces chronic anxiety and excessive fear among employees.

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The process of safeguarding people’s mental health at work should be initiated by top executives. Employers must take active steps to improve their workplace culture as the culture is often a triggering factor for inducing stress among employees. Alternatively, companies can also create comprehensive strategies aimed at promoting mental wellness. Procedures should include initiatives and policies that promote psychological safety.

Employers are advised to consult their employees before developing strategies aimed at protecting their mental health. The end result of well-formulated policies is a progressive workplace where the employees are encouraged to empower themselves. Comprehensive strategies that are implemented properly will automatically improve productivity levels significantly. Other advantages of improving employee mental health at work (in addition please read our discussion paper – Silent Expectations) include:

  • Levels of creativity are improved, which also improves their level of engagement.
  • Encourages employee retention and low turnover.
  • Drastically improves employee satisfactions and morale.
  • Opens the lines of communication between subordinates and supervisors.
  • Improves the levels of recruitment for your organization.
  • Reduces the culture of absenteeism and promotes increased attendance.
  • Reduces workplace injuries
  • It cuts down the amount of grievances that come up at the workplace.

Too many employees suffer in silence due to poor mental health at work, and it is the responsibility of business leaders to take steps to improve the situation.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self assessment to find out.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Workplace loyalty is dead?

Workplace loyalty is dead. Or is it?

Looking around at today’s organisation and it would seem as though employee loyalty to their organisation and organisations’ loyalty to their employees is dead. For many of today’s workforce, the greener grass at the other company or new position is too tempting to pass up. In fact, a recent study by LinkedIn showed that Millennials, those who reach adulthood in the 20th century, will work for nearly twice as many companies in the first five years of their career than their parents did. What’s more, today the average person will have twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime. Is this the nail in the coffin for loyalty?

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Workplace loyalty is dead?

A look at history

In the not-so-distant past, loyalty in the workplace meant remaining at the same company throughout a person’s career. During much of the 20th century, employees would work their entire career for one or two employers and in return, the organisation would give their employees the unspoken promise of lifetime employment and a pension retirement. With the popularity of unionisation throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, collective bargaining agreements and the promise of steady raises and consistent employment held employees to their companies during uncertain economic times where double digit inflation was the norm. However, as the grip of unions began to loosen in the 1990’s in favor of human resource departments and individual performance reviews, employee loyalty began to loosen as well. With the advent of the internet and the expansion of a global economy, suddenly labor costs could be cut dramatically by hiring a less expensive workforce in another country and a company’s loyalty to their workers at home was cast aside in favor of global expansion and rising profits.

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Redefining Loyalty

While it is tempting to assume that in today’s economy, it is impossible for organisations to show loyalty to their employees, it perhaps is more important to redefine what loyalty looks like in the 21st century. Where our parents and grandparents showed loyalty to their company by doing their job tirelessly for 30 or 40 years, today’s worker is more likely to look for ways to use their individual talents on behalf of the organisation. Whether they are looking for innovative ways to solve a problem, creating effective work teams or helping employees reach their own career potential, today’s workers are driven by a need to see how their work relates to the organisational objectives as a whole. Managers who use performance reviews to discuss how an individual’s goals relate to the overall organisational mission will be rewarded with loyalty to that objective. Such loyalty is arguably more productive in today’s fast-paced business environment and contributes to a strong workplace culture.

Loyalty can also be defined as compensating employees fairly for the work they are completing. Too many companies rely on their organisational mission for their compensation strategy, arguing that contributing to their purpose should be enough to combat unfair wages. In reality, organisations who compensate their employees fairly and who have clearly defined objectives for bonuses and raises are more likely to retain their employees.

While it is nice to talk about organisation-wide strategies for both garnering and showing loyalty, applying these principles on a team level may be even more important. While more than 30% of Fortune 500 chief executives have lasted less than three years over the course of the last two decades, research from the Gallup organisation shows that employee engagement, a common indicator of productivity, has declined across industries over the last decade. Since top-down initiatives cannot function if senior leadership is in constant fluctuation, the lot falls to mid-level managers to foster team loyalty:

  1. Identify and reiterate the team’s purpose. Align the team’s short and long-term goals with organisational strategy that will help team members see how their success contributes to the business as a whole.
  2. Encourage open discussion without blame or shame. Creating an environment where ideas, opinions, successes and failures can be shared without fear of negative repercussions fosters a sense of loyalty amongst a team’s members.
  3. Ask more questions than you answer. Casting a wide net throughout the team for feedback and input allows everyone to express their feelings and work toward a consensus.
  4. Openly praise success. Both individual and team-based success should be frequently praised in public when objectives are achieved.

While it is unlikely a person will end their career with the same company they began it with, loyalty to a team or organisation is not dead. Instead, it has a new face that is reflective of a fast-paced, changing economy.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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4 Leadership Styles Every Leader Needs to Know

4 leadership topicsHave you ever given feedback to a team member and felt it wasn’t received well? Or communicated the outcome you want, and what’s eventually delivered doesn’t resemble what you asked for?

Giving constructive feedback and direction is a critical skill for all leaders, but it’s not always easy to do. You want to balance the need to achieve outcomes with maintaining a great relationship, knowing it’s inevitable that team members will get it wrong sometimes.

The key is to use the correct leadership style for the person you are leading. A great tool to help you do this is the Competence / Confidence Matrix, adapted from research done way back in the 70’s. But unlike your safari suit, this model has stood the test of time.

1. High commitment / Low competence: Guide and coach

This might a new person on the team – a recent graduate or even an experienced player who isn’t yet familiar with how your team goes about things.

  • Discuss and decide on ways of doing things
  • Identify and provide the training needed
  • Accept early mistakes as important opportunities for coaching
  • Give responsibility and authority for the aspects of tasks the person can do
  • Require frequent updates early in the project, but relax control as progress is shown

2. High commitment, High competence: Delegate & release

These are your proven performers. The worst thing you can do is make them feel micro-managed.

  • Involve the person in decision-making
  • Frequently as the person for opinions
  • Give responsibility and authority because the person is competent and committed
  • Ask for updates at important moments or when the person has questions

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3. Low commitment, Low competence: Direct & tell

You don’t want people in this category for long. You may be able to help them increase their competence or commitment, or it may be time to break up.

  • Discuss what would motivate the person and agree on what’s possible
  • Set clear rules, methods and deadlines
  • Give responsibility and authority for aspects of the task the person can do
  • Plan tasks in such a way that ensures the person has some success quickly
  • Identify & provide the training needed
  • Require frequent updates early in the project, but relax control as progress is shown

4. Low commitment, High competence: Excite & inspire

Your mission is to find out why their commitment is flagging. Are they looking for a new challenge, or are they disengaged with you, the team, or the company?

  • Discuss why the task is important and why the person is the right choice
  • Discuss what would motivate the person and what’s possible
  • Give responsibility and authority because the person is competent
  • Require frequent updates

Thinking back on recent interactions that went well, was there a relationship between the style you used and the competence and confidence of the team member? What about interactions that didn’t go well – might a different style have produced better results?

Delegating, directing and managing performance is something we all struggle with at times. Even highly experienced leaders come across people they just can’t figure out, or regardless of how consciously they try, where any interaction with the person just ends up pushing buttons! But know that engaging and developing the skills of team members is the cornerstone of good leadership and your genuine efforts today are influencing the next generation of leaders who are currently under your mentorship.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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