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Advice for Managers to Promote Mental Wellness in Turbulent Times

In this podcast Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods spoke to Dr Michelle O’Sullivan and Douglas Talbot about how managers and team leads can support the mental wellness of their teams through turbulent times

Key Takeaways

  • Good work is one of the best things for our mental health. It gives us a sense of purpose and it provides us with a community
  • Mental wellness is about how to speak with people, having open conversations, giving people practical support when they need it, and also just creating a safe space and a good culture within your team. Most of it is just about good line management in general.
  • Checking in in about how people are sleeping can be a safe conversation and can be good indicator of potential deeper issues
  • So if somebody is quite stressed by the pandemic or what's happening with their loved ones, or someone's sick, these are very real fears, and we don't want to pathologize what is a very normal reaction to an abnormal situation
  • As a manager it is important for you to model the behaviour you want to see in your team, be vulnerable and open about your own fears and concerns, which gives others permission to be vulnerable too

Show Notes

  • 00:00 Shane: Good day, folks. This is Shane Hastie for the InfoQ Engineering Culture podcast. We're sitting in lockdown and I'm chatting with Doug Talbot and Michelle O'Sullivan. Doug is an InfoQ editor but has been working deeply in the people space and Michelle, you and I met for the first time today, so welcome.
  • 00:25 And we're isolating 12,000 miles apart, in that I'm in New Zealand and the two of you are in London.
  • 00:33 Michelle, could we start with just a quick introduction? Who are you and why are you here?
  • 00:38 Michelle: I'm a clinical psychologist by trade. Traditionally, clinical psychology is about providing support to people when they're distressed, generally through therapy.
  • 00:48 However, I'm particularly interested in how we can prevent distress and keep people healthy to begin with. So, although I do work therapeutically, my main work is really about trying to keep people safe and healthy in the workplace. I work solely for the rail industry full time thinking about how we can change the way organizations think about and manage health and wellbeing in the workplace.
  • 01:13 Ultimately, I think. When we talk about mental health and work, people often start talking about stress and how things can go wrong. But the thing that I think people often forget is that good work is actually one of the best things for our mental health. It gives us a sense of purpose, something to get out of bed for in the morning. It provides us with a community. So I think if we can create good working conditions for people, essentially we're protecting people's mental health. So that's one of my big passions.
  • 01:41 Shane: Thank you.  Doug, you and I know each other well, but why are we talking today with Michelle and about mental health? What brings you into that space?
  • 01:52 Douglas: Obviously we got Michelle to speak recently at QCon London, where her talk on mental wellbeing had great reviews and we wanted to dig a little bit deeper with Michelle today. And particularly my focus has been on how should we lead and manage teams in the tech industry and particularly connecting to agile thinking, and as we grow these ideas of tribes and squads, and we're getting much more heavily into the sociology and the psychology of how we run our operations and our organizations.
  • 02:23 I felt that mental health was getting a bit of a whitewashing or a very, very thin layer of investigation and where we wanted to go much deeper. So the bit that I really wanted to discuss with Michelle was how can she provide advice and some more in depth tone and dialogue and specifics for how managers interact with their teams and especially agile teams where they're kind of collaborative and in each other's laps all day, every day and trying to interact like that.
  • 02:52 I think that advice more than the classic individual, how do I look after my personal health and safety is what I really wanted to dig into with Michelle.
  • 03:02 Michelle: I've been heavily involved in a large research project in the last two years that's been investigating mental health training for line managers.
  • 03:08 We’ve learned a lot of lessons from that research. So hopefully I can share a few top tips with the tech industry that will make your workplaces a little bit healthier and happier.
  • 03:17 Douglas: Tell us a little bit about that specific study, Michelle, what were you trying to study and what was the result?
  • 03:23 Michelle: Well, I think one of the big things that we see with mental health is an organizations are often really trying to do the right thing, but there isn't much research for what's the right thing actually is.
  • 03:31 The first thing that we did is we looked at what research was already out there and what the core topics are that line managers should be taught. Often when I'm speaking to line managers, they say to me, look, Michelle, I'm not a therapist. Why should I be talking to my team about mental health? And you don't need to be a therapist.
  • 03:48 You don't need to know loads about depression and anxiety. You don't really need to know anything about diagnoses. It's really about how to speak with people and having open conversations and giving people practical support when they need it, but also just creating a safe space and a good culture within your team. Most of it is just about good line management in general.
  • 04:09 What we compared face to face training for line managers and e-learning to no training at all, so it was a randomized controlled trial. And what we found was that this half-day training or the e-learning as well both improve line managers' confidence around talking around mental health, their preparedness to take action.
  • 04:27 Well, one of the things I found quite interesting was that without continuously practicing those skills, they do fade. So this isn't about doing some training and expecting it to be a panacea for how you manage your team. It's really about thinking about how you talk to people and you have to keep talking to people again and again and again.
  • 04:46 And it sounds a bit obvious, but I think sometimes we go on training and we remember it for a couple of days and then we try really hard to put things into practice, but then we kind of slip back into our old way. So it's really trying to embed mental health into business as usual within your teams.
  • 05:01 Shane: We're certainly not in a business as usual state with most organizations today. So, what does mental wellness look like in a suddenly distributed environment? Doug was talking about his focus on the agile environment where people typically have been co-located  and that was one of the things that we spoke about was the need for cross-functional co-located teams, and these teams have now become cross-functional distributed teams, suddenly without a lot of preparation.
  • 05:35 As a manager what do I do to help my team.
  • 05:38 Michelle: That is one of the biggest challenges right now, trying to adapt to these changing circumstances. I do think the tech industry is actually probably better placed than a lot of other industries because people, you know, have the tech to adapt to begin with.
  • 05:50 So it's really about trying to adapt some of our human behaviors. If you would check in with someone at the water cooler X amount of times a day, you need to think, how can you compensate for those physical check-ins? So, for example, within my own team, we make sure that every morning we have a 15 minute call on Teams, which is not really about work, it's just, it's just a social call to touch base and see how people are.
  • 06:17 And that works for us. And I think having that call in the morning can give people a routine for the day. People know they've got something at half nine, so it's not too early, but it's also a reason to get out of bed. So, it helps provide that little bit of structure. And I think one if the really helpful things about having a call in the morning is, although none of us are doing anything too exciting in lockdown, what you often end up talking about is how a person has slept,  and I always think of sleep as being a little bit like the canary in the coal mine because for starters, when you're not feeding too well, it can be one of the first things to go. So people might have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or waking up a lot quite early in the morning, or some people might end up sleeping absolutely loads and sleep is much more socially acceptable to talk about then mental health generally. So, it's really good for how a person is doing.
  • 07:07 Someone might not be comfortable saying, you know what, I'm feeling really, really low today, but they might be able to say, you know what, I didn't get a wink of sleep last night.
  • 07:16 And that kind of gives you permission to start asking questions around how they're doing and how that's going.
  • 07:22 Douglas: One of the things I asked around a few tech managers that I know, and one of the things that they're really interested in is how do we spot mental health or wellbeing issues, particularly in this remote state?
  • 07:34 And that's a brilliant example. Do you have any other signs that you might give us advice as laypeople, how we might spot something going wrong in our teams, particularly now that we don't have that body language and that maybe that day to day or that hour by hour interaction.
  • 07:50 Michelle: I think the key to picking up when something is wrong is noticing what's normal for an individual and what they're not, there's a change in their usual behavior.
  • 07:58 There's no one perfect list of signs and symptoms that you should be looking out for, for any individual. Even when we look at diagnostic categories like depression and anxiety, although you do have questionnaires; as a clinical psychologist, if I'm assessing somebody, I'm going to be taking an incredibly detailed clinical history, potentially speaking with their loved ones as well as using psychometric tools.
  • 08:21 So there's no tick box exercise that you can go through in terms of determining whether somebody might be experiencing mental ill-health.
  • 08:28 So the main thing to do is look at and consider what is normal for the people that you work with and whether or not there's a change in that behavior for them.
  • 08:38 if people in your team, if they're normally,  incredibly introverted, but all of a sudden they're messaging loads and you're having way more interaction with them, that's a little bit unusual for them. So maybe just kind of touch base ask how they're doing. Equally, if you have somebody who's quite extroverted and very chatty and then they become withdrawn, that would kind of be an alarm bell to check in with them.
  • 08:58 Generally, you might expect to see, changes in people's moods. But again, right now in lockdown,  it's really hard to regulate our emotions in the current environment. So I would say we have to give ourselves some allowance for these extraordinary circumstances that we find ourselves in. 
  • 09:15 The other thing that you might often see is changes in people's eating behaviors, so some people might lose their appetite or other people might be eating a lot more. Again, holding in mind that in lockdown, I'm sure a lot of us have been grazing more than we normally would.
  • 09:31 Some people, when they're incredibly stressed out, feel like they can't cope, and so they might withdraw into themselves and they might not do as much work as they normally would. Other people go to the other extreme where they end up trying to do everything. So it's really, really very personal.
  • 09:46 And when people are talking about their worries, I suppose one of the key things that you should ask yourself is, is this a realistic worry?
  • 09:54 So if somebody is quite stressed by the pandemic or what's happening with their loved ones, or someone's sick. That is a very real, very, we don't want to pathologize what is a very normal reaction to an abnormal situation.
  • 10:07 Douglas: You mentioned in the article that we're going to publish, that it's normal to have these emotional reactions, and like you've just said, it's normal for things to change in the pandemic and for us to be naturally focused on real danger.
  • 10:21 How would we spot when the trend has gone from healthy to unhealthy. Is there a barrier we should be considering or how would we know to take more action?
  • 10:31 Michelle: I think that the two things that you should really keep an eye out for is number one, how long the distress is lasting for.
  • 10:38 For things like anxiety and depression, normally you would have to be experiencing distress for over two weeks before a GP would be considered diagnosing you with anxiety or depression, but again, under these circumstances, I think a lot of people wouldn't necessarily give anyone a diagnosis that easily under these really extreme circumstances. I think the only thing that's useful to hold in mind as a comparison point is if you go through a bereavement, so if you go through bereavement and you lose a loved one, you're not going to be diagnosed with depression immediately. It's completely normal to feel incredibly sad and you have to let yourself feel that grief and work through it. It's generally after about six months to a year where we would expect people to start feeding like they're recovering,  you might start thinking, well, maybe they might need a little bit more support.
  • 11:27 I think if you notice that somebody is excessively distressed for a prolonged period of time, and again, during a pandemic, no one has written a book and said, what's the norms of time to be stressed during a pandemic. So there is no magic two weeks or three weeks, but it's how long is the stress going on for would be one thing.
  • 11:45 And the other thing would be how much it's impacting the day to day functioning of a person. For example, if they're able to get up and go to work and engage in  some socializing online and  manage to keep some structure and routine around their life, that's  a really, really good sign.
  • 12:04 Often I would say things around taking care of yourself. Shaving right now I think is a little bit optional. As is  wearing makeup. I personally would never go into the office not wearing makeup, whereas I've been very rarely wearing makeup since lock down, and I'm sure lots of people can relate to that with shaving and whatnot.
  • 12:22 So I guess it's thinking about what is normal for the  circumstances that we're in. But if you notice somebody isn't logging on, or if somebody is missing out on maybe online social events. Not able to take care of themselves quite so well. I think that is when you might want to think about what should you be stepping in and having a conversation with somebody, but ideally you should be having conversations about how people are doing all the time, really routinely.
  • 12:48 It's not when things go wrong that we should be asking people how they are; it's when things are well, that can help prevent the problem from becoming a problem to begin with.
  • 12:56 Shane: And that's a pretty good segue, actually. What does well look like and feel like in a distributed team today?
  • 13:04 Michelle: That's a good question.
  • 13:06 I'm going to ping that back at you guys. So when you're well, what does well look like for you?
  • 13:12 Shane: I feel productive. I feel engaged with the work. Now my work is remote. I've been working completely remote for the last three years, so for me, the transition that's happened through COVID was not suddenly remote. I have a separate office space. I've got a quiet space, I can sit and get stuff done and so forth. So for me, it's that engagement with the work and the regular contact with my colleagues. We, despite being a distributed team, I can certainly recognize some of the things you're talking about in myself at the moment and in some of my colleagues.
  • 13:52 Michelle: Shane, what you said about having regular contact with people, so when you have that regular contact and things are going well, what does that contact look like?
  • 14:01 Shane: Because we're a distributed team and we consciously know that, we actually put aside time for those sort of water cooler conversations you're talking about.
  • 14:08 We also have, as a distributed team, a daily 15 minute catch up. Now we're globally distributed as well, so time zones become a bit of a challenge, but we consciously look out for that. We schedule in social time deliberately. We put aside every couple of weeks at least an hour where we're going to just sit down across a zoom line and chat.
  • 14:34 Michelle: And can I ask you, in terms of the outputs of your work and how you're working together, what does that look like?
  • 14:41 Shane: We're, and this is something that I think we have noticed a bit through the COVID crisis, there have been ebbs and flows, which are normal, but they are exaggerated, in terms of how productive we feel.
  • 14:55 Being an agile organization, we do a lot of pairing together, so we try and find those opportunities to work collaboratively.
  • 15:04 Pairing and mobbing, and most of the time really look forward to those sessions. And I think when I'm feeling stressed, I don't, and that's possibly, you're teasing some things out here.
  • 15:14 Michelle: This is exactly what psychologists do. I'm going to get you to stop asking me questions and I'm going to turn the tables and be asking you all the questions, but I think you put your finger on something really important in terms of our willingness to collaborate when we're feeding well.
  • 15:29 When we're feeling well, we see the world through a bright, positive lens. We give people benefit of the doubt. We think that people will help us, and that good things will happen.
  • 15:39 When we're feeling stressed and under pressure we start to put a lens on that kid ends up having negative thoughts about ourselves, other people, the future. And it can all of a sudden start to feel quite global.
  • 15:52 So when things are working well and you come up against an obstacle, your thoughts will often be, well, if I collaborate and if I share this problem then we can work through it together.
  • 16:02 Whereas when you're not feeling in such a good space, I mean, it's easy to start even feeling,  quite cynical. People won't be able to help me. People are out to get me. They want me to fail. And so that willingness to collaborate, I think is a real sign of the health of the team and being able to engage in that collaborative problem solving and sharing problems, essentially. Doug, what about you?
  • 16:24 Douglas: I think I wanted to take us on to elements of broaching concerns as a manager with your staff. We talked about the fact that in Shane's team there are pairing and there's a specific time for social interaction, and I've seen that in quite a lot of tech teams recently as that they've got that 15 minutes even on a Friday drinks kind of time, or they've got the 15 minutes in the morning like your team, Michelle.
  • 16:49 But it's very hard to sometimes broach a very private or personal conversation about wellbeing with an individual in that situation. And if you don't have a deliberate one-on-one set up every day because you're not going to be able to bump into them in a  COVID situation, what might be a nice way to broach the topic to be able to sit down with that person (in inverted commas) and have that conversation and get into a very potentially difficult space. Do you have any advice how you might be doing that now? I know you've recently taken on management of a team, Michelle, any thoughts about how you're hoping to spot and broach those topics if it comes up?
  • 17:27 Michelle: Well, I think one of the first things that you have to do is model vulnerability as well as modeling coping. So it has to come from you first of all.
  • 17:37 I think sometimes as managers, we feel like we need to be seen as stoic and infallible, but actually it's important to, you know, just as we know that failure is important and how we cope with failure and showing how to cope with failure is really important, it's the same for vulnerability.
  • 17:53 So although. I don't want my team to perceive me as a mess every day.  I do sometimes when we're having our 15 minute calls, I'll let people know if I'm not feeling great, if I've had a bit of a rubbish time and just  talking a little bit about  it.
  • 18:07 I think also when we expect people to talk about their mental health, it's a really big risk sometimes to talk about your mental health. There has been a lot of shame and stigma around mental health, so we can't just expect people to start opening up. We have to work really hard at creating a culture that is safe and one of the most powerful ways to do that is by showing that vulnerability from on top.
  • 18:33 The people who should make themselves vulnerable first are the people on top. Because you have to model again, that sense of safety.
  • 18:41 One of the things that has taken up quite a lot in the UK is storytelling, so people sharing their stories of mental ill health. There's the this is me campaign, the green ribbon campaign where people will record videos of themselves talking about their journey and experiences with mental health.
  • 18:58 I think that goes a really long way to breaking down some of those barriers.
  • 19:03 Sometimes we think that mental ill health is something that happens to other people, that it could never happen to people that we know where people that we work with or heaven forbid us, but when we see people that we admire and people that we respect talking about their mental health, all of a sudden we realize that mental health is something that we all have and that we all go through peaks and troughs, and that we're all going to our own little battles every day, just trying to get by.
  • 19:28 I would say in terms of how to broach, if you're concerned about someone,  how to get that conversation going, I would say, first of all, just make sure that you're putting in the foundation of regularly checking in with people.
  • 19:40 So asking, how are you? Shouldn't come as a surprise.
  • 19:43 Douglas: Is it okay to be able to just use WhatsApp or Slack or something, or do you think that that should be a face to face thing? Now that we're relying on all these communication channels, I think there is a tendency, particularly in the tech industry and our teams, I've seen the introvert come out and people start doing everything via thousands of instant messages.
  • 20:03 And sometimes the video conferencing starts to vanish away except for those very prescribed times. Any thoughts on communicating via those?
  • 20:13 Michelle: I think different people will prefer different ways of communicating, and this is the other key trick of being a manager is that there's no one size fits all for managing different people in your team.
  • 20:24 You have to know individuals and know how they will respond. Some people might find video conferencing quite intrusive and actually feel much more comfortable with the bit of a barrier of instant messaging there. I personally try to do a little bit of a mixture of everything. You know, I'll have some messages during the day.
  • 20:40 I wouldn't invalidate instant messaging. I think it can be a really great tool to just touch base and show someone that you're holding them in mind. Not every conversation has to be deep and meaningful. It just has to show I'm thinking about you.  And I think knowing that somebody is thinking about you can be really, really powerful in itself, but it's knowing that that's not a replacement for conversations and trying to get calls and video calls in can definitely be really, really helpful.
  • 21:06 But the other thing that I would say is if you are concerned about somebody, trying to put explicit time in the diary that you both agreed on to have those conversations is really important. I think we can notice something might be wrong and if that person is in the back of our mind, but if we don't act, if we don't do anything about just that's when it can become a problem. So making sure that you schedule in a time just to have that conversation. You're carving it out for both of you and they know that that's time is about their wellbeing, again, can be incredibly powerful.
  • 21:39 And then in terms of how do you get past the, I'm fine because I think we're all guilty of saying I'm fine when we're absolutely not fine.
  • 21:47 I always find it quite useful to try to hook in to the things that you've noticed. So the fact that you're organizing this conversation means that you've noticed something, and I think it can be really, really helpful to spot the things that you've noticed.
  • 22:01 So it might be something as simple as saying, you haven't seen like yourself.
  • 22:05 That's also quite a nice, safe, neutral one. If you've noticed you're eating 10 doughnuts a day,  it can feel a little bit safer.  You haven't been coming along to the games evenings online that we've been having, and that's not quite like you,  I'm just a bit worried.
  • 22:18 And again, it's that act of being seen. Somebody seeing your distress can be really, really powerful and can help open the door for a powerful conversation.
  • 22:27 Douglas: That gives you kind of the in.  In terms of they're saying, Hey, I'm not in a great place. Any advice for what the manager should do then if they do open up a little bit, what's our next steps?
  • 22:38 Michelle: I think that this is one of the big things that people are scared of: what do I do now? And I would say probably 90% of the time when people are upset, they really don't need anything at all other than a listening ear. So don't be paralyzed by worrying about what to do.
  • 22:55 Listening is doing something, providing validation and empathy. Again, it's really soothing to the animal part of us. You know, when you think about we're social animals and it's our tribes that help us survive.  So when somebody sees  your distress, when somebody sees your pain, it's sending a very powerful message to your brain that your tribe has got you , we're around you, you're safe, and that could be really powerful in itself.
  • 23:23 I would also say that if you do think somebody needs support, first of all, ask them what would they like you to do? And they might say nothing at all and then it's grand. You've just had the conversation. But there might be some practical things, especially as a line manager that you can do and it could be around managing their workload or even a greater control over a project.
  • 23:42 There's lots of kind of quite practical things. I would encourage line managers, if you're concerned around stress within your team at the moment, to consider doing a stress risk assessment.
  • 23:52 Within the UK, we have some legal regulations around stress, and if you go onto the HSE website, they have a stress management standard and quite a lot of useful tools for assessing and managing stress.
  • 24:06 Ideally you'd want to be doing a stress risk assessment with people, and this is looking at things like the demands that are paced and people how much control they have over their job, the support that they have, and it's really systematically going through these domains at work that you can actively influence.
  • 24:24 And it's going through it with the person and trying to identify the points at work that you can both directly influence. So again,  if somebody is having a lot of conflict at home,   you might not be able to do anything about that as a line manager, but if they've got a lot of conflict at home, but they've also got a really the stressful project, it might be the combination of those two things that might be making it especially difficult to cope.
  • 24:46 So it's about trying to think about what are the things that are within your domain of control as a line manager, rather than thinking that you need to have a magic wand where you can solve everyone's problems.
  • 24:56 Douglas: That's an interesting lead in there to the fact that during this COVID crisis, a number of teams, particularly support teams with e-commerce or social large customer bases have had massively increased demand.
  • 25:09 The retail sector and the eCommerce sector delivery sector, I worked at Ocado, which is a massive online supermarket, they got hundreds of times their normal Christmas demand. Teams have suddenly been put under huge amounts of almost 24 hour a day pressure. The NHS being a classic example in the UK and medical stuff around the world, and the people behind those providing all the IT support, their workload has gone through the roof, but there's not been more resources.
  • 25:35 Have you got thoughts on how managers should be watching for overload on their people, and obviously cognitive overload in tech is a big topic, and I think a regular state, even without a pandemic now.
  • 25:47 Michelle: Pressure in itself is not a problem. Pressure only really becomes a problem, generally when it's quite excessive or if it goes on for quite a long period of time.
  • 25:57 So I think for starters, don't underestimate the ability of people to adapt. I think lots of people thrive in a crisis, and although it's not ideal, I think a lot of people will be rising up to these challenges and able to manage it quite well. And I think also, during these times where there's so much instability, one of the most beneficial things that you can do is provide stability through the relationships and the team.
  • 26:25 So we might not know what's going to come through on a day to day basis, both at work and with the pandemic. However, if your team know what they can expect of you and what they can expect from each other. That can be incredibly containing. So I think it's, again, trying to nurture the relational aspect of work.
  • 26:46 In terms of, I suppose trying to manage the cognitive overload, everybody's work is going to be completely different. So it's hard to generalize. But one thing I'd like to point out is this myth around our ability to multitask. We're not really designed to multitask. It's a lie that they've been selling us.
  • 27:04 Every time we think we're multitasking, all we're doing is rapidly switching our attention from one task to another, and that is a really inefficient way to work. So even though we're incredibly busy, we want to try to still carve out time for deep thought.  For starters it can be very protective of our mental health because it allows us to, not feel bombarded all the time, but it also is really important for productivity.
  • 27:29 From my own personal experience,  I've turned off the notifications on my Outlook because every time something pings off, it's diverting my attention, and it's making me feel like I should be doing something else.
  • 27:39 Similarly, when I'm on a conference call I try to make sure that my settings are on do not disturb because if somebody messages me when I'm on a conference call, even if I don't respond to them, my attention is completely taken away from the call and that makes me less productive.
  • 27:54 Shane and Doug, have you guys found anything from your own personal work that has helped with managing that  constant onslaught of notifications?
  • 28:01 Shane: Personally, I try and use techniques like Pomodoro, the timer tomato, where you block aside 25 minutes at the time, literally you set the timer, you focus on one thing and at the end of that 25 minutes, then you look at the distractions and then you bring another one. I don't succeed all the time, but it helps.
  • 28:20 Michelle: And I think it's also good to know when are your most productive hours? You know, some people work better early in the morning, some people work later in the evening, so trying to schedule those deep thought times for the times where naturally you're more productive. I'm an early morning person, , if I have any big task to do, I try to do it first thing before the day starts going all crazy, and by three o'clock I'm like an absolute brain dead zombie, but some people then work in quite the opposite.
  • 28:45 So it's about knowing yourself.
  • 28:47 Douglas: I found that things actually got worse, definitely with the remote working for me.  When I was in an office space, I'd often be physically moving to a meeting and I found it much easier to focus on the conversation I was having with that person face to face. But now that every conversation I'm having with someone is, even if it's video, face to face, is sitting on my laptop; every single notification mechanism, whether it's JIRA or Trello or our CRCD pipeline, or you know, the tech community is full of these things that are trying to grab your attention. And, and I found it has definitely been a lot worse being on my laptop permanently now, and I'm having to try and figure out how to stop some of them coming at me, which has been a change for myself.
  • 29:27 Michelle: Absolutely. And I think as a line manager, it's important to give people permission to turn off some of these notifications sometimes and again, to model that, protecting time to do certain deep  thought activities.  I've had to explicitly tell my team that if you have some task that you want to do and you just want to be offline, I'm not assuming that if you're offline, you're not working, I'm assuming you're doing some deep thinking.
  • 29:51 But I think people often are feeling like they need to have an online presence all the time,  otherwise, they're not going to be seen to be working. So I think it's really important to nip those  thoughts in the bud because sometimes being seen to be working is  some of the least productive work that we're doing.
  • 30:07 Douglas: Yeah. Great. Piece of advice. .
  • 30:08 Shane: This is really powerful and interesting stuff.  Michelle, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. If people do want to continue the conversation, where would they find you?
  • 30:18 Michelle: You can connect with me on LinkedIn under DrMichelleOS, and I'm also on Twitter under drMichelleOS , so if anyone has any questions, feel free to ping me and get in touch and I'll certainly do my best to support.
  • 30:32 Shane: Doug, you have been facilitating a series of articles that Michelle is putting together for InfoQ, do you want to tell us a little bit about the series?
  • 30:39 Douglas: we just wanted to break the problem down into three basic sets of information.
  • 30:44 One is for managers and  the concepts of how can they support their staff.,  we've  focused on five key hints and tips and ideas. And we've provided a bunch of research links and links to things like the health and safety in the UK tools that Michelle mentioned.
  • 31:01 The second article we're focusing on what can you do for yourself and hints and tips and a  series of key items on what should you be thinking about for yourself and your own mental health and wellbeing.
  • 31:11 And the third one we're looking at is what can you do for peers, whether that's manager to manager or teammate to teammate, or even to your family and other people in your community around you. We wanted to look at what can you do for others in those situations that can take it a little bit away from the contractual relationship in a hierarchy.
  • 31:39 Shane: Thank you both so much.
  • 31:41 Michelle: Oh, thanks


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