Many people ask me why I started a web design business. Discussion around mental health, whilst taking on more prominence in recent years, still seems tokenistic. Employers, the media and organisations pay lip service through articles, policies and wellbeing initiatives, but many people I have spoken to who have experienced anxiety, depression or other stresses either through personal or work related circumstances have discussed how ill equipped their employers were to cope with the situation. There are organisational attempts to tackle mental health issues but when it comes to the individual it’s a different matter.
Sure, many companies speak about employee wellbeing and offer counselling services with a bells and whistles policy that seems to tackle the issue head on, but when faced with an employee who has an actual mental health problem that directly impacts upon their performance at work, the de-facto seems to be dismissal for misconduct or dismissal on the grounds of poor health.
It’s an enormous waste of talent and resources and as our country faces a real mental health crisis, most recently evident in the suicide of Caroline Flack, it’s about time employers and businesses start to recognise that mental health is an illness alongside any other and that with the right support and understanding, an employee, rather than facing the loss of their job and career, can and should be supported to minimise further damage to their mental health and wellbeing, thus leading to a more productive, loyal and happy employee in the long term.
So why did I start my own business? I have been building websites for twenty years but only recently went back into web design as a full time business precisely because my employer could not support my wellbeing. In an organisation that shouted from the rooftops about mental health and being a leader in this area, they failed to support me when I was stressed, anxious and facing a myriad of issues at work that directly impacted not only upon my mental wellbeing but also upon my physical health.
Gone are the endless attempts to navigate my way around IT systems that were too complicated for even the most experienced managers to understand, gone are the endless meetings listening to unattainable targets due to the failure of the senior management team and government to recognise that not one size fits all and gone are the comments about my weight, diet, appearance and maverick nature by a manager who should have known better.
I love building websites. It is my passion. And if the experience of my last employer has taught me anything, it is that where your health is concerned, no job is worth sacrificing your wellbeing for and I am truly grateful to them for forcing me down a path where I can have the freedom and creativity to do what I do best – think for myself, care for myself and live for myself.