A coffee with… Lynda Shaw
Communication mentor, conference speaker, and founder of the Neuroscience Professional Development Programme — behavioural neuroscientist Dr Lynda Shaw has dedicated her 25-year-long career to helping organisations embed effective behaviours that lead to business success, with particular focus to employee mental-wellbeing.
A successful entrepreneur, Shaw identified four critical factors driving business success. These factors, reducing attrition rates, implementing effective hybrid work models, embracing diversity, and maintaining resilience in the face of economic challenges, can be achieved by leveraging neuroscience to understand better how people work, says Shaw.
TI sat down with Shaw to discuss the importance of keeping on top of mental well-being and transparency and how she retains that all-important work/life balance.
Why is it so important for leaders and managers to stay on top of their employees’ mental wellbeing?
I think one of the big problems that we have with employers trying to help their staff with mental wellbeing is that they try to be pseudo-psychologists — they can’t be. But they can have empathy. They can have compassion. They can listen properly and hold that person in a safe place.
That being said, one of the reasons it’s so important is because of the amount of people who are on sick leave at the moment with mental health issues. It’s astonishing, and it’s costing industries a huge amount of money.
That’s the business side of it, but of course there’s the humanitarian side too. We don’t want to see people unwell; we don’t want to see them poorly. So, we need to always look out for one another. Always try to notice.
If you’re a caring employer, then it might be a nice idea to say “You’re not yourself at the moment. Can I help in any way?” so that you’re being diligent.
Do you see any patterns or differences between working from home and working in the office, from a mental health perspective?
I think a lot of people prefer working from home because it fits with their lifestyle, with their families, with everything else — but it’s isolating. Because it’s isolating, we start to get a tad nervous about mixing with people again. Psychologically, you know, we are meant to be part of a community. When that we haven’t got that, it can actually be detrimental to our mental health. We have to be very careful that we’re not hiding at home. We need to be careful and very honest with ourselves, look in the mirror and ask, “How much proper human contact have I had this week?”
What kind of technology can businesses integrate to help their teams manage their workloads?
Whatever we’re doing, we need to understand the value of each different person, and that needs to come across. That’s a skill that I think managers should be employing with their people so that we get it, we understand. That person may be thinking very differently to us, but it doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. When it comes to a lot of things in life, is often not a case of right or wrong; it just is.
I don’t think anyone’s getting 100% Right. It’s so dynamic. It’s constantly changing over time. Technology changes, clients change, customers change, the market changes all the time. Therefore, the dynamics of a team need to change accordingly. Businesses need to say, “look, this is what’s going on,” and be very transparent, and very clear in their communication.
So, no company’s got it right because no company is stagnant. And if a company is stagnant, they’ve not got it right either.
How do you recharge?
Sleep is the most underestimated thing we do for our health. Without sleep, all of the other things we do will not happen. It’s absolutely vital. The wisdom is seven to nine hours sleep a night, which is hard for many, but it’s worth working on. A good night’s sleep is definitely my go to.
Last question. What is the secret to the perfect work/life balance
Okay, well, that is a big question. How long have you got?
Let’s face it. The work/life balance is a misnomer, really, because the line between work and your personal life is very vague these days. Work within the parameters that we deliver what we’re supposed to deliver, but also within the area that makes us feel best — bearing in mind the pitfalls of that, for instance working alone — and also enjoying your leisure time, having fun.
Where’s it written with life shouldn’t be fun? I’ve not seen that. We’ve got to lighten up!
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