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DIAL Global Summit: Leaders must not forget to check in on their own mental health

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Leaders must not forget to check in on their own mental health. Photo: Dial Global Summit
Panellists on the 'Are you taking care of yourself?' session. Photo: Dial Global Summit

CEOs and others in leadership positions at companies who are working hard to implement wellbeing programmes must take stock of their own mental health to avoid burnout, said panellists at the Dial Global Summit.

The Dial Global Virtual Summit, held on 22 and 23 September, is a gathering of global leaders who discuss how they are prioritising actions over words across facets of diversity. They will be talking about tangible strategies and steps that can be taken to make real, measurable progress in creating equality in workplaces.

“I went though my own burnout and with that under my belt I know how easy it is to fall into the abyss,” said Astrid Sundberg, global director of diversity and inclusion (D&I) at startup Oda.

“One of my learnings is its important for leaders to have trusted friends and mentors that they can talk to. Often, we run these well being programmes and initiatives but forget to take care of ourselves.”

She said having honest dialogue with a trusted person or network when feeling overwhelmed is critical.

She also added that in male dominated teams there can be silence around mental health as male colleagues can sometimes find it harder to admit to their struggles.

But she said: "As leaders we are looked up to and we have this power to de-stigmatise talking about mental health and and create a better layer of transparency around this taboo.”

She said many leaders are “still treading water without looking down” as the pandemic continues to take a toll on businesses, and, as they taking care of colleagues as well as family and kids, compassion fatigue can set in.

Read more: Flexible working during the pandemic hugely beneficial for those with disabilities

Sundberg said she was happy to know the CEO of her company was able to take the time for paternal leave despite running a unicorn startup, and that her manager encourages setting boundaries such as not being available when on holiday.

Charlene Oke, senior D&I partner at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, said during the pandemic there has been a shift in terms of overworking no longer being glorified.

She also said the pandemic has allowed all of us to "embrace family life and not to shun away from it and integrate it into working.”

“Having a meeting with a child popping in is normal now, it's how things are and I think it needed to happen.”

Jill Hughes, a managing director at Accenture (ACN), said this was actually a great way of "humanising our interactions."

She said when you see a colleague in their home environment, “you see the whole self of the person rather than just a professional persona” and this can help push forward conversations around personal struggles.

She also said in the midst of the lockdown, Accenture's CEO of UK and Ireland Simon Eaves "made a big plea to all leaders said its really important you put your own oxygen mask first."

His advice was leaders need to make sure they are in a good place before they can be helpful to anyone else.

Watch: How to prevent getting into debt

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