Chris Cowcher, Head of Policy and Communications shares his experiences as part of National Work Life Week

This week is National Work Life Week, an initiative of Working Families, (the UK’s national charity for working parents and carers), which aims to get both employers and employees talking about wellbeing at work and work-life balance.

Today our Head of Policy and Communications and part of the Senior Leadership Team, Chris Cowcher shares how important mental wellbeing is to achieve a positive Work – Life balance.

Chris on a site visit to Capel Dewi Community Shop.

I shall start by saying that my home life is my priority, always has been and always will be. I need to be at the top of my game for my family when I’m not at work. When the balance has tilted the other way and I’m giving more to work than my mind and body can afford to offer, it has impacted me (and them) hugely.

Laying my cards on the table, I have lived with depression for most of my adult life. I am very aware of how my mind functions and in the main the impact of my depression is something I can live with, with therapeutic approaches – fitness, meditation, mindfulness exercises, talking therapies etc. – working in the main. But in the past couple of years these tried and trusted coping mechanisms just haven’t been firing for whatever reason, and my approach to work has certainly been a contributory factor.

I hope that by using National Work Life Week to take stock and share my story I may help others to rethink how they are coping right now.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to be employed by organisations with values I fully subscribe to; this has been hugely motivating for me to genuinely give everything I can to my role. I love the work that I do but I have struggled mentally, and I want to say to my colleagues and professional networks that it is okay to not be okay.

I will never be ashamed of saying when I have found things hard, even when the experience of living with poor mental health can be incredibly isolating. Despite how I have been feeling, I have continued to work and contribute to as much as I can to an array of projects. The motivation of being a part of the community-owned business movement is what drives me on, and I will forever try my best to represent the interests of this growing network in all that I do.

My employer, Plunkett Foundation does offer a flexible approach to working and it makes me so proud to see how colleagues have benefitted from the policies we, as a Senior Leadership Team, have put in place. I am sorry to say that in the past I have not utilised the policies as fully as I should, and this has been to my detriment. I know that getting the balance is critical because when we are on top form at home, we are more likely to be able to bring the best version of ourselves to work.

Where I had got to was; I was tired from not sleeping, emotional because of my fatigue and frustrated that my mind was stuck on ‘negative’. But I have taken control and redressed my own work-life balance. I am committed to taking my lunch breaks, saying no to tasks that are not a priority at the moment, and being very strict that I leave the office on time for those activities that benefit me and my family. I am pleased to say that, for now at least, it is working.

I am fully aware that my mental health will need further adjustments to be made in future, and I will address these openly when the time is right. For now, on we go!

If I can encourage you to do one thing this National Work Life Week, then let it be proactively speaking to your colleagues about their mental health. Asking how someone *really* is can be hugely empowering for a colleague currently managing their health on their own. Too often support is offered in reactive terms – “my door is always open” etc – to foster more positive wellbeing at work we need to be proactive in how we speak about mental health and in the support we offer.

How are you engaging with National Work Life Week? We’d love to hear your experiences and share how the community-owned business network foster a positive work life balance. Visit the National Work Life Week website to find out more and contact with your stories.

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