How are you feeling today? #OurMentalHealthMatters

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Who would have thought, when I joined Schneider Electric 18 years ago, that discussions around Mental Health would become high on the organisation’s agenda?

Who could have imagined, that 10 years ago, me, the colleague who always turned up full of energy and optimism, would one day lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel and fall deep into despair – followed by dark thoughts.

Every task became the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. Getting out of bed was the most dreadful moment of my day, eating became a thing of the past.

I was diagnosed with depression.

My manager at the time, a true and caring leader, knew what to say (and what not to say!). He coached and encouraged me to find my self-help/recovery strategies, paving the way back to good Mental Health. That is when I trained for and ran my first ever marathon! You don’t have to run a marathon to be mentally healthy! But you do need to fill your toolkit with your own personal wellbeing strategies. It’s unique to us all.

Well-being journey at Schneider

In 2015, I had the remarkable opportunity to join the team deemed to co-create Schneider Electric’s Well-Being strategy and philosophy along with our 130,000+ employees through a crowdsourcing campaign, taking a holistic approach and addressing Well-Being from a physical, mental, emotional, and social perspective.

Today, in addition to our holistic approach of Well-Being, we are paving the way to hardwire recovery and care into the organizational structure and accelerate the adoption of New Ways of Working, an initiative empowered by the Global Flexibility at Work Policy, an enabler to hybrid working and to managing our own individual and unique lives.

Our agenda on mental health

2019 was the first year that Schneider Electric globally addressed Mental Health during the United Nations World Mental Health Day (Oct 10th) using the theme “Mental Health in the Workplace”. We smashed the stigma of mental ill-health, acknowledged that we all have mental health and that it’s ok to be not be ok.

In 2020 we addressed “Mental Health for All”, and this year in 2021 “Mental Health Matters”. A way to acknowledge these are extraordinarily challenging and unique times that impact each of us differently. Recognizing that #OurMentalHealthMatters is key to achieve our ambition and fostering an inclusive company culture where everyone feels safe to be their unique self, even at the hardest moments like when we are distressed, anxious, or unable to cope.

Leaving our “problems at home”, especially in a world of working from home is a thing of the past. We must acknowledge that everyone faces their own unique challenges throughout a lifetime. Those curveballs get thrown at us and bad stuff happens!

Tackling the mental health agenda

 We tackle the mental health agenda using 3 key avenues:

  • Understand: We all have mental health, what drives our mental health?
  • Recognize: What are the signs of challenges in self and others. What biases accompany mental health, and recognize the fear of discrimination that accompanies those biases.
  • Act: As individuals, colleagues, managers, and leaders, to make a difference and take courageous steps to self-care (building resilience strategies) and support others.
    Asking “how are you feeling today” sincerely and non-judgmentally is becoming an embedded ritual at the beginning of all exchanges (meetings, town halls, global events).

We have developed internal training sessions to address these three key avenues “Spot the Signs of Mental Health Challenges”, we hold LiveTalks with our Leaders addressing mental health, we invite external experts with whom we have partnered to openly discuss mental health and resilience strategies (Langley Group , FormScore), and right now, we are developing a mandatory Mental Health e-learning for all Schneider employees world-wide (from shop floor to C-Suite) for a kick-off in 2022!

And, the tip of the iceberg, at the beginning of this year we nominated one Well-Being team member to be dedicated full-time to Mental Health in Schneider Electric!

Personally, I have built a bucket load of Well-Being and resilience strategies to help me through the tough times and enlighten the good. I am proud to be a Schneider Electric employee, and grateful every day for the opportunity this organization has given me over the past 18 years of my working career within.

And you? How are you feeling today? What’s right in your life right now? What are your strategies for good mental health?

About the author

Paula Aitkenhead, Global HR, Well-Being PMO at Schneider Electric

Paula began her career in her homeland, New Zealand and moved to France in 1992 with the intention of travelling Europe for 3 years.

Almost 30 years later, Paula is still in France. In 2003 she joined Schneider Electric, and if you ask her “why Schneider?” she will simply respond “because I was attracted to the values of the company”. Her roles within the organisation have been diverse and varied, including executive assistance, communication, industrial design support, company-wide project management, and today she is the Global HR Well-Being PMO. Passionate about the people agenda in Schneider, Paula integrated the global Well-Being team at the time of its build phase in 2015.

She is also a Mum, a runner, and an avid showjumping competitor.

Paula graduated from l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (ENSCI) in 2013. She holds a Specialised Masters degree in “Innovation by Design”, a diploma in Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, and she is a certified Mental Health First Aider.

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