Guest: Peter Nicholls
Guest Bio: Peter Nicholls also known as Australia’s People Gardener, in his early 60s Peter establish his own lifestyle mentoring business.
Peter is here to talk to us about Leisure and Workplace Mental Health Management.
Health Professional Radio
Katherine Lodge: Thank you for listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m Katherine and today our guest is Peter Nicholls also known as Australian People’s Gardener. In his early 60s, Peter established his own lifestyle mentoring business and he’s here to talk to us about Leisure and Workplace Mental Health Management. Welcome to our show Peter.
Peter Nicholls: Thank you very much, Katherine. Good to be with you.
K: Now before we get into the workplace and mental health. Something a little bit lighter, can you explain to us why you’re called the “Australian people’s gardener?”
P: (chuckles) It’s a good catchy one. Look on my background is parks and recreation planning. I’ve done a lot good of work with parks managers, on interaction of people with nature in their recreation and use. I mean it’s their favorite place we had, to get out and enjoy our leisure, is to just go out into the bush or parks or somewhere get out and be with nature. And there so much analogy between nature and our own personal growth, and I guess we are actually part of nature, not separate sort of thing. So when you start using words like growth and flourishing and blossoming and all those sorts of nature side thought terms. We can all relate to them so easily with their own lives. And I find people can understand their connection very easily and certainly get the message about the sort of things I talk about like personal growth and all those sorts of things.
K: Oh, alright. Well thank you for explaining that. Now onto the workplace and mental health, now Australian workplaces have changed greatly over the last couple of decades and of course we expect the very minimum is that our workplace provides us not only employment, but a safe space where we can go to work, free of things such as discrimination and bullying and other things that will on our mental health.
K: So yeah. So… yup?
P: In fact the interesting part is what constitutes the workplace now because the days of simply you’ll handling going to say an office or a factory or a shop and that’s your workplace and then your home at the end of the day are pretty much history. Because now with the modern technology, the workplace is anywhere you’re thinking and doing any of your work 24/7 overnight and the mind could be much the core of the workplace wherever you are So that’s being one of the big stresses that people have to face today.
K: Exactly and I’m glad you touched upon that point because that’s something that I wanted to talk to you about. But for people that have the more traditional 9 to 5 or 9 to 6 jobs, where yeah like you said you know, the Monday grind and commuting and things like that. You know when you go to a workplace when it comes to mental health, very often people hide mental health issues from close families and friends let alone their employers for fear of losing their job or which is you know illegal but nevertheless it is the fear that they have. So in terms of the workplace, if people are hiding things anyway and how they truly feel, how do you think a workplace can really help their employees?
P: Look, I love that and I call “Are you okay?” I think it’s very much a question of keeping an eye on each other because you’re quite right. People are good in many particular are not keen to tell others that they’re ill or they’re depressed or any of that issue because it does still have a stigma to that, which they fear for, as you say and I think it’s the aspect which I think you’re referring to is the fact that other people need to take interest to see each other. And as I say, the simple “Are you okay?” and if you sense the answer isn’t quite right and so “Perhaps can we have a cup of coffee afterwards?” It’s a peer thing that it’s even better if the manager thinks that way.
P: The manager can see in his or her self, “Look you know, you don’t seem to be operating too well today. Have you got any problems that are influencing your thinking?” That sort of thinking is very important. My approach, yeah it’s cautious to start looking outside the workplace and that’s where I believe …
K: Right and yeah that’s a good point that you say peers really have to look out for each other and you know pick up on little ques. And a lot of changes such as nowadays some of the larger corporations have a wellness section and they have an officer that looks after the health and well-being of their staff but those are the more larger corporations. And yeah you know, with the whole team building and things like that in the workplace, that surely helps.
P: I think it be done an important point about that the big workplaces where the problems more often lie. In the business side, there are very so much with the smaller organization it might only have ten or fifteen people working, it’s a bit more a family atmosphere where you do get to know each other personally but in the big organizations and in government, it’s much more impersonal and you just only get to see them in the office and you don’t really know much about them except what they do in their job and how you relate to them. I think that’s we’re the issue becomes really important, it’s probably then you start bringing them into teams too because you cannot solve these problems right at the whole organization. You really need to get the team talking to each other and get this team sense which is where some of the stuff I talk about come to because my background is leisure and leisure playing. And it’s really, in fact I have an expression called “Get a life.” I mean we often say ‘get a life’ in a rather derogatory way but in a very positive way, if a manager can encourage his or her staff to enjoy life outside of work and have an interest away from work … the new suggestion of that has a welcoming effect between the staff and the manager. This person’s actually encouraging me to be really be, and you’re strengthening the link between those people. Apart from reaping the benefit if that person has an interest outside and that’s where most of the mental health strength comes from, it’s not so much, well in the workplace there’s not a lot the boss can do because mental health is a very individual thing. And whereas you might be encourage a nice culture where a person can express themselves, it’s really the answer the individual and if the boss then say to the individual member of staff, “What sort of interest you have? A passion in interest that get your mind to working your work altogether and I really encourage you to enjoy those interests whenever you can.” This is win-win situation for the manager and for the employees.
K: Right, I see. And just to finish off, we’ve talked a little bit about the work life balance and prior you made a good point that a lot of people’s workplaces have changed greatly. And sometimes these lines are blurred where they you know and especially people have smart phones now and they’re constantly on their email, things like that. So how can people really switch off?
P: I have a wonderful, I tell people when I get up in front of a group, I say “You’ve got to remove that phone in your hand. Hold it up in the air. Press the off button and leave it off for an hour.” It happens it brings a lot, it brings a very gut wrenching message that you know so much of the use we need to discipline ourselves to use these things at appropriate times and then there are also appropriate times to give ourselves a break and not use them as much as possible. I think that’s a very important message to actually and I think about that they are very available 24/7 but please make sure there are times in the day when you certainly need not where you can actually stop using them, and then you could just switch them off and go away and get out to nature (chuckles).
K: That’s some good advice and hopefully people can work from 1 hour to slowly, maybe even have a whole day of switching off.
P: Can I make one more point on that Katherine?
K: Of course.
P: It’s actually about work life harmony which is energizing that energy in and energy out. That the issue is one of, not so much where you put your time because you can’t deficit budget time. You’ve got 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week. What you can do is if you have an interest which energize you for say even 10 minutes, that can keep your energy going for the rest of the day or if you have a 1 day off where you can do certain things that gives you the energy for the week. You can deficit budget energy because if you don’t, the simple message is that if you constantly burn up energy and don’t generate new energy and then eventually you’re gonna burn out. That’s as simple as that.
P: And what you need to do is to have an interest outside of work that’s gonna generate new energy to cut all the stress.
K: Yeah. Well great advice and thank you so much for your time today.
P: That’s a pleasure Katherine. Thank you.