My Story

You may be working alongside someone who is grieving or caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s or a child with ADHD.

Everyone has a story, here’s mine

It’s true what they say: you never really know what a person is going through.

You may be working alongside someone who is grieving or caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s or a child with ADHD. They may be undergoing fertility treatment, struggling with addiction, experiencing pregnancy loss, going through a relationship break-up or dealing with the menopause. Perhaps, as was the case for me in 2017, their sibling has just been diagnosed with incurable cancer.

I was on the phone to the director of HR when I suddenly downed tools and drove from London to be with my parents who were holidaying in the Forest of Dean.

As my sister’s melanoma journey progressed, I threw myself into my work as a coping mechanism. My characteristic resilience went into overdrive and as far as anyone could tell, I was fine.

Although she stayed with us for another nine months (until December that year), it was then that I started grieving. Grieving the life she would not get to live with her newlywed husband, grieving the moments in her 3-year-old’s life that she would never get to see, grieving my childhood playmate who loved being the receptionist in our make-believe office.

A lot of my colleagues didn’t even know that my sister was ill until one day in 2019 I did something completely out of character – walking out of a meeting, full of pent-up emotion and angst. Aged just 39, my sister had been moved to end-of-life care.

… I threw myself into my work as a coping mechanism.

The ‘shoffice’ (shed / office) in our parents’ back garden is where I worked during the pandemic. It’s also where we played as kids. And so Shoffice Comms is a tribute to my younger sister. And also to my former colleagues whose understanding, care and concern inspired me to set about creating kind workplaces.

It took me two years to make the break from the BBC, two years where Covid stopped the world in its tracks and internal comms became one of the organisation’s most critical functions. Senior leaders wanted to communicate with their staff quickly, clearly and accurately and find ways to keep everyone connected.

I had never been so busy and navigating the pandemic while still riding the wave of grief had taken a toll on my physical and mental health. I was properly burnt out.

I wasn’t the only one. The mental health charity, Mind, claimed that 91% of employers believed the pandemic negatively affected the mental wellbeing of employees.

And then the shift came. Employees started expecting more flexibility and began to challenge outdated policies and practices. I saw that we needed kindness, vulnerability, and humanity in leadership more than ever.

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