For Wellbeing Month, Proudly King’s co-chair Kirsty McLaren talks about joining, and then getting involved, in a staff community network. Proudly King’s is King’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network, and there are other networks open to all staff including the Race Equality Network, Elevate: King’s Gender Equality Network, Parents’ & Carers’ Network and Access King’s: Disability Inclusion Network.
No matter how much you love your job, your colleagues or the cactus on your desk, work gets stressful and that’s unavoidable at times. People choose all sorts of ways to find positive wellbeing at work, and mine is Proudly King’s.
Originally, I never thought of joining the Proudly King’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network as a de-stress, it was something I was affiliated with, and that’s what led me there. But after meeting so many other members over the years, I realised that sometimes the job isn’t the stress, it’s feeling like you don’t have anyone else you can relate to in your 9-5. When you walk into a network event, there aren’t any assumptions. As a gay person, it can be frustrating when you start a new job and are faced with (very innocent) assumptions about yourself, which often means you must correct people and ‘come out’ multiple times. A network is a refreshing break away from the everyday world, regardless of who you are. Whether you’re in a particular community or not, you’re free to come to events without prejudgement or assumption. Whatever is affecting your wellbeing, there will be a network that will help you feel at home at King’s.
For me, being myself is not an issue, but not everyone is privileged in that respect. Not feeling able to be yourself at work impacts relationships with colleagues, job satisfaction and productivity. Ultimately, it impacts you and your wellbeing. I’ve seen first-hand the impact my own mental health had on my work, and it creates a spiral:
“I can’t do this today.”
“I didn’t do that today, so now I feel anxious.”
“I’m too anxious to do that effectively”
“Well because I didn’t do that all of my colleagues think I shouldn’t have got the job”
“Why did I get the job? I can’t do it. I’m a fraud.”
And so on.
For me, before I learned how to manage my mental health, understand my own feelings (and that they were okay) and accept that I deserved to make time for myself, things didn’t look too bright. I ended up off sick from a job I loved passionately, and still do. At some point you accept that you deserve to live and work in a way that makes you thrive, not just survive. You must accept that you are enough. Whether that is through joining networks, doing sport or whatever exercise makes you feel good, meditating, arts, TV, cooking, whatever it is… you. do. you. There is no right or wrong way to do that, but If it makes you happy then keep doing it and if it doesn’t, then stop. Bring your most authentic self to work. You’ll see that others start to follow suit as well.