Nelson Marlborough Occupational Health Nurse, Jamie McCay, honoured for mental health work
Te Whatu Ora Occupational Health Nurse Jamie McCay has been awarded the University of Otago J R McKenzie (C M Greenslade Memorial) Prize for his work on promoting a mentally healthy workplace.
About the J R McKenzie Prize:
The prestigious prize is awarded to one student each year by the University Council based on the recommendation of the Head of Department of Preventative and Social Medicine. Jamie’s work was recognised as part of his Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Health and Wellbeing.
About Jamie's Mental Health Work:
Creating a mentally healthy workplace is something Jamie is passionate about.
“If someone slips over it’s really easy to see why and look at what we can to do prevent it from happening again. But when someone is having a mental health experience, it’s very hard to put that in writing and put that across without it seeming anecdotal. So how do we express ourselves when we’re struggling in our workplace?”
The solution is multi-faceted, says Jamie.
“It’s about trying to identify what makes a place desirable to work in. That’s looking at the culture, the people and the style of work and making sure that it all flows together – trying to identify how we can support each other and how we can maintain a positive environment for people to work in.”
Jamie's Thoughts on Mental Health:
Jamie sees mental health as part of general health, which means things going on at work and at home play a part in our overall wellbeing.
“You can break your leg at home and still not be able to go to work, so why should we treat mental health any differently? If you’re having a mental health experience or distress at home you might not be able to come into work.”
The Work and Mental Health Relationship:
Work is an important part of wellbeing too, he says.
“Work has a positive impact on mental health, we know that. Studies have shown that across the world. So it’s about making sure our place of work is one of those places that supports mental health. The happier a person is, the more likely they are to promote a happier workplace.”
Jamie's tips for returning to work after the holiday period:
You may have seen or heard about some tips for getting back into work mode. Here are a couple of my favourites. I hope that they make your transition back easier. If you find yourself struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to a colleague or your manager.
1. Allow yourself time to get back into the swing of things
You don’t need to announce your return to work across your entire organisation straight away. Although your team members may know you’re back, take some time, i.e. a couple of days, to catch up on what you’ve missed over the break and get back into your normal work pace, without added pressure from extra demands.
2. Treat yourself on your first week back
Take some extra time and effort to make your workday a bit more enjoyable, such as getting a barista coffee with workmates, or going for a walk during your lunch break.
3. Think about when you’re next taking some time off
Having a rough idea/plan of when you’ll next be taking some time off work can help you not feel overwhelmed and daunted by the thought of being back at work. Having something to look forward to is half the fun of having time off!
4. Keep up a healthy work routine
Don’t feel overwhelmed by a big workload to come back to and feel like you need to stay after hours to keep working. Keeping a healthy work routine is key to sustainability.
5. Don’t get too stuck in the work routine
In saying the above, a key to not feeling like a cog in the wheel and feeling fresh is to switch up your routine a bit. Take a different route to work, park in a different car park, or take a different lunch break time. Small switch-ups to our constant routine has been proven to help keep your brain active and could lead to unexpected opportunities!
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Everyone struggles with the back-to-work blues or struggles with the transition, it’s normal. Don’t beat yourself up if things take longer to get done or you feel like forgotten how to do some things - it might take a while for everyone to readjust!
What's next for Jamie
Jamie will be putting his prize winnings towards his Masters on creating a mentally healthy workplace which he will be completing through the University of Otago.
His masters will focus on key areas including the five ways to well-being, workplace support and Te Whare Tapa Whā. Jamie will begin research for his masters next month, but in the meantime he is delighted to have been recognised for his work thus far.
“I am honoured to have had this work recognised. I see this as recognition that what I am doing as the Occupational Health Nurse is a step in the right direction in supporting our staff and Te Whatu Ora - Nelson Marlborough,” he said.