I sit at my desk as I write this feeling lonely.
I saw friends over the weekend and I felt lonely.
I saw my family last week and felt lonely.
I believe these words will echo true with many people in our current day and are even more important with everything that has happened over the past two years and continues on to this day and into the future.
Welcome to Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) here in the UK where the theme for discussion is loneliness.
I have not shared much over the past six to nine months. Once upon a time I would try to share something weekly or monthly and would actively seek to engage in discussion on LinkedIn or Twitter. If I'm honest with myself, this was probably attention seeking behaviour to address the loneliness I was experiencing. I was seeking connection. I've always been seeking connection in some form or another. I can look back now over my experiences and understand that much of my problems associated with mental illness come from feeling disconnected from those around me in some form.
And yet I have spent the past year alone and for the first time in a very long time I am at peace with myself.
I am not here to share secrets or impart wisdom.
I don't really know why I'm here, writing another blog post.
I guess with it being MHAW and this being the two year anniversary of Life is a Four-Letter Word coming out I felt I should do something, especially when the topic (loneliness) is something so close to my heart. It's also probably something to do with my Confirmation of Registration (CoR) next week and realising I'm about to commit to something that can be a very loneliness process for the next three to four years.
I am starting a PhD (assuming I 'pass' the CoR).
This can be an extremely lonely and isolating experience, but can also be incredibly rewarding and worthwhile. I have lived with two different people who have undertaken a PhD and it was incredibly tough on both of them. Time will tell how tough it is on me!
Last year I completed a research project into Mental Illness Stigma within Professional Services. I really enjoyed the process of conducting research and wanted to do more, so started discussions about carrying on the process.
I'll save you the details of the journey here and focus on the topic and why it is of interest to me, and hopefully should be of interest to you as well.
I straddle two very distant and almost anathema topics: Accounting/Finance and Psychology.
My own experiences of mental illness in the workplace got me interested in how I could make a difference. I have had people talk to me about becoming a counsellor/therapist/psychiatrist and whilst that could allow me to help people at an individual level (and is something I will likely do later in life), I want to try and achieve something that could change many lives at once.
PhDs are very much about 'new knowledge'. Researching something new and becoming a true subject matter expert. I already exist in a niche intersection between Accounting and Psychology, so after about two months of searching and realising that I should just 'stick to the knitting', I settled on a topic that I am finally happy and able to share with you.
Organisational Financing and Individual Psychological Outcomes.
As always, let's start with some relatable examples.
Have you ever had a colleague leave your team at work and rather than recruit a replacement immediately, the existing workload was divided amongst the remaining team members? That's a financial decision likely leading increased workload and onto increased stress, burnout and decreased job satisfaction.
How about all those month end reviews and analytics? Are you spending more time answering budgetary questions and justifying decision making than spending time on other matters? That's financial information likely leading increased workload and onto increased stress, burnout and decreased job satisfaction.
What about when you interact with the finance team? If you're seeing the finance team perpetually stress, working long hours, in 'high-decibel' meetings etc, how does that make you feel? Maybe you've never thought about it? How does this change from a larger business to a smaller business? Does it make you worry about cashflow and your wages being paid? Should it?
Organisational Finance (OF) touches all parts of a business as it's a cornerstone for how companies operate. It is pervasive through departments and touches the organisational lives of every member (employee) of the organisation. From a janitor deciding which cleaning product to purchase, to a social media manager applying for budget to run ad campaigns, all the way through to the board of directors deciding to seek investment; OF is everywhere.
Burnout was official classified as a non-communicable disease by the World Health Organisation in 2019 as a syndrome resulting from unsuccessfully managed work stress. There are several other individual level outcomes specifically pertaining to the work environment as well such as Job Satisfaction and Job Insecurity.
So simply put; I am going to be researching how Finance affects levels of Burnout, Stress, Satisfaction and Insecurity.
As much as I wanted to look at general mental health; it would be very hard to differentiate between cause/effect within the work context. Sure, I could consider some correlational evidence, but that would require more data points etc and I only have three to four years. This might be something I consider later on in the process or beyond.
The really interesting part for me is that there is almost no work relating to 'non-shock' financing and it's impact on individual psychology.
'Financial Shocks' are things like M&A, Insolvencies, PE Transactions etc from an intra-organisation perspective, and things like recessions from an extra-organisation perspective. These have been considered and largely speaking, financial shocks are typically poor for the mental health of employees (with negative effects returning to normal after three years), however can lead to better business practices. Below are a couple of eye-opening papers regarding private equity buyouts and mental health that highlight the impact of financial shocks on individuals within the business.
The wellbeing of employees is hugely important to businesses, not only from a retention perspective, but also from a performance and productivity perspective. So whilst I am considering this from an employee perspective, businesses also benefit from improving the lives of employees as well.
So whilst these look at financial shocks, I am going to consider the more static (and less exciting) side of organisational financing and how it impacts individuals within the organisations.
I'm going to be considering various mediators of this relationship, such as Leadership, Structure, Climate and Culture to understand *how* OF affects individuals.
A Life less Lonely
So over the next few years you will probably hear me talk about this from time to time. I will be doing this to connect and feel connection again. Whilst I am lonely and live a life alone, what I am doing connects me to everyone out there who works and experiences the things I care about and am researching. Anyone reading this can connect with me, find out more, be involved and help stop others including myself feel lonely.
I will likely be sharing various questionnaires that you can take part in to help contribute to this knowledge and understanding that could benefit so many.
I will also be using this time to develop a tool to help provide organisations with a 'health check' of employee perceptions. One of the things I learned through my Masters is that perception is different from reality. Organisations as they stand have great insight on what is present within them, but often struggle to identify the differences between how things are and how things are perceived, and I want to do what I can to enable that understanding as it will hopefully allow the creation of healthier and more productive work environments all round.
I will also likely need your help to develop my measures of organisational finance. What questions should I be asking? What should the options be? How should I phrase each question?
Please reach out to me if you'd like to know more and be involved.
A Lone Farewell
The world we live in is one of persistent and present information. We are connected to more people across the world that ever before. And yet we feel further and more distant. You can be in a room of like minded people are feel no connection to any of them because your values and beliefs are different and not present nor on show.
As someone who has almost lost everything a number of times, I can only really share what has worked for me and what keeps me going when I feel alone.
Live in the present; not the future nor the past. Find happiness now, not 'when'.
Live a life of 'could', not 'should'. What can you do? not what should you be doing?
Understand other people lead similar lives and prioritise similar to you. We're all busy.
They're not much but they keep me going and allow me to be happy even when I am living and working alone most of the time.
I look forward to hearing from you all and wish you well on your journey through life.
just another guy