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Mental Health for Interim Managers: staying resilient when the going gets tough

Interim managers face a particular set of challenges in their employment. On assignment they face long working hours, high-level stakeholders, steep targets and deadlines. When not on assignment, we know the uncertainty can be challenging too. Toni Hall, Director of Public Sector Executive Interim, looks at the practicalities of managing your mental wellbeing as an Interim manager.

Being a senior interim manager presents unique challenges. For those of us who are employed in permanent contracts, we have access to a range of benefits that interim managers do not. Holiday pay, sick pay, pension contributions, corporate wellbeing initiatives and employee assistance programmes to name a few. All this supports permanent employees through other issues that life can throw at us, such as periods of depression, or when we are struggling with our mental health.

Many interim managers enter that world of work knowing that they will not have access to the same benefits that a permanent employee does, and that is a conscious choice. But that doesn’t mean interim managers are immune from the worries and concerns that life can bring.

As a business which really cares about our network, we wanted to make sure that our interim managers have some of that pastoral support and have a place to feel listened to, especially as the last year has been so hard for many of us.

What causes interim managers anxiety?

We recently offered our network the opportunity to attend and participate in a mental health webinar (the first of many), in partnership with the Inclusion Initiative. A heavily subscribed session, we asked them what makes them feel stressed or the things that have affected their mental health.

Trying to secure their next assignment, and the gaps between roles was high on the list. Being expected to be on their ‘A game’ from day one, and every day of that assignment caused anxiety for some. Interims can be perceived to be highly paid, and clients rightly want to get the value out of the day rate – so it can feel like no ‘off days’ are allowed and that can add to stress.

Some reported a major strain is a client having unrealistic time expectations or a lack of understanding of the complexity of the challenge afoot. Many have felt isolated, and not having an established colleague support network when on assignment can add to that feeling of isolation.

Another understandable stress is money. Interims are expected to attend interviews for numerous roles, so it’s tough when roles are cancelled due to lack of funds, or worse, candidates get no feedback at all. This list is not exhaustive, but it can all impact on mental health.

How can you combat these stresses?

So with all those feelings being amplified over the last 12 months, what steps have our network taken to look after their mental health?

Exercise, going out for walks, and taking breaks was top of the list. Setting out a clear assignment plan and managing that with their client was another much quoted solution.

Many found it was important during assignment gaps (which can be months at times), to keep a structured timetable to their weeks. Getting dressed properly. Setting to-do lists each day. Setting up virtual coffee mornings with a trusted peer. Planning in meetings with head-hunters to keep abreast of the market. Undertaking a course or professional qualification, and keeping up with their professional development. All this contributes to ensuring a sense of purpose each day, a key facet of mental wellbeing.

Each of these actions work towards maintaining a sense of wellbeing and keeping mental health in check.

A final word from me

I’ve one to add to the list – do something every day to make yourself smile 😊. I’ve started building in time to go for a walk, and take a seaside snap, every working day. I return to my desk feeling that my purpose and energy have been refreshed.

We pride ourselves on our supportive approach to interim at Penna. Our interims do incredible work on assignment, on the front line of many key services. Our door is open to all in our network for a confidential conversation about anything that’s on your mind.

If you are an interim manager and need support, please feel free to contact us.

Toni Hall is Director of Penna Public Sector Executive Interim


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