Jordan Argiriou, Director, Service Solutions APEC at QIAGEN talks with Sarah about how to normalize a focus on mental health in the workplace, how to grapple with varying comfort levels, and how to navigate cultural differences around the topic.
Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. Very excited for today’s episode. I even, for those of you watching the video, wore a shirt specific to our topic today. Today, we’re going to be talking about one company, QIAGEN specifically, focus on employee mental health. I’m excited to welcome to the podcast today Jordan Argiriou, who is the Director of Service Solution for APEC at QIAGEN. Jordan, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast!
Jordan Argiriou: Hi, Sarah. Thank you for having me.
Sarah Nicastro: Thank you for being here. So before we dig into the topic at hand, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself. Anything you want to share about your background and your role at QIAGEN.
Jordan Argiriou: Sure. So I guess initially my background consisted of studying to become an IT engineer many years ago. I then decided to move away from that and get into field service, which was something that I was always interested in, even from an electronics point of view, IT point of view. So I began at a couple of smaller companies, eventually moving onto Thermo Fisher Scientific, who acquired a company that I was working for here. Stayed there for quite some time, and then eventually joined the team at QIAGEN, and haven’t looked back since.
Sarah Nicastro: Cool. Now, tell us about the scope of your responsibility at QIAGEN.
Jordan Argiriou: Sure. So in the role right now, I’ve got a team of service managers reporting to myself. In addition to that, there are back office functions and technical service functions as well. Literally based all around the region. They are scattered around all of southeast Asia, Australia. We have more of the mature markets. We have a lot of the emerging markets as well in developing countries. So quite a complicated region to be in because, in some areas, you’re dealing with very mature, very focused groups in terms of even customer base, other areas. It’s still developing. We’re still creating awareness, and trying to get their buying into service.
Jordan Argiriou: So it’s actually quite an exciting role, quite an engaging role. Within the team, there are approximately 65 field service engineers in the field, and amongst other activities that we do. So it is quite a complicated role as in having to manage field work and how they operate and function, and then also having to manage the back office functions. Especially during COVID, it’s been a really fun ride, so to speak.
Sarah Nicastro: A wild ride.
Jordan Argiriou: A wild ride, yeah.
Sarah Nicastro: All right. So, Jordan, the first time that you and I spoke, it was an introductory call, and so we did our, “Hi, I’m Sarah, here’s what I do.” “Hi, I’m Jordan, here’s what I do,” and we chit-chatted about some of the different things you’re working on and things that are relevant to your role. And then I said, “So if I were to have you as a guest on the podcast, what would you want to talk about? What’s the topic you’re most passionate about?” And your answer was mental health, which I was super, super excited about, but a little bit surprised about as well.
Sarah Nicastro: So I’m pumped to have you here talking about this topic today. It’s something that I think is super important, and something that I personally am a strong advocate of de-stigmatizing and normalizing more in our everyday conversations, particularly in the workplace. So tell us to start why this is the topic that came to mind for you that you were passionate about talking about on our podcast today.
Jordan Argiriou: Sure. I remember the discussion very well. We were talking about just general service and everything else. Your third question of “Tell us about yourself and the company” and everything else, and what I do, typically, all of us will pretty much give a similar answer as to our daily operations. The reason I highlighted mental health, I think, especially at that point, for me, with the COVID impact onto this industry and every other industry globally, this is the first time in our lives we’re experiencing a global pandemic like this, which has really obliterated the traditional view of how we do things. And that’s in every aspect of life.
Jordan Argiriou: The reason mental health is something that I’m quite strong about and something that I really focus on is purely because during this time, looking at our media and just speaking for people in general, and it could be someone at the supermarket, it could be in your professional world, it could be anywhere, mental health is something I think that right now is not being neglected, but people are trying to put to the back because they’re dealing with something that’s right in front of them and challenges that they’re facing every day.
Jordan Argiriou: So, for me, switching that back to the professional world, you’ve got field service engineers in the field, you’ve got tech service representatives in our offices, and trying to get to and from work. On top of what’s going on, they’ve also got to tackle their own mental health side and worry about specific lockdowns, not seeing family for an extended period of time, and things like that. Which, overall, has an impact on their daily function, and also their own personal mental health. And health overall. Because, for me, if the brain is not right, if your feelings aren’t right, then nothing is really going to be right with what you’re doing day-to-day.
Sarah Nicastro: Right. That makes sense.
Sarah Nicastro: So COVID and some of the things that have happened in the last year are what really put an emphasis on the importance of this conversation and this focus in the workplace and in your role. What are some of the ways that you as a leader of teams, and even you yourself, how have you reacted to the recognition of this becoming a more critical focus area?
Jordan Argiriou: I would say for me, personally, it has been a highlight of something … And obviously from my accent, you can all tell that I’m from Australia. It is quite a big topic here for many years and many generations. And, look, I’ll be very open. Coming from a European background where emotion isn’t something that you just lay on the table for everyone to see. It’s a bit different, especially my father’s generation and others. Right now, for the past I guess five years in Australia, it has been quite a hot topic because of high mental issues that have happened amongst especially young men, and something that is quite critical, the high suicide rate amongst young men and even women. But in Australia, it’s mostly young men that suffer from mental health issues purely because people aren’t really talking about it.
Jordan Argiriou: So when I saw that starting to arise, you start to think of your own mental health. You start to think of, again, if I was in the field, or if I am in the field, as a sales rep in the field having to deal with everything that’s going on in the world … And I guess COVID highlighted it immensely. That there are so many balls you’ve got to try and juggle, plus meet your commitments in the workplace and at home.
Jordan Argiriou: So, for me, that was a huge focus as well. There’s a lot of burnout that happens amongst people, and people don’t really see it. I guess it’s not really discussed quite often. It’s certainly something that you put up as a KPI, and something that you try and focus on, and try not to have people burn out, but I guess from a professional perspective, depending on the culture you’re from or depending on the country you’re from as well, it depends on whether you would be so open to talk about it, too.
Sarah Nicastro: So I think that when you talk about the impact of this last year, and everything that’s happened, I don’t think we’ve even begun to see how that will play out in terms of mental health, and just processing those emotions. It’s impacted us all in different ways, but it’s impacted us all, right? And I think, to your point, there’s a certain tendency, I think, to focus on the crisis at hand and to just “Okay, what do we need to do?” Kind of in survival mode, quite frankly, and I think that as we come out of that, there is going to be a whole host of things that really need to be dealt with. So I think it’s smart and beneficial to start the process of let’s have these conversations now, let’s start talking about these things now, and let’s know that this impact is on everyone, and we need to address it.
Sarah Nicastro: I think the other thing I was going to say is that the point you brought up about young men in Australia, and those statistics. I’ll be honest in saying one of the reasons I think it surprised me that this was a topic that you wanted to talk about is because I don’t have people beating down my door to talk about mental health on this podcast in general, but the conversations we have had around it have been myself and another woman. And so I think that it is a very valid point that mental health overall is not discussed enough, but when it comes to how mental health can impact men, it’s discussed even less so. And I think it is very important to understand that it impacts everyone, and that folks like yourself in roles like you are in industry and things like that leading these conversations has a huge impact in reaching people and making people feel more comfortable talking about any challenges they may be having. So that’s why I’m glad we’re here having this chat.
Sarah Nicastro: So you recognize overall that this is an issue, but then COVID hits, and it’s significantly more so. So what advice can you give on … How have you taken that information and that understanding and turned it into action? So what are some of the things that you as a leader have done in reaction to that recognition?
Jordan Argiriou: Look, I think initially it is sharing a lot more from my side to my team. So direct reports. And I’ll give you a really good example. Whilst we’re in this Zoom era of Zoom and whatever else we’re using, Teams, and I’m not speaking brands here. Typically, everyone is on Zoom, everyone is on camera like you and I are today, and this is quite a common thing now. I think we’ve lost that personal feel of sitting down in the room and picking up certain cues, or … How do I put it? Just a general feel of where someone is mentally while they’re talking to you.
Jordan Argiriou: So as a really good example, and I’ll be very open about it, typically in Asia-Pacific, it’s not quite often that someone will share emotion on a camera or share a feeling on a camera as to how they’re really feeling about a certain topic or a situation. So not being able to sit in the same room as someone and pick up on those cues has made it really difficult to really communicate in this way.
Jordan Argiriou: So I think the first thing for me and what I started doing was to openly communicate with people, and share from my side challenges that I’m facing professionally. And I guess you’re venturing into the realm of your personal area, especially, as everyone or most people will know, Australia was put into quite a strict lockdown very early on in this whole piece. Obviously, we’re an island. We try to keep everything contained.
Jordan Argiriou: So from my perspective, it was very quickly around us. The walls were closing in. We had home schooling going on and everything else, and you’re trying also to work at the same time, and dealing with different time zones, et cetera. To avoid the burnout, you’ve got to openly talk about it.
Jordan Argiriou: So some of the strategies with my team, and it wouldn’t be an agenda item, but it would be in the way I engage with them, it wouldn’t be so much the professional chat of, okay, let’s talk about your numbers, let’s talk about your KPIs. Let’s talk about what’s happening in the field and customer issues. It would be all of that, obviously, but then on top of that, in between, you throw in “And this is what’s happening here, and what’s the situation there?” And you start to ask questions about “How are things going on your side? Forget about the professional side. How are things with your personal situation? Is everything okay?” Recognizing certain critical issues that may be in the background that they don’t want to talk about.
Jordan Argiriou: From those conversations, it then leads onto their direct reports. So certain situations will arise. They may bring something up. As an example, we had a situation where a staff member was a little bit hesitant in going back home after being in the field in certain labs, purely because of what they’re testing, and with COVID in the air. And we had to make arrangements for that person that were suitable for them to have a happy home life. So that would bring that to the forefront.
Jordan Argiriou: And then obviously with your direct reports, you would quickly flip it over and say, “Look, is everything okay on your side? Are we handling things?” The point I’m making is you break down that initial barrier of resistance, or the fact that they’re trying to tell you that everything is fine. Once you get through that, the conversation then becomes much more fluid, and then the next time you catch up, it seems to be that that’s the first thing you’re talking about. “Hey, is everything okay at home?” “Hey, is everything okay with” even your commute to work. Things like that. Small changes you make to the way you conduct yourself in one-on-ones and the way you steer the conversation, and picking up on cues via Zoom, which is extremely difficult, like I said.
Jordan Argiriou: Because, typically, you get a vibe from someone. You can feel it in the air when you’re sitting there and you’re talking about a difficult topic. You can really see it. You can see it through body language. You can see it through their tone. On Zoom, it’s a little bit more difficult. We have a lot of digital voices going on. We have noise cancellation, so you don’t get to hear the background of what’s typically happening in their world.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And so there’s a couple points I want to touch on. One is I think that your point of leading by example. The best way to start having the conversations is to start having the conversations. And so you said in the circumstances you’re used to, people don’t necessarily share feelings or emotions. It’s all kept very structured and professional. So if you break that mold, and you are a bit vulnerable, then you open the door for people to do the same thing.
Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely.
Sarah Nicastro: So I think that that’s one important point is that, even if it’s not completely comfortable, if you can lead by example talking about some of the things that people might not typically be comfortable talking about or being vulnerable in ways that isn’t necessarily the norm, it allows people that are maybe having some challenges or need some help or want to voice certain concerns to feel more comfortable doing that.
Sarah Nicastro: The other point that I think is really important is when you talk about cues. I’ve admitted on social media before I have pretty significant anxiety, I have depression here and there, and I’ve struggled with those things most of my life, and so I know very well that a lot of times when you’re struggling, you’re least likely to reach out. It’s when you’re having the hardest time that you’re least likely to ask for help. So as a leader, I think it’s important to understand that, no matter how you’re welcoming or think you’re welcoming that outreach, if you’re waiting for people to flag that to you, you’re probably missing a lot of what’s going on. So I think that point about looking for those cues and following up on them.
Sarah Nicastro: I think that if you have good intentions, the worst you’re going to do is follow up on a cue that you read wrong, and someone is going to be like, “No, really, I’m fine.” And you say, “Okay, great.”
Jordan Argiriou: Yep. Yep. Absolutely.
Sarah Nicastro: But you can’t just expect it to all flow out to you. You really do have to dig around a bit to see what’s going on with your team, and where there might be some struggle.
Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely. And I guess part of picking up on the cue is, quite often, as you just mentioned before, people who struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues such as that quite often will want to tell you, and quite often will want to say, “Hey, you know what? I am struggling with this.” Even if it’s on the professional side.
Jordan Argiriou: The tricky part is when it comes to language barriers. Obviously, different cultural cues, especially in APEC. We’re obviously extremely diverse around this region. As I said earlier, you have countries which are extremely mature, others which are emerging, but then you’ve also got the language barriers. As an example with a country like Korea where English is not an easy language for someone with a Korean-speaking background to grasp and to express themselves in, and it’s not very commonly in everyday life. It’s not like you see English everywhere in Korea, whereas you do in other countries like Singapore, et cetera.
Jordan Argiriou: So trying to pick up those cues from them, and also trying to break that initial barrier. It’s not just a barrier. It would be that the makeup of the person is to say, “You know what? I’m fine. I’m all good. I’m going to continue on.” But once you push past that, and I think part of it as well, as you said before, when you normalize the discussion and you start to have that discussion with someone every time you speak to them … And not to bring it up and say, “Hey, how is your mental health?” Or “I heard you’re struggling.” It’s just opening it up slowly, and then finally getting to the point where you’re very comfortable in saying, “You know what? I am struggling. I need some help.”
Jordan Argiriou: And “struggle” is not the best word to use, but “I am experiencing a bit of an overload at the moment,” and once you get to that point, it’s so much easier to manage the situation because, even from a professional perspective, you can delegate the work elsewhere. You can help them. You can add resources into their team. I can take things on that they’re not comfortable with that I am comfortable with. It just makes it a lot easier.
Jordan Argiriou: I guess the other side as well is opening it up to an entire group within your team meetings, and this is something that I have to give credit to one of my very first … He was actually the director of the company, but it was a very small business, and we dealt with him daily. Every Wednesday, he would have a round table where you would sit in a circle in the middle of the shop floor so to speak. That’s what we call it here. And you’d have the techs, the accountant, the CEO, you’d have everyone in there, and you would just openly talk about whatever you wanted. It could be literally something extremely ridiculous that you just wanted to say. It could’ve just been a joke, but it was just opening up and breaking down that initial barrier.
Jordan Argiriou: And I remember when I first started with the company, I was sitting in that chair going, what am I going to talk about? I’m quite young. I’m still new. I’m having a great time in life. And then you start to get into it, and it actually makes it a lot easier as you get older. And, literally, I will give credit to that for keeping it in the forefront of my mind when it comes to managing a team.
Jordan Argiriou: So, yeah, that was my first experience with it.
Sarah Nicastro: I like that, too, because the examples you gave it was cross-functional, right?
Jordan Argiriou: Yes.
Sarah Nicastro: So it’s not just giving people the forum to speak freely, but you’re also opening it up team to team and department to department so that people can learn about other things that are going on within the company, whether that’s function-related, or person-related, or what have you. It helps the whole group get to know each other better. You may feel more comfortable for whatever reason going to someone outside of your team, so you’re nurturing those relationships in a way where you’re expanding the network of the support people have.
Sarah Nicastro: I think that’s a good point. People in certain roles have become very isolated over the last year, and I can speak for myself saying I’m on the phone all damn day. I am literally on this video conference probably six, eight, nine hours a day, but that doesn’t always mean I’m connecting with anyone. You know what I mean? There’s a lot of days that it feels like I am exerting energy but I’m not necessarily having a connection that makes me feel like, yeah, I could’ve opened up here.
Sarah Nicastro: So it is a whole different world in which to try and provide an experience like what you’re talking about when you can all sit in a room, but I think it’s very important to try, right?
Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely.
Sarah Nicastro: I want to go back to one of the points you made about … We’ve touched on that there are some cultural, regional, even gender-related differences in the comfort level around this topic, how discussions are approached, how open or not people are wanting to be. But I know that you and I both believe that, regardless of those differences and any hesitancy that may be there, it’s important to continue to figure out how to lead these conversations more into work/life so that people can become more comfortable. So, as someone that deals with a lot of those cultural and regional differences, et cetera, what’s the best advice you have on navigating this topic with someone who is less comfortable or less receptive to discussing it?
Jordan Argiriou: For me, as I said earlier, it’s all about introducing it into the, say, a one-on-one discussion initially, right? As a good example, you’re never going to get someone who is already a little bit, I guess, maybe new to the role or anxious in their everyday life … They’re never going to open up, even on a Zoom, into a group full of Zoom attendees. Even if you’re making it completely normal, and everyone shares. There’s always going to be the person who, for whatever reason as you just mentioned … It could be a cultural difference, it could be a personal thing, but I think you’re never going to get them to really open up in that room without already setting the scene in a one-on-one.
Jordan Argiriou: Look, one-on-ones can go one way or another. Sometimes you have to have difficult discussions in one-on-ones about professional side and whatever else. However, you need to make time in that one-on-one to also have a discussion about … Just generally, as I said before, opening it up slowly through that avenue, sharing things about your own personal life, and it doesn’t have to be specific details about personal life or a specific area of it. Just in general, “You know what? Today, they announced that they’re going to lock us down for another three weeks,” or “I got some bad news through a friend,” or whatever else. You start to open and share that. That person on the other end will start to then … This is just from my perspective, but it’s actually worked, will start to then relate to you have certain things that they can share as well, and they will slowly start to open up.
Jordan Argiriou: Once that happens and you recognize it, you then do introduce it to the group setting. Literally, one of my gender topics is the health of the team in our group sessions. And, obviously, we discuss things like who would be a potential flight risk and things like that. However, within that discussion, the health of the team is also about the health of how they’re feeling in the field. Are they comfortable going out to an area that is now in the third wave, as an example? Are they comfortable talking about things with customers? Are they comfortable opening up to their manager who is on that call with me, and telling them “I have some genuine issues that I need to address from a personal perspective,” or from wherever else? I think that once you open that up, and now that we’ve added it as an agenda topic, it’s actually become an easier conversation to have with your team because they will now bring it up. When I have one-on-ones, I don’t have to prompt anything anymore.
Jordan Argiriou: I think, look, the cultural differences are very difficult to tackle, and especially because we can’t be together physically, and it’s all via Zoom. It is quite hard. Everyday business, we’re used to it now, it’s become part of life. But, initially, it was quite tricky to navigate. So this is where we are today, and it’s actually working quite well.
Sarah Nicastro: Good. So I wanted to ask, Jordan, what has the feedback been, and I don’t mean in specifics, but just generally speaking, from your team and their teams in terms of making this a priority? Have you had anyone that has acknowledged the emphasis on this outright, or is it just measured in the ease with which the conversations happen now versus when you started focusing on this?
Jordan Argiriou: Without going into specific areas, in some areas, there has been a very strong acknowledgment of the support that’s being provided and the mental health initiatives that the manager themselves has undertaken for their team. And even without calling it mental health, just the general initiatives that that manager has taken, subconsciously thinking of the mental health side.
Jordan Argiriou: And I think that’s another thing. I think people are much more comfortable having a discussion in general without putting that banner on it. So, obviously, that is something that is quite critical to everyone, both personally and professionally, and to a lot of companies in this world. However, I think when you put that banner on, people start to freeze up a bit, and that’s when it comes back to the cultural side. It’s yes and no.
Jordan Argiriou: So whilst some of the managers in my team will openly talk about it and say, “You know what? This is what I’m undertaking. I’m actually going to put it in some goals of my own to drive this forward,” on the other side, just hearing the fact that they’re acknowledging certain events and thinking forward about certain things that will potentially happen, or, “Hey, let’s do this to improve the culture of the team,” that, for me, is a huge win because we never had that before.
Jordan Argiriou: And, again, I’m not going to specifically point out cultural sides, but in some countries, it’s unheard of to address that side because it’s like work is here and personal life is here, and that’s that. There’s is a clear line between them. And as we’re all aware, and we’re all sitting in it now. We’re all at home, wherever we are in the world. That line between professional and personal has now just been not just blurred, it’s completely gone. As an example, I’m here at the home office. I literally will have my kids come in the afternoon, and they’re here at home as well. So you’ve got to acknowledge the fact that there is no more office home life or field home life. It’s all blended in together.
Jordan Argiriou: But once we get past that, and now that it is all together, we have to recognize that, yeah, hey, there are things that we need to address. Some people may feel a lot more comfortable, like my managers, like you said, coming out and telling me, “Hey, this is what I’m doing.” I don’t want to repeat myself, but others will address certain topics where you’ll say, “Great. You’ve acknowledged it now. That’s fantastic.” I don’t even have to prompt it anymore, so it’s great.
Sarah Nicastro: I think the other thing, too, is we talked when we spoke the first time about you had ended up being involved in a round table discussion at an event where this topic came up, and you spoke about it, and had a conversation with folks about this. I think that’s another important aspect of normalizing the conversation is just bringing it into different forums like that to talk about it, because it’s something that more and more people are focusing on, and an area where there’s going to be more and more lessons learned. And, “Hey, we did this approach, and it really worked,” or those sorts of things.
Sarah Nicastro: And there really is no reason that it shouldn’t be another talking point on an agenda of an event related to field service, because it’s a very real part of what’s going on, right?
Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Sarah Nicastro: So I think you speaking out in that type of setting is another way to normalize the conversation, right? Because you’re not just doing it internally with your team, and doing it to impact the wellbeing of your workforce, but you’re talking externally about how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it so that other people can learn from that as well.
Jordan Argiriou: Well, that’s a really good point you raise. Sorry to cut in.
Sarah Nicastro: That’s okay.
Jordan Argiriou: That’s a really good point you raise. At that event, that specific topic of that round table was supposed to be about health and safety of engineers in the field. Now, we have many plans that we’ve put together, and, again, we don’t want to keep saying the COVID word, but it was a time where we really had to have our own OHS and EHS sides very structured and very ready to react. It was a very reactive situation. Still is today, right?
Jordan Argiriou: So when I entered that discussion, and I was hosting that round table, I brought it up because the discussion around COVID safety and general EHS safety was done. We’ve talked about it a million times. We’ve done it by then. And then the line came out from me of “What about the mental health of your field service engineers being in the field?” And then the discussion, I was actually shocked. I wasn’t expecting that reception from the group that I was in because we had people from mining. We had people from electrical backgrounds. We had people from biotech backgrounds, such as myself, sitting in that room, and then everyone just had this common place where we all met and said, “Okay.” I guess, for me, it was quite eye-opening that everyone is actually paying attention to it whether it’s a structured plan in their head or not, that the attention is already there. So it was actually quite refreshing to see.
Jordan Argiriou: But then, obviously, you had others who were not so receptive to that discussion. So it was interesting.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I think it is something that more and more people are aware of and understand that there needs to be a bigger focus on, but going back to the points we’ve made, unsure how to talk about it, right? So that’s why you were the one that was like, “Oh, I’ll just bring this up,” and then people were like, “Yes, we’re doing this, or we’re seeing this.” But it’s still one of those topics where someone has to be comfortable initiating a conversation around it, and then people are willing to weigh in.
Jordan Argiriou: Absolutely.
Sarah Nicastro: One of the things we had talked about a bit is your thoughts on, as the younger generation of workers comes in, why this topic is going to be increasingly important for service leaders to get comfortable with and be able to focus on. So talk a little bit about why you think that is.
Jordan Argiriou: Sure. Look, the way we are growing as a society, especially most of us have kids at my age, and you look at the media and everything that is in culture today surrounding social media and everything else. The generation that is growing up heavily invested on that side, there is a huge focus on mental health. I think a lot of countries, and specifically in APEC, are focusing on the mental health side. The US is obviously doing it, Europe. So it is something that they’re growing up with.
Jordan Argiriou: They also live in a world where everything is quite fast-paced. Things today, as we’re talking literally now, are quite uncertain as well about little things in life that we used to take for granted and things that are changing. So they’re growing up through that.
Jordan Argiriou: And I feel as though the younger generation that are coming into the workforce now have an expectation that your employer will have this plan moving forward, will have the support network for them, with everything else. So I think that’s, number one, the reason why on the younger generation I do focus on it. Well, it’s a topic.
Jordan Argiriou: And, two, the younger generation do live in a world of, as I just said, very quick interactions. I think we said it the first time we spoke. If you look at a phone and apps, it’s instant … I don’t want to call it gratification, but it’s an instant result. You click something, it happens, right? So we grew up a bit different, where the younger gen will have that immediately at their fingertips. And I think that want that same response from a workplace or an employer when it comes to these sort of topics and others.
Jordan Argiriou: So given that they are so fast-paced, they are growing up in a culture where mental health is something that you do talk about, and there are many support networks as well external to your professional life that you can tap in to, companies and I guess us as managers and whatever other role we play in a company needs to be focused on that. Because if we don’t support them on that side, then, in my opinion, you’re going to have a lot of people departing and going to the company that does support it.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, it’s a good point, and a generational difference that I think people need to big cognizant of along with others.
Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Two more questions, Jordan. The next one is … So we have acknowledged this, but I will state it again. There are going to be people that listen to this podcast and think, “Yeah, I am totally uncomfortable with this,” or maybe even people that still want that strict delineation between professional life and personal life, and don’t think that these sorts of conversations have a place in the workplace, et cetera. So for someone that is really uncomfortable with this type of topic that’s in a leadership role, and we know and are advocating that it’s important, what are baby steps you could suggest to them to force themselves into becoming more comfortable and taking some little initiatives to incorporate this into their leadership?
Jordan Argiriou: Sure. Look, in terms of three steps, right? So I guess the first one is quite obvious but something that we don’t do constantly, and that’s open communication within your teams. I guess from my side, you have to not be afraid to show a bit of weakness, so to speak, and I don’t like using that word to say you’re showing weakness, but show your vulnerability in certain situations.
Sarah Nicastro: Your vulnerability.
Jordan Argiriou: Yeah. So you openly communicate with your team. I guess the first step really is breaking away from that purely professional relationship with someone, and not making it personal as in “Hey, we’re best friends,” but making it personal as in, “Hey, you know what? I care about what happens to you after you leave our premises, or this call,” or whatever else. So once you break down that part, that’s that first step, right? So that open communication, willingness to show the vulnerability at the first step is something that will gain someone’s trust. You will gain their buying into things that you’re doing because they’re saying, “Hey, you’re in the same boat as me.”
Jordan Argiriou: The second step, and I wouldn’t call it a baby step, but it is. Normalize that discussion as well, right? So not just openly communicate, but normalize it completely. So, from my perspective, having that discussion not just constantly but in a very casual manner instead of making it, “Okay, here we go. Here’s agenda item three. Let’s talk about how great you are with this stuff.” Just bring it up slowly, or at the end of the conversation you have, or the end of the meeting that you’re having. At a round table, I would say if you normalize the openness, and like I mentioned my first company that I really worked for, professional life, normalizing that discussion amongst all levels was actually something that made it a lot easier just to open up and tell people things.
Jordan Argiriou: So that’s the second side. And the third one, and I’m on the fence on this one because I have put down a few points, but I’m on the fence on this one. But I am not on the fence. I’m on the fence of whether to put this down as a third point. I would say make it part of your agenda. Make it part of the agenda item in most calls. Once you get past the first two, and you hit that third step here, and you say, “Hey, you know what? It is now an agenda item,” you don’t have to call it open communication or mental health. If you just call it we’re just doing to discuss the health of the team, we’re going to discuss in general where your team is today, and then switch it over in a one-on-one the health of you. How are things at home? Things like that. They sound really simple, but they are quite complicated to get right down to it before someone really opens up.
Jordan Argiriou: And if I can add one more to that third point is that if someone does give you the feedback of you’re putting way too much pressure on me, or whatever else, don’t lock up and get offended, and start to give that feedback. Because then it will become a two-way street. Openly talk about it. Let’s talk about what’s happening professionally. Am I doing something wrong? These are basic management tools that we already have, but just changing it to talk about this particular topic and about the person versus professional life altogether.
Jordan Argiriou: And still have fun with it, too, right? So when people are talking about their kids and everything else, their home life or whatever they’re doing on the weekend, make it about them. Make it a round table discussion.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It’s a good point of needing to be ready to take action, right? So maybe there are certain situations where you initiate a conversation where someone just needs to vent, and you’re there to listen, and that could be fine. But if there is a situation where the response is, “Yeah, actually I’m burnt out and I need X from you, or X-less from you,” right? Then you have to be ready to put some action around what that looks like. So that’s a good point.
Sarah Nicastro: All right. So last question, Jordan, is I believe that it would be at best difficult and at worst impossible to put a real focus on this topic in terms of leadership if you aren’t prioritizing your own self-care. So how have you navigated the crazy last year, and what do you do to make sure that you stay in a good place?
Jordan Argiriou: To be honest, it’s been a difficult year across all fronts with everything that we’ve obviously just spoken about and been through, and still going through today. From my side, and this is going to sound really simple, I bought a bicycle not long ago. And even with our five kilometer lockdown and things like that, it’s just taking the time potentially at a lunch break where you would typically go out for your lunch or whatever else to go for a quick ride. Put in a podcast in your ears and just keep going until you just need to turn back or you want to turn back, and just zone out for a while as well. I think taking your mind off certain things.
Jordan Argiriou: One thing that I will say has helped is taking my mind off what is happening just outside our door, because if you were to watch the news every day or whatever else, that can certainly send someone into some sort of spiral in their head, thinking there is no way out of this, et cetera. This is what’s going to happen.
Jordan Argiriou: So I think spending time with your family, obviously, and friends and loved ones, and whoever else you can spend it with, but for me, yeah, the bike riding and just switching off, trying to separate the professional life from home life has been a challenge, but something that I’m still trying to do. I can’t say I’ve won that one because it is quite difficult. But, yeah.
Jordan Argiriou: Yeah, and just really opening up to your team. That helps immensely. Having those discussions, knowing that there’s someone on the other side not just from your personal life but from your professional life that you can share things with, certain things that you want to, has also helped. Yeah.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah, it’s been an important time for solidarity, and everyone feeling like we’re in this together, and we’ll help each other through it, and all of that stuff.
Sarah Nicastro: So, good. Well, Jordan, thank you so much for coming on today.
Jordan Argiriou: Thank you.
Sarah Nicastro: And for sharing openly. I really appreciate it, and appreciate your insights, and thank you for your time.
Jordan Argiriou: Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure. No, really, thank you, Sarah, for highlighting this topic here. It’s something that I want to continue as well, and hopefully this is something that becomes a focus for everyone.
Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. I think it will become a more and more normal part of the conversation. I think maybe COVID kind of sped that up, and we’ll see if it becomes a normal staple on the event agenda once we get back to that stuff.
Sarah Nicastro: But thank you again. Appreciate it.
Jordan Argiriou: Thank you.
Sarah Nicastro: You can check out more of our content by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter @thefutureoffs. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more about IFS by visiting ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.