Leanne Lusher, affectionately known as Lush is Incu's own HR Manager and an advocate for mental health within our tight knit family. Having worked three years in the business, she has been a huge supporter of better understanding the wellness of each of our employees. Read her interview to see what she's been up to in isolation, how she is gearing up to return to normal life and her advice to others who might be having a hard time dealing with lockdown.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Incu.
I have been lucky enough to be the HR Manager at Incu for almost three years now. I come from a background of over 20 years in the retail industry (OMG that made me freak a bit!) and I just love what I do. I was that person that did a degree in PR and then decided it wasn’t for me, so I went into retail as a casual sales assistant and climbed my way up - the most challenging, enjoyable and crazy climb ever!
What does your day to day look like? Now that we are in isolation how has this changed?
No two days are ever the same for me. I am here, there and everywhere. I wouldn't have it any other way though. HR can be very ad hoc; if I am not working on company culture, mental health in the workplace, training, organising conferences, WHS, sitting in on meetings, giving advice, or helping with performance management, I am often found in store distracting the teams.
What has changed since isolation? I am sure I am speaking on behalf of all HR practitioners when I say these last few months have been insane! Find me one HR professional that has ever dealt with anything like Coronavirus in their career... thank the universe this is a one in a hundred year event! I have to say though, I have learnt a lot throughout this time; intense but interesting.
I have been WFH since the beginning of April, so on a work front, we soldier on. We live in a technological age, so we just had to change the way we interacted with our teams. Zoom, Zoom, phone calls and a bit more Zoom!
Our main priority during this time was to ensure our teams felt safe, protected and well-informed, and that became my responsibility as HR. We couldn't control a lot in regard to the Coronavirus, however we could control how and what we communicated to our teams. They needed to know that no Pandemic was going to make us abandon them and that we had their back. We were in this together!
What have you been up to during isolation? How have you coped during this time?
Once we shut down the office I had to make the decision around Easter to move back to my parents place in Port Stephens. At the time this was very controversial however, I have always been very open about my “relationship” with anxiety (I hate using the word battle) and I knew that for the sake of my mental health I couldn’t stay living alone in my apartment in Sydney.
Due to this decision, I have coped really really well with isolation. I have spent my time hanging with my parents - I see this as a blessing as I haven't spent this much time with them in over 20 years! I spend the week working from home in their home office, but take daily walks around the beautiful bay in which they reside.
I live such a fast paced life, I have literally taken this time to chill out and slow down. Okay, okay, I have also spent way too much time on Tik-Tok, but I don't make videos, I just watch them… is that just as bad?! They are so addictive!
What advice would you give for people trying to cope with isolation?
You don't have to pretend you’re doing okay if you’re not. Don’t think you’re the only one having bad days or not coping. This is a crazy situation we are all living in at the moment and it’s okay to reach-out to friends, family or mental health organisations if you need to talk. This is no time to be a superhero! People’s mental health is on the decline, domestic violence is on the increase, and we are seeing so much vulnerability in the community at the moment. The coronavirus has had a ripple effect and we need to make sure we are all looking out for each other. There are so many mental health organisations out there willing and wanting to help; Lifeline, Beyond Blue and The Salvos, just to name a few.
What advice would you give to people trying to readjust back to the new normal? And going back to work and the real world?
I think you have to embrace the change. We can't do anything about it, so find the positives in it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be back doing everything you were doing before the Coronavirus hit. Your mind and body need time to readjust...again.
Regarding heading back to work, expect some things to be different. It may be challenging to navigate at first but take your time to settle back in. Everyone is in the same boat, and although some may look like they are coping better than others, you don’t know what is actually going on inside their head. Most importantly, have that “safe” person you can go to if you are feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed. We all need one - even HR!
Now more than ever, mental health is a huge issue. As an advocate for mental health awareness, why is this so important to you?
As mentioned, I too deal with anxiety, something that I have always been open and honest about since officially diagnosed in 2015. I am comfortable with the cards I have been dealt with now, but only through lots of hard work and acceptance. It isn’t always pretty but it’s real and something that I have to manage on a daily basis.
I am lucky that in my role as HR I can influence and change how mental health is viewed within our business. We have a responsibility to break the stigma and ensure our employees do not feel ashamed or less of a person because they suffer with a mental health issue.
How have you implemented positive changes into Incu surrounding mental health?
The Directors and CEO of Incu have always been very supportive of any mental health initiative I have wanted to put in place or action. We are very committed to ensuring we run a mentally healthy workplace and that is why we engage with Benestar to deliver our EAP (Employee Assistance Program) where our employee and their direct family members can have access to Benestar’s 24/7 services. This includes counselling, financial advice, health and well-being advice and more, and the best bit is our employees don’t pay a cent, Incu picks up the bill.
I believe the most positive thing we promote in regards to mental health at Incu is a safe environment. We don’t want our employees to ever suffer in silence.
We have created a space (I hope) in which our team feels comfortable having those difficult discussions with their managers, state managers and HR when they are having a tough time, knowing they won’t be judged or discriminated against.
I know by being open about my own relationship with anxiety, that I am making a difference and showing that it isn't a weakness and doesn't define who you are. HR are supposed to be invincible, don't you know ;)
How are you preparing yourself for the return to normal life?
I am back in Sydney and moving apartments, so I was never returning to my “normal” anyway. I am great with the timing of things… NOT! In all seriousness, I am just taking it day by day, no expectations. I am looking after myself and being pretty mindful of how I am approaching each day. I am excited about returning to the office! The novelty of WFH ran out pretty quickly with me - I do HR, I need humans!!!!
Are there any hobbies you’re keen to take up again?
I want to get back to the gym SO bad. Unfortunately due to restrictions I may have to wait a little longer as my gym is currently only doing very limited morning classes and the rest digital. Not all of us are morning people and I need a trainer physically there to whoop my ass as I am very easily distracted. I also take singing lessons just for the fun of it and singing in the shower isn't cutting it anymore.
Is there anything you loved to do that you think you’ll take a long time to return to?
Are you feeling any stress about returning to normal life?
Not at all. I love Brian Wu’s (Incu Director) take on what's in store…. The roaring 20s! Bring. It. On!
What’s something you’ve been grateful for at this time?
Time with my family. I will be forever grateful for this time I got to spend with my mum, dad and sister. I usually try to get home as much as I can, but life often gets in the way. I will also never take for granted that I was lucky enough to have a warm, safe and loving home to go to.
Shop Leanne's Incu Wishlist here.