A helping hand, World Mental Health Day

people sitting a table at work talking and laughing

Written by Kerry Payne, Head of People Operations, Civica

In an ideal world, all workforces would be happy and inclusive. However, the 2019 Mental Health at Work report from Mercer Marsh Benefits and Business in the Community reveals that “minority stress” is rampant across the UK. The same report found that 62% of managers admit to putting their company’s interests above the wellbeing of employees, causing 39% of people to report experiencing poor mental health associated with work.

In a time of rapid change and growth across many sectors, cultures of work-overload, rapid organisational change and lack of support seemingly persist, and all of this can take a considerable toll on employees’ mental well-being, and organisations have a duty to do all they can to support the people that work for them.

On 10 October, World Mental Health Day, organisations across the world will celebrate the steps that have been taken to raise awareness, remove stigmas and improve workplace cultures. At Civica, we will be celebrating all the work that has already been done via our Mental Health Champion Programme which we launched six months ago.

The programme was set up to decrease the disparity between perceptions of physical and mental health issues and give employees quick and easy access to wellbeing support to meet their personal circumstances.

Employees were asked to register their interest in becoming a Mental Health Champion before receiving training from an organisational health and wellbeing provider – equipping them with the knowledge and empathy required to effectively support colleagues struggling with their mental health in confidence. In total, over 40 people have been trained as Civica Mental Health Champions, having learnt how to listen carefully, reassure and respond – even in a crisis – and signpost people to other services if necessary. The programme sees the Champions work with an accredited mental health professional, who joins monthly calls, to deliver training and discuss topics that other employees have asked about.

The programme has helped many employees so far and has been championed by the senior leadership team at Civica. It’s important that a culture that focusses on supporting employee well-being isn’t just an HR team initiative and is a high priority for the board. We encourage wellbeing discussions as part of the business leader discussion and are changing any perception that conversations should solely be about work and ensuring people have the training in place to make them more resilient. It levels the playing field if a senior leader talks about their own issues, removing any stigmas.

Too often the conversation about workplace well-being focuses on the efficiency savings and boosts in productivity rather than on how it benefits employees. Fundamentally, people have to take care of themselves. Doing that might require certain behavioural changes, such as trying to do more exercise or get better sleep, but it also means working in an open culture where people feel comfortable to talk. Managers, executives and people team leaders aren’t professional psychologists, but they can listen.

Most importantly, colleagues should try to look after each other, so that when someone does overcome their fear of stigma and backlash to ask for help with their mental health, people listen. Listening costs nothing, and a business of any size can afford to do it.

Originally published here.

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