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Someone said to me this week “I know personal issues shouldn’t interfere with work but…” and I couldn’t stop them quickly enough.
We spend such a huge percentage of our lives working; how can we expect the work and home lines to never become blurred? Companies all have limitations on how far we can go to support employees (line of work, budget, resources etc) but the bare minimum is to listen and be compassionate.
Employees are more likely to add value if they feel valued, and showing a genuine concern for their mental health can speak volumes.
I was very fortunate when I joined Tillo in April 2021 that I didn’t face the first, and sometimes hardest, hurdle when it comes to a Mental Health initiative - Senior Leadership buy-in.
Tillo’s leadership team were ready and eager to shine a brighter light on Mental Health and open to trying ways to better support and encourage our teams to feel safe speaking about their Mental Health.
We created our Mental Health Champions group shortly after I joined - a mix of 12 people across our business, from each team and different levels of seniority. It gives us a broad range of perspectives, but also a reasonable number to ensure decisions can be made and discussions don’t take hours!
Putting the weight of an organisation’s mental health on the shoulders of one individual or just the HR department would put that individual under quite a lot of pressure. So having a group of champions lightens the load when trying to come up with new ideas, being available to support colleagues and building awareness for our mental health initiatives.
Our first task was the fast-approaching MHAW in May 2021. We sent wellbeing boxes, held workshops around “bringing your whole self to work” and had virtual “Coffee and a Convo” each day. Given the quick turn around to put something together - I’d say it was a success!
Team Tillo enjoying a rounders match in the summer.
So what’s changed since Mental Health Awareness Week 2021? Our MHC’s attended Mental Health First Aid training (through MHFA England). It was essential that we enabled the group to feel confident handling what can sometimes be very difficult situations/conversations, and also ensure they had the knowledge to support themselves in the role.
Mental Health in the workplace can feel like a tremendous challenge. That’s why we decided to break it down and our Champions streamlined their focus on the question: “How can we make our culture psychologically safe?”- no less monumental, but it gave us a good place to start.
In January 2022, we introduced our monthly “Mental Health Champions Blog”. Each month, a member of the group writes a post. There’s no right or wrong, too much or too little, and they only share how much they would like to.
We are four blogs in, and the honest, thought provoking posts written about their mental health journeys have received the most wonderful feedback from the company. Whether the person reading has a family or friend going through something similar, or are themselves at their desk thinking “It isn’t just me”, we feel we are continuing our progress to make an honest, safe and open space for our team to look after and talk about their mental health.
We also have our green ribbon Slack emoji, which the MHC’s put as their status to let colleagues know that they are available if anyone wants to talk. This has also been useful to promote who the MHCs are as we continue to grow.
We have some really exciting plans for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, including:
This year the theme of MHAW is loneliness, which is something many of us will have experienced over the last 3 years - in fact, the number of people experiencing loneliness during lockdown was 3X higher than pre-pandemic levels. Our agenda aims to encourage self care, raise awareness and also bring us all together.
The most important thing about this week for us though, is that our team knows that we always prioritise their mental health.
MHAW plays an essential role in raising awareness and giving everyone the opportunity to stop and think about mental health; however, we know that the ultimate goal is to create a safe, open culture for the team all year round.
There’s no quick fix to Mental Health in the workplace.
It will always be a continuous cycle that needs to be reviewed. If you’re unsure where to start, there are lots of resources on Mental Health at Work, Mind, and the Mental Health Foundation, etc. that can help you kick-off.
It’s not about having a bank-busting budget to shower your team with events and gifts, it’s about steps that make them feel genuinely valued and respected at work, cared about and safe to talk about their mental health.
This can be achieved by not just taking “Yeah fine thanks” as a response to “How are you”, and showing genuine compassion if they share with you that they are struggling.
Empathy really does go a long way.