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Interview: Mental Health and Wellbeing at work

Sea view

Working in the mental health sector, we recognise the importance that good mental health has on all our lives. Over the last few years, our team has been exploring initiatives to support the mental wellbeing of our employees. As this week is Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May), we sat down to talk with Suzanne Baker, our Mental Health First Aider about the work she does to support Mayden’s staff.

What is a Mental Health First Aider, and why did you want to become one?

When I was asked whether I was interested in training to become Mayden’s first mental health first aider (MHFA) I jumped at the chance. Part of my role at Mayden is Health and Safety, and I am a firm believer that mental health should be given the same level of consideration that we give our physical health and safety. It is a legal requirement to have physical first aiders in every workplace, and you will see countless examples in offices of how we look after ourselves physically (back supports on chairs, screen risers) but there is still a lot of work to do before people’s mental health is given the same level of consideration.

Being a mental health first aider means that I am trained to assist colleagues with mental health issues by listening and supporting them to get the right professional help – in the same way that a physical first aider can provide initial help after an accident. It can be as simple as asking somebody if they are ok and making the time for a cup of tea and a chat.

Mayden tem with MHAW ribbons

What do you think are the key things that make Mayden such a mentally healthy workplace?

I think there are a lot of factors. Some of them have filtered down, because of policies and benefits that we have developed as a company. And others have developed up, from initiatives started by staff. Some of the things we have introduced at Mayden are:

Coaching
All of our staff can choose to have a colleague as their coach, and can train to be a coach themselves. A coach and coachee have regular sessions to talk through any challenges together and is a great and structured way to support each other at work. You can read more about coaching at Mayden here.

Culture of wellbeing
We incorporate wellbeing into Mayden team away days, setting some time in the day to walk, talk, practice mindfulness, and take some exercise. We have also run courses on mindfulness, and encourage regular breaks. We have subsidised fitness classes, a bike purchase scheme, free fruit in the office, walking meetings, and meetings outside wherever it is possible. Small things really add up to creating a happy and health work environment.

Creating a sustainable work life balance
In our staff survey, we get consistently high marks when asked if people feel they have a good work/life balance. We are also about to trial a cap on hours to ensure that employees are not routinely working excessive hours.

Access to resources
Whilst we have created an open environment, not everyone will always want to talk face to face – and that’s ok. We have also created wellbeing or MHFA boxes containing lots of information, booklets, stress balls, mindfulness resources and often chocolate! Information and resources around common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and which also support and encourage good mental health, are also available on our company intranet. These can be accessed by anyone, at any time and in private.

I think a lot of the success we have had at Mayden has been down to us creating a safe, and open culture, where people feel able to talk about mental health – with no fear of judgement. As MHFA, one of the activities I lead on is to make sure that we support national and international initiatives to reduce the stigma of mental ill health such as Time to Talk, Mental health Awareness Week and National Stress Awareness day. We also signed the Time to Change Employer Pledge and are a Mindful Employer Plus. We signed up to these initiatives because we believe that they are essential, but also to make a statement on how important it is to us that our employees feel safe and supported.

What types of things do you recommend other companies do to encourage conversations about stress and mental health?

Below are some small steps that companies could take, that would make a big difference:

  • show your support on Time to Talk, World Mental Health Day, National Stress Awareness Day, Mental Health Awareness Week
  • organise mental health awareness training on site
  • sign the Time to Change pledge
  • sign up to Mindful Employer Plus

But I think the best thing that companies can do is to just start people talking about mental health. By talking about it openly, you are helping to reduce stigma, and showing that you take mental wellbeing seriously as a team. Mental health is something that we all have, and good mental health is crucial in living a happy and fulfilled life. Supporting employee’s mental wellbeing is in everyone’s best interests.

What’s next for Mayden?

We have just finished developing a stress policy and we are mapping and embedding mental wellbeing into our business and HR policies and processes to the HSE Management Standards for Stress.

Other than that, we will be continuing to look for new initiatives to support and promote good mental health, and will carry on building a company where our employees feel supported and valued.

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