We were a founder member of CMHA in 2013 because we wanted to be part of something that would enable us to collaborate with other firms and businesses that have a similar working environment to ours. We are helped by having a supportive leadership team, who understand the importance of health and wellbeing, including mental health.
The HR Advisory team and members of the Learning and Development team completed the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training this in 2016 to help ensure we are well equipped to speak with any member of the firm about mental health. We have a range of options available to employees, both inside and outside the firm. We have enhanced our private medical insurance offering on mental health concerns, which means people can bypass a GP referral and instead ring a number direct and gain access to face-to-face help quickly and easily. This is a very positive step.
We have started to promote our EAP more actively, which has increased its use. Our account manager has come into the firm three times over the past few months and run short sessions for employees explaining all the EAP’s features and how it can help. It’s not just about mental health, but can provide advice on problems from difficult landlords, to childcare and elder care, to finances, all of which can affect people’s wellbeing. We promote the EAP widely throughout the firm.
Our focus with mental health is to create a more open culture. People need to feel safe disclosing mental ill-health and talking about it. That’s easier said than done, but we are actively working on this. You address it by having positive role models and we need more people to come forward internally and help us with that.
I think we are seeing a subtle cultural shift – but it’s an evolution rather than a revolution. Working life is very different now from what it was ten years ago – due to the ‘always on’ 24/7 society we operate in – and employees often have tougher commutes because of rising property prices in London. Being able to work from home gives employees back some control and this is something we have introduced in the past 12 months.
We are continuing our mental health awareness programme across the firm. No one is immune to a period of mental ill-health. We want partners and employees to be able to spot the signs in themselves and others and understand what approaches or options are available to support them. A psychotherapist who specialises in cognitive behavioural therapy came in to talk to the firm in July and that session proved so popular that we ran it again. She gave an introduction to common mental health conditions – stress, anxiety, depression and eating disorders – and tips on how to manage them, how to build resilience, what the firm can offer by way of help and what help is available externally. We also support employees by offering mentoring across the firm.
We have commitment from our partners (and ran some partner-specific awareness sessions this year) to run two or three large events for employees annually. It is vital to get senior level sponsorship, because you have to keep going with this; you can’t tackle it as a one-off. We are constantly on the lookout for interesting topics and speakers. It’s really important to demonstrate that this is not seen as just ‘paying lip service’.
By Christmas 2016 we will have a dedicated area on the intranet, the ‘Workplace Wellbeing Site’, for all our wellbeing initiatives and information. It will be comprehensive, and pull together a range of different aspects, from physical wellbeing (the benefits we offer employees), through to health and safety (the office environment, workplace adjustments and ergonomics), policies (such as flexible working and managing stress), videos of the events we have run, links to CR opportunities and Diversity and Inclusion networks. along with a range of sports clubs for employees to get involved with. The site will also give details of our Mental Health First Aiders and future relevant training sessions. This will all be under one big umbrella.
We want to position this as being about ‘workplace wellness’, rather than simply mental health, and tie it in with the Learning and Development team, who run courses on, for example, resilience and prioritisation. We also have nutritionists coming into the staff restaurant to talk about what to eat for a healthy body and mind, and the impact sugar and salt has on our diet. Our approach is integrated and holistic, and essentially the result of looking at everything we do though the wellbeing lens.
We have a very active CR programme here: we offer a huge range of things our staff can get involved in, from working with young people or isolated individuals, to offering pro bono legal advice. It gives people a sense of purpose.
I enjoy meeting like-minded people at CMHA events and hearing about how they are tackling the kind of challenges we face. I can bring ideas back here about what other City employers are doing, and that is useful information. But the kind of things you can do depends on where you are on your wellbeing journey, your organisational culture and so on. We are making good progress but know we have much to aspire to.