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Placing Mental Health at the Heart of the Rebuild

Placing Mental Health at the Heart of the Rebuild
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Nigel Jones, CMHA co-founder and Advisory Board chair, shares insights from a recent CMHA business leader roundtable

We are entering another particularly challenging period. Continued uncertainties for young people in schools and universities (and their loved ones) and for those wanting to returning to workplaces, the change of season, and the increasing recognition that the health and economic crisis is not going to end any time soon.

Businesses can and must help their people get through this - to retain their health and be able to thrive in their work and personal lives.

CMHA is here to help our members do just that. And our most recent senior sponsor roundtable, in early October, was a great example of how: providing a forum for business leaders to share both their personal stories and their practical tips on how they will be helping themselves and their people protect their mental health as the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis evolves.

As the facilitator, I encouraged all participants to identify 3 new things they would do differently as a result of the discussion to achieve that goal. Some of the suggestions that emerged are listed below – all practical steps leaders can take to help themselves and others in this endeavour.

Now it’s time to turn words into action: write down your own 3-item list (don’t just keep it in your head); read it to one other person in your organisation, preferably someone from a different department, age group, ethnic background; ask them to help you meet the commitment you’ve made; and encourage them to reciprocate. If we all follow those simple suggestions we can and will make a positive impact.

While every organisation’s culture is different, and compliance with relevant laws and regulations is obviously important, here are some of the suggestions which emerged from the roundtable discussion:

  • Help people create boundaries – e.g. implement rules on meeting scheduling (e.g. none between noon and 2pm or on selected Fridays, turn 30 minute zoom meetings into 25 minutes and one hour zoom meetings into 50, aim to end meetings early to provide time for people to walk around, get a drink, etc)
  • Keep workplaces open - particularly for those for whom working from home is proving bad for their wellbeing, as well as new joiners for whom the workplace environment may be the only way of establishing networks and learning about organisational structure
  • Lead by example in relation to returning to the workplace – e.g. where appropriate, do so yourself on a regular basis (e.g. X days a week/every other week). When there, increase your visibility (e.g. working in the canteen/coffee area)
  • Use team diaries to maximise in-person teamworking – e.g. where appropriate encourage all team members to attend the workplace on the same day(s) of the week
  • Focus even more on listening and observing body language; and use your intuition to engage with those you think may be struggling, including those who may say they are fine but aren’t
  • Communicate in an authentic, open way – including being honest about challenges you are facing
  • Peer-group support (“buddying” new joiners with those who are only a year or so ahead of them) rather than assuming that very junior people will be comfortable sharing their worries with those who are much more senior.
  • Recognise and share the benefits of reduced commuting and business travel – on your health, that of others and on the environment - and embed new working practices for the long term
  • Make existing support (e.g. agile working or domestic abuse policies, EAP) more visible through better communications
  • Arrange webcast & livestreams with a senior leader introducing a psychiatrist/psychologist to provide expert-led practical guidance and help, e.g. on the need to take breaks, mindfulness, looking after the MH of others, resilience etc
  • Look out for those who can’t work from home e.g. post room functions, processing units
  • Before going to bed each evening, write down the good things that have happened that day

Nigel Jones, Co-Founder, Past Board Chair and Advisory Board Chair, City Mental Health Alliance UK