Mental Health Awareness Week
Reassessing your company’s mental health strategy, post-pandemic
Since Covid-19 hit in early 2020, mental health awareness has become more prevalent than ever. Unsurprising, when you consider 54% of the UK population said they felt anxious or worried as a result of the pandemic*.
A spotlight on mental health can only be a good thing, but employers also need to normalise the ongoing conversation around it. Doing so will be slow and definitely uncomfortable at times - but we believe the benefits for both employees and businesses means it will be more than worthwhile.
The numbers speak for themselves
Poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year. But for every £1 a business spends on mental health ‘interventions’, they get £5 back - measured in staff absence, presenteeism and turnover. This in itself is enough to spur many businesses to take action.
However, from the steps we’ve taken at Curve, we’ve discovered the benefits of looking after the mental health of our employees go far beyond the numbers. So what have we done at Curve - and how has it helped?
Cross-company, not HR-led
We all have minds. And just like our bodies, they need upkeep - and support from people we trust. So when we decided to put a mental health strategy in place, we knew we didn’t want it to be HR-led. We initiated a training programme and recruited people from every team across our UK business to become our Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs). So now if anyone in Curve needs someone to talk to, they have a wide range of trained individuals to choose from.
The other positive to this approach is that it built new connections across the business. People were incredibly frank about their own mental health in the training sessions, which brought about a sense of respect and belonging, and helped them bond on a new level.
What’s more, our MHFAs are now equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to have conversations about mental health beyond the workplace. Enabling them to provide assistance, signpost and generally help friends, family members and acquaintances.
Reach out to the right resources
With a subject as important as mental health, it’s crucial that you recognise your limitations and reach out to organisations that can help you start the conversation in the right way.
We chose Mental Health First Aid as our UK training provider. Internationally-acclaimed and evidence-based, the organisation’s programs are designed to empower and equip. Giving our MHFAs the confidence to know when and how to step in and help someone, an in-depth understanding of mental health, and the skills to spot triggers and signs of mental health issues.
In addition to training our team of MHFAs, by working with benefits provider YuLife, we’ve made sure all of our employees have access to meditation and sleep app Calm, and health and fitness app Fiit. They can also access a wide range of services, including speaking directly with counselling services.
Be locally relevant
As a fintech startup, we have a wonderfully diverse group of employees, based all over the world. So we needed to make sure, when providing information on local resources, it was relevant to our employees’ home countries. And if they were living and working away from their home country, we needed to ensure they were aware of the local resources available to them. After all, if you’ve just moved to the UK from Latvia, how would you know organisations like Mind, the Samaritans or Hub of Hope even exist?
Celebrate ‘coffee machine moments’
Work’s not just about work: it’s also about the connections we make when we’re not at our desks. The ‘coffee machine moments’ that allow us to bond as people, not just as colleagues. Investing in our culture has always been one of our first priorities, but we’d be lying if we said the pandemic and working from home hasn’t presented challenges on this front.
So at one end of the scale, we have weekly company-wide meetings, so everyone feels involved and connected. And at the other end, anyone in the company can set up their own Slack channel on a topic of their choosing. With discussions on everything from pets and houseplants, to gaming and F1 (currently one of our most active channels), they allow people to connect in a lighthearted way over a shared interest. Which keeps our team happier, our culture alive, and means great people are inclined to stay with us for longer.
Let’s face it: mental health is difficult to talk about. So we’ve used events like Mental Health Awareness Week to kickstart discussions. Led by our team of MHFAs, we’ve been doing simple things like: introducing members of the MHFA team, running workshops in which any employee can learn more about the tools the MHFAs gained in their training, and utilising the skills of our multi-talented employees to run yoga and meditation sessions. It gets the ball rolling, and you’d be surprised how involved your team might get, fostering more open and honest communication in general.
There’s more to be done
Everything we’ve mentioned above can be achieved with relatively little effort, as long as your company is willing. We want to - and will - be doing more. But just by making mental health part of the everyday conversation, we hope to chip away at the stigma and discomfort that surrounds it. Nurturing a culture of support and care that everyone buys into - and has impact across all areas of our business.
*Research conducted by the Mental Health Foundation, based on 36,000 responses. For more information on this subject, this article makes an interesting read.