M+W Hargreaves launched its mental health awareness scheme at the start of January 2018 to mark a positive start to the new year.
It is an increasingly apparent – and long ignored – fact that mental health is every bit as important as physical health to our workforce.

We launched our scheme based on the following facts from the Mental Health charity MIND:
• More than one in five (21 per cent) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them
• 14 per cent agreed that they had resigned and 42 per cent had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them
• 30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’
• 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance
• About 1/3 employees would consider leaving their job if they didn’t feel cared for by their employer.

It’s clear that ignoring mental health wellbeing can have a negative impact on our company, indeed, nation-wide, ill mental health costs the UK economy an estimated £225 billion – which is 12 per cent of the UK’s total GBP.

What course have you launched?

We started by focusing on communications. We want our staff members to be more open about how we talk about mental health.
Suicide is the most common cause of death amongst men under the age of 45. As a large percentage of our workforce are men, it’s our duty as an employer to showcase the importance of mental wellbeing, as well as offering the tools, resources and support to ensure that colleagues can get the help they need.

Some simple schemes have been a series of email and poster campaigns during mental health awareness week; here we focused on simple tips to help staff manage work place stress, to show the importance of getting proper sleep and showing colleagues where they can go to for support, from trained staff members to GPs and professional counsellors.

We have trained six colleagues across the UK to be our ‘Mental Health First Aiders.’ It is the job of this team to spot tell-tale signs of mental ill health and be a confidential point of contact for anyone worried about themselves or a colleague. They have been trained to give supportive and non-judgemental advice, or even just to be someone to talk to should the staff member need it. They are also trained to tell when the colleague requires additional support, through those medically trained or professional counsellors if necessary.

M+W Hargreaves sponsors all staff members in a scheme called ‘Happy People’ which offers colleague a depth of online support and resources to help. This includes cognitive behavioural therapy courses and online doctors. This is available online; those workers without company email addresses have been given log in details for use at home. Staff are aware that they can be allocated time to complete the course during working hours once approved by their line mangers.

This feeds into another scheme we run called ‘Coaching at M+W Hargreaves’; this year we have merged the programme, which is ran by two staff who have been qualified through the Institute of Leadership and Management. The service was initially designed to improve work place skills, however, this year, aligned with our increased support for mental health wellbeing, we have offered the programme to suit the needs of our staff (including work/life balance, managing family life, dealing with a difficult family member, coping with stress etc.)

We are constantly working on ways to support our staff and continue to compile resources, workbooks and ‘drop in sessions’ to encourage our workers to talk more openly about their feelings, emotions, challenges and what they need from their employer to be their best selves.

Who is it for?

The scheme is for all staff members; we have staff who work in a variety of environments: office staff, manufacturing staff and site-based workers (project and installation). This requires a varied and inclusive approach, therefore our mental health first aiders have been chosen by those who work across our different sites in the UK, office staff, engineers and support staff (such as HR and admin). The purpose of this is to provide a variety of options so that colleagues are sure to find someone they feel comfortable speaking confidentially with.

What benefits has it had/will it have?

Studies have shown that 95% staff members calling in sick due to ill mental health give another reason, such as a cold, stomach upset or headache. Therefore it is presently difficult to trace the number of days we lose to ill mental health. We have based our programme not to overturn days lost, but to provide support, creating a better environment to work in.

Focusing on wellbeing has proven to increase productivity by 12%, we want to ensure that our staff are working efficiently. It is better to have positive and proactive staff members in order to give our clients the best service; these characteristics are typical of those with a greater sense of wellness.

Greater transparency and a culture of talking about mental health opens up a dialogue and removes the stigma of talking about feelings.
We want our organisation to become more representative of a diverse audience, not only to ensure that all our staffs’ needs are catered for, but also to promote our workplace to those from a variety of backgrounds – opening us as an employer to the wealth of skills currently going unnoticed in the UK.

Overall, we want our staff members to be as happy as they can; to feel mentally well and to give them the same support we would give staff members with a physical injury. This way we can ensure future success for the company and the industry as a whole.