In an increasingly busy, ‘always-on’ world – with the demands and expectations of clients and colleagues – it’s rare to not have experienced some form of mental health issue. In our latest blog, Keith Benzie looks at how we are preparing to evolve mental wellbeing initiatives in order to foster talent and offer the appropriate support to staff – while still delivering first-class client service.

Last year, I attended a Wellbeing in the Workplace conference in Edinburgh which showed how businesses can (and must) adapt to support their staff. It was inspiring to see organisations of all sizes taking significant steps in this area.

See Me Programme

At Space & Time we have long been invested in the wellbeing of our staff and mental health is at the forefront of that. We began our own journey of evolution around five years ago – the main catalysts of this being the work we have carried out alongside our client See Me, and increased instances of mental ill-health amongst our growing staff. The agency has had an employee assistance programme available to all staff for some time but, faced with more real-life cases and the threat to both resource and revenue that an increase in absenteeism can pose, it was clear that some areas of our approach needed to be more clearly defined and developed.

See Me is Scotland’s national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, and they have been a client of ours since we planned a successful rebrand campaign in 2014. See Me’s aim is to change the culture around mental health so that people can feel confident in terms of speaking about how they are feeling and asking for help. A particularly compelling workplace-focused campaign entitled ‘The Power of Okay’ led us into discussions with their workplace team around the ‘See Me in Work’ initiative, which aims to create a working environment where staff can feel safe and able to talk openly about mental health issues, and providing support and assistance for those who are experiencing mental health problems. With a team in place to provide advice and a wide range of e-learning resources available they offer real help to organisations who want to offer better support to staff.

The Space & Time evolution

The first step we took was to undertake a staff survey to measure knowledge of, and attitudes to, everything to do with the topic of mental health in the workplace; including training, policies, recruitment and the process of returning to work. See Me helped develop the framework for this along with the roll out and collation of findings. A 74% response rate to the survey indicated a genuine desire to get involved, and 53% of those who responded indicated that they’d personally experienced a mental health problem. The other key findings were an identified need for more information around mental health and better training for staff at all levels.

Following the survey, we put simple steps in place like regular wellbeing tips for staff, more frequent promotion of key events and initiatives and more overt promotion of the agency’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). This includes a telephone hotline that offers 24-hour counselling for people in times of crisis. After garnering the support of senior management we have implemented an action plan for the next 12 months with the help of the team at See Me – this includes the appointment of ‘champions’ in each of our five offices, mental health first aid training for all line managers and the development of more clearly defined disclosure and return to work policies.

An agency culture team has been created with the express purpose of developing and delivering these enriched wellbeing initiatives and the planned introduction of CSR-based projects will help minimise instances of mental ill-health and give staff the much-needed breathing space they need when faced with mental health issues.

We’ll conduct a follow-up survey later this year to ascertain how effective our action plan has been, but initial feedback across the agency is that more information and greater visibility are both essential and welcomed. It’s clear that we all have more to do within this space, but See Me’s workplace initiative has made the process a lot easier for Space & Time.

Read original article on The Drum here.

Keith Benzie, Associate Director