One in four workers in the UK are affected by conditions such as anxiety, depression and stress each year but, according to mental health campaign Time to Change, 95% of people who take time off with stress give a completely different reason for their absence.
But just as Quilter chief executive Paul Feeney (pictured) said in an exclusive interview with Citywire last week, people and businesses need to be more open about mental health issues.
After revealing that he himself had his own mental health issues in the past, Feeney said he signed the Time to Change pledge on behalf of the firm. So what else is Quilter doing and are other companies following suit?
Across the financial services industry, employers and employees are increasingly collaborating to make workplaces more hospitable for those contending with mental health issues. Quilter, St James’s Place (SJP), Rathbones and Brewin Dolphin have all launched a number of initiatives.
Time to Change
Jane Goodland, corporate affairs director at Quilter, said staff have responded very well to a newly launched wellbeing programme.
She said: ‘Along with signing the Time to Change pledge we launched a wellbeing strategy called Thrive. The programme takes a holistic approach to enhancing four key aspects of health and wellbeing: physical, financial, social, and emotional and mental health wellbeing.
‘We’ve had an amazing response across the company, and have over 100 Thrive ambassadors who champion Thrive in their areas of the business.
‘We’ve also started to share colleague stories called “this is me”, which promotes an environment in which we all feel able to communicate personal experiences, not just with mental and emotional wellbeing, but also with inclusion and diversity.’
At Rathbones, head of HR David Peach said staff have responded positively to the offer of mental health first aider training, which is a first for the company.
‘We have a number of initiatives already underway to support employees affected by mental health problems, working in partnership with our employee assistance provider and Mindfulness UK to provide tools and run seminars in our larger offices. These include topics such as beating the winter blues, parenting sessions or stress and sleep,’ he said.
‘We see mental health at work as a really important issue and want to do everything we can to build an environment where everyone can thrive.’
Factors at play
Research by the mental health charity Mind identifies long hours, excessive workloads and unrealistic deadlines as causes of stress – factors that people working in finance know all too well. Mind’s own research of 44,000 employees found 48% of people say they have experienced mental health problems in their current job.
In order to combat this, Brewin Dolphin has appointed trained ‘wellbeing champions’. Caroline Lake, head of diversity and inclusion at the firm, said the champions in all of Brewin’s offices receive mental health first aid training and act ‘as the point of contact for any employee who is experiencing mental health issues and emotional distress’.
Employees who are concerned about a colleague can also get in touch with the wellbeing champions.
‘We raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing through regular communication and events across our offices, which have included resilience training and mindfulness sessions. We also provide a wide variety of guidance on mental and physical wellbeing, access to organisations that can provide specialist advice and a range of wellbeing benefits for all employees,’ Lake said.
Similarly, at St James’s Place, staff have access to a range of services such as a free, phone-based employee assistance programme with the option of face-to-face session.
Occupational health assessment and support for employees who are unwell and personal and team resilience programmes are also promoted.
During Mental Health Awareness Week, SJP welcomed representatives from Beat and Calm to tell employees what they do and how funding makes a difference.
Staff are also encouraged to go for one-on-one walks with their managers and with colleagues.
Striving for improvement
Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, praised those striving to improve conditions, but reiterated the fact that poor mental health can affect anyone, regardless of experience.
She said: ‘It’s great to see that over 900 employers including HSBC, Barclays and Bank of England have signed the Time to Change pledge.
‘More recently, we’ve seen the launch of the Mindful Business Charter, drawn up by Barclays, together with law firms Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard. Launched on World Mental Health Day, the Charter aims to bring together leading banking and legal teams to tackle avoidable sources of stress, addressing things like working hours, unnecessary email and delegation.
‘While movements like these are welcome, it’s really important that businesses fully recognise the value of mentally healthy workplaces and that good practice is embedded in policies and procedures so that the impact is felt by all staff, regardless of role or seniority.’