Road to wellbeing: championing action on employee mental health

With a passion for people, we’re helping our teams to support each other as well as customers' delegates.

Increased awareness of our delegate wellbeing continues to be of importance, and we need to make sure that our teams are equipped to support each other as well as our customers. So, as our director or organisational change, and programme leader for our Mental Health Champions Network, I’d like to share more about the essential changes we’re making to support employee wellbeing.

Delegates can feel stressed, overwhelmed and under a lot of pressure. This can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle, tiredness or a general lack of confidence, commonly factors that are related to poor mental health. The continued awareness of delegate wellbeing continues to be of importance to us, and while out Smarter working proposition aims to address this for customers, we asked ourselves what we could do to better support employees too.

According to mental health charity Mind, mental health problems account for an estimated 40% of sick leave. But up to 90% feel they can’t be open and honest about it. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Dr Justin Varney of Public Health England says “Employees who have positive mental health are more productive, and businesses that promote a progressive approach to mental health can see a significant impact on business performance, so it’s about good business too.”

It is widely reported that depression, anxiety and similar conditions are on the rise. And employers don’t always have the expertise to deal with this or the mechanisms to offer the right support. Like all companies, we have first-aiders in our offices, but when it comes to mental health, we wanted to do more.

While considering our next steps, I met Mat Holman, mental health first aid instructor and founder of Simpila Healthy Solutions. We were already in talks with Mat about providing wellbeing and mental health solutions for our customers. This led to a conversation about a mental health first-aiders' course for managers and employees.

Inspired by Mat, we launched our mental health and wellbeing champions. The goal was to train mental health first-aiders, and encourage a group of people willing to coordinate initiatives to drive awareness. It was James Parkhouse, our CEO, who wrote to employees to say “we’re listening” and that having mental health champions is just one of the initiatives we are delivering.

Colleagues were invited to apply, stating their credentials and why they felt the role of a mental health champion is important. The response was amazing and over 10% of our employees applied.

Our champions have been on a two-day accredited course to give them a thorough understanding of what mental health is and how they can help. It means they also receive the Mental Health First Aid England qualification. Now we will start to build initiatives, such as awareness videos, signposts to mental health support and a training programme outlining to managers how they can support their teams. 

We’re now in the process of raising awareness of who our mental health champions are – the people within your office that you can turn to. It is a voluntary role, so they will do this in addition to their own role. We will also meet regularly so that we can support the champions in return, because it’s not an easy job. They are going to be listening and guiding others to get help – so we need to make sure we are looking after them.

This is only the start. Ideally, we will have managers who are better equipped to spot the signs and act as first line of support. In the future, we will have mental awareness training with all line managers, so it will be standard for any manager at Capita Travel and Events to have some grounding in the subject. We’re really looking forward to it and feel quite proud of how far we’ve come, while also being keenly aware of how far we have left to go.

No business can afford to ignore this issue. If you’ve got an ineffective workforce due to lack of mental health support, they won’t perform to the best of their ability. We all need to focus on building a healthy organisation with healthy employees – and that means healthy minds as much as healthy bodies.