On October 10th, we celebrate World Mental Health Day. At Infomentum we've recently made a pledge to change how we think and act about mental health, and we've decided to dive right in and really get involved. Let's begin with some background about mental health at work. We'll discuss a topic that a lot of people might not know much about, and focus on our initiatives to get us all talking about, understanding, and looking at mental health in a different way.
Over the last ten years in the UK, mental health has emerged as an important societal issue. So many of us will deal with a mental health problem at some point during our lives - as many as one out of four people, in fact. A survey by Mind charity showed that half of all employees are affected by mental health problems, as reported by the BBC. And that has a huge impact on business - it's estimated that poor mental health costs UK employers £33bn - £42bn every year.
How are those losses made up? There are lots of factors that add up, like absenteeism, presenteeism, staff turnover costs, and many more. All these things underline how important it is to recognise and find good ways to manage mental health problems in the workplace, that safeguard the employees, and also the employer. We've thought long and hard about it, and we've come up with an Infomentum programme that will look after and promote everyone's wellness here in the team. Read on to find out a little bit more.
When you're throwing around facts and numbers, you sometimes lose sight of what the main focus is - for us, that's our employees. What binds us together at Infomentum are is handful of core values: collaboration, commitment, progressiveness and inclusiveness, regardless of background. So, we've taken those values, and put them at the core of both our wellness programme and our policy around mental health.
Understanding and supporting your employees is key. We were keen to get on top of this, so we teamed up with Mind, a charity that supports and empowers people experiencing mental health problems, and Time to Change, an organisation fighting to end the stigma surrounding mental health. We're learning all the fundamentals from them, such as what the most common mental health issues are, and how to spot some early warning signs. And thanks to that, we're now in a place where we can take measures to safeguard and support our employees, if they're experiencing any trouble with mental health. We've always recognised that our employees are our greatest asset, and we've always been there for them if they fell into problems with mental health. What we were lacking were policies, procedures, and ways to give our employees advice.
To get the ball rolling, we needed to open up a dialogue around mental health. We got everyone involved in workshops on the topic, that we based mostly on material from Time to Change. The truth is: a lot of people find it hard to talk about mental health; they don't know too much about it, they might feel like there's a taboo around it, and all of that makes them feel uncomfortable. On our mission to change all those things, we began our workshops by dispelling some myths about mental health, and ran a mini pub quiz to ease everyone into the subject. And after some initial "I don't know what to expect" moments, we broke down the barriers, and soon everyone was chatting openly.
We took the chance to ask the team ‘what can we do as a company to make it easier to talk about mental health?’. We got lots of great ideas from the workshops, and it was amazing to see the team really opening up and exploring their thoughts and feelings about mental health together. We used our monthly company goal as a platform to start a conversation around mental health. On one of our whiteboard walls in the office, we drew an "elephant in the room", asked everyone to write their thoughts and feelings about mental health on sticky notes, and to fill the elephant with them. We also played a game of "pass the parcel", where every layer of wrapping had a fact about mental health hidden inside. This sparked a conversation between our employees, who shared their thoughts and feelings about the fact they had unwrapped. The elephant was filled, and all the layers of the parcel were opened, which meant that we smashed the monthly challenge! And as a reward, we treated everyone to a yoga session in the park.
According to Time to Change, the shame and fear of speaking up about a mental health problem can be just as bad as the problem itself. Fundamentally, our programme is about giving support and creating an environment where we feel free to talk. We've recruited five Wellness Champions, who have the job of promoting emotional, physical and social wellness at Infomentum. We've got Anousha, Sital and Vikram looking after emotional wellness, Vivi on social wellness, and Alessandro on physical wellness. The champions are there to listen and give us an opportunity to open up - that goes for work-related issues, but also for anything personal. Our champions have the responsibility of signposting mental health resources, which are also up on our intranet. The main goal here is to create a safe environment at work, where people don't fear that they'll be judged or stigmatised for voicing what's on their minds.
We've also got our private healthcare provider Vitality as a resource our employees can turn to. They have a mental health panel that offers different methods of counselling, and by using their mindfulness and relaxation apps, you can earn points and exchange them for rewards!
That's what we've been working on so far. We're really excited to roll out more initiatives, and our next workshops are in the making as I write. They'll be all about mental health education, managing stress and anxiety, and mindfulness. In the meanwhile, we have some promotional activities going on, like the bake-off we held this month, to raise money for Mind. We’ve also experienced how powerful it is to have external guests come in to talk about mental health with the team. A talk by Jana Dowling, founder of The 888 Collective, went down a storm when she took to the floor to tell the inspirational story of her personal struggle with mental health, in an engaging and matter-of-fact way.
We feel we've made a great start, and we're excited to keep the momentum going on our Wellness Programme. We want it to continue making a positive impact on our workplace culture and keep on safeguarding our employees' well-being. We've been inspired by Time to Change's "ASK TWICE" campaign, which combats our tendency to say we're "fine" when we're not. We'll be asking twice from now on, and if you have any questions about our wellness programme, get in touch and I'll be happy to talk.