As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Kindred Group’s chief HR officer Gavin Hayward explains the importance of encouraging staff to open up about stress and mental health
Mental health has never been a more important topic for organisations to have on the agenda. In our new way of working there is less opportunity for informal interactions where previously we might have observed a change in someone’s mood, energy or mental state.
The pandemic has tested us to the core over a longer period than most could have ever anticipated. Burnout, stress and mental illness is on the rise. A key pillar of the sustainability of an organisation is the sustainability of its people.
A recent study by Deloitte found that poor mental health costs UK businesses around £43bn a year. It also found that for every £1 spent on workplace mental health interventions, employers save around £5 on average.
According to MHFA England, 24% of women and 13% of men in England are diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. So, it’s definitely not uncommon and that represents a significant proportion of our workforce. There are some interesting stats on other forms of mental illness available. When you start to do your research and apply those percentages to the numbers of your headcount (as we recently did as part of our mental health training for our leaders) it’s quite a sobering thought. Mental health then becomes something that is not just someone else’s concern – it’s everyone’s.
So how can we as businesses better support the mental wellbeing of our people?
Kindred has always invested in this area and we have been recognised by GPTW over several years with an Excellence in Wellbeing award.
Over the last 12 months, we have really ramped this focus up. On speaking to my network across our industry it’s clear and reassuring that many of us are doing the same. Over the past 12 months Kindred has increased the number of mental health first aiders. We have created the Kindred Hive which is about creating good habits and support networks for our employees. We have invested in training for our employees on how to manage their own mental health, avoid burnout and for our managers in how to support the mental health of their teams. We have even arranged running competitions, free gym sessions and mindfulness, but is this enough? The simple answer is: no.
Reset the balance
To truly bolster these efforts we, as leaders, have a personal responsibility to walk the talk. It’s not enough to send your team to mental health or burnout training yet continue to work long hours yourself, send emails out of hours and pile on the workload.
At Kindred, early on last year, people reported regularly working longer hours, as I know they have in many other organisations. We as leaders have a responsibility to proactively reset the balance.
We also need to create safe spaces for people to talk openly about stress and mental health issues without fear of judgement. We can role model this by sharing our own experiences to help normalise these conversations.
We should create quality time to check in with our teams and see how they are. A simple “how are you?” can make all the difference in someone’s day, avoid issues escalating before it’s too late and signpost people to the relevant help. Finally, we need to create a culture where people feel able to bring their whole selves to work. Inclusion for all people in your organisation is critical in ensuring that people feel heard.
If I am honest, I still feel somewhat uncomfortable talking openly about mental health to colleagues in the workplace but, after a year-long focus and training around these issues, my comfort levels have increased dramatically and, as I continue on my personal journey to have these conversations, I know this time next year my confidence and competence will have increased even more.
Gavin Hayward holds over 25 years of HR experience gained in a variety of sectors. He was appointed chief HR officer of Kindred Group (then Unibet Group) in 2012. Before joining the Kindred Group, he was part of Siemens plc over a period of 10 years. Hayward is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and holds a Post Graduate Diploma in HR Management from Manchester University.