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Mind control: Many still believe those with mental health issues can just “snap out of it”

Don't assume to know the root cause behind employee mental health problems. And even if it's a "simple issue" like a lack of sleep, you shouldn't expect them to "snap out of it".
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Mental health has become a key topic, with numerous business leaders hailing the benefits of a happy and healthy team. But while we are making leeway, more should be done to increase confidence in staff to talk about the issue.

That’s what we found out from Hugh Robertson, the CEO of independent creative agency RPM. He told Real Business that a key part of the company’s longevity, in a demanding marketing industry, has been its focus on the wellbeing of employees. 

But a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist – Robertson explains anyone conducting wellbeing surveys may be surprised by the highlighted problem areas. In the case of RPM, it was that staff weren’t sleeping enough. Find out what else he had to say below:

Do you believe mental health issues have become part and parcel with the marketing field?

It’s become increasingly common in most industries perhaps because of the intensification of work. Because of the increased awareness around mental health in society and improvements in the support that is available, however, people are more likely to come forward and own their mental health concerns. But, anecdotally and from my own experience, I would suggest there is a greater prevalence in creative industries, yes.

What do you believe are the benefits of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing?

Our people are arguably our business’ only asset – without them we don’t have a business. The happier and healthier they are, the better they will perform for us and our clients. Our reputation as an employer is also improved and more people want to work for us, for a longer period of time.

In what ways do you boost employee wellbeing?

Our culture and work environment is very important to us. We try to ensure employees adopt a healthy work-life balance and maintain perspective – and the 4pm finish on Fridays help. We also ensure there is a fair allocation of workload by monitoring utilisation. We ran a wellbeing survey recently and it showed us where we needed to focus attention.

For example, a recent initiative saw the introduction of mental health first aiders across the agency. These specially trained employees of various levels of seniority are available, confidentially, at any time. They are also trained to spot the signs of mental health problems in others as well as advising the organisation on mental health related matters and raising awareness generally.

We also understand how important performance management is in boosting employee wellbeing. Employees who know what is expected of them through rigorous objective setting combined with coaching conversations and feedback from their line manager, are simply less likely to experience stress and poor wellbeing at work.

Positive feedback and a sense of progress is vital. We are currently undergoing a programme to develop the coaching and feedback capability in the agency as we believe this will have a positive impact on wellbeing and in turn organisational performance.

If money was no object, what health and wellbeing perks/schemes would you advocate employers have in place?

There is so much you can do but even if money is no object it doesn’t make sense to go into overload. You need to find solutions that fit your company and employees’ needs. There are a raft of providers focusing on different aspects of physical and mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, and it’s becoming an ever more creative field.

There are apps that give you almost instant Skype access to a GP and a prescription delivery service, to personal trainers who work with individuals in their lunch hour. But if I was going to advocate one thing, it would be positive, supportive working relationships.

On the next page Robertson sings the praises of fresh air.

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

Real Business