HR & Management

Mind Control: Business owners should lead by example

10 min read

11 October 2017

Much research has been dedicated to how staff pick up habits from business owners and management teams like "the common cold". Taking care of your wellbeing is no different.

While many have pointed out the methods through which business owners can help boost mental health, Kath Riley, MD of legal recruiters Douglas Scott, suggests any changes in culture must start at the top.

Essentially, business owners need to lead by example, taking time off and stepping away from their desks. This concept was the focus of Paymentsense research, suggesting  bosses often viewed lunchbreaks as an extravagance they couldn’t afford – 47 per cent of respondents never stepped foot outside the office during working hours. This, in turn, kept employees glued to their desks.

It may seem like a small factor, but this could inevitably pile on extra stress during an already hectic day or week. With that in mind, we spoke to Riley about common mental health misconceptions – and what business owners shouldn’t implement in the workplace.

What do you think are the biggest factors leading to mental health issues?

I believe many issues stem from the fact that too many business owners continue to drive competition into unhealthy territory – while competition is necessary, it’s important to appreciate that work-life balance isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity.

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

Healthy, happy staff that feel valued and empowered in their roles are more productive – they feel energised in their work and able to perform to the best of their abilities. We’re a business that really backs our people, working with them to forge a successful career.

We often see people leave the firm for roles elsewhere, returning at a later stage in their career – that says a lot about the culture we’ve created. Any business that genuinely cares about the health and wellbeing of its staff will reap the benefits on its balance sheet.

In what ways do you invest in your employees’ health and wellbeing?

Health and wellbeing is an intrinsic part of our culture at Douglas Scott, it isn’t a case of just offering free breakfast and yoga and hoping that does the trick. It’s important that people enjoy the environment in which they’re spending the majority of their time. If they don’t, they’ll almost certainly vote with their feet.

It’s also important to note what we don’t do – like using leader boards for example, which are usually a fixture in many other recruitment firms. We promote a collaborative approach, working together instead of against each other, and choose to incentivise through team percentage bonuses, as well as commission, so that we celebrate each other’s successes – when one person wins, we all do.

We heard you’re welcoming a hypnotherapist into the office. How do they work with the team?

For a five-week period the hypnotherapist will be spending time with our team, holding workshops with the aim of tackling mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and insomnia. All team members will be offered one-on-one sessions in which they can discuss any concerns confidentially and identify any issues brewing under the surface. So far, it has been received positively.

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

All expenses paid holidays. It’s important to switch off and allow your mind the time to recharge and take stock. At Douglas Scott we encourage staff to disconnect during the evenings, at weekends and on annual leave.

It’s also important to find time for family and loved ones so it would be great to send people off on holiday with their nearest and dearest to enjoy some downtime in the sun – or the snow, if that’s their thing!

How would you advise business owners to address staff mental health?

It’s important that business owners and management teams lead by example – great culture comes from the top. They need to recognise the benefit to the long-term health of their business and approach health and wellbeing as an essential business expenditure.

It’s also important to make sure wellness initiatives don’t run alongside poor practices – such as bullying and unsupportive line management – which will simply render initiatives completely useless and give the impression that the health of the team isn’t a priority, just a tick-box exercise.

Read on to find out how Riley unwinds after a tough week

Do you believe that mental health as a taboo subject persists?

Great strides have been made in recent months. Just this year there have been several campaigns launched to break the silence and highlight the problem we have on our hands. According to the World Health Organisation one in four people will be affected by mental health issues at some point in their lives.

It could happen to any one of us and it’s important that people are surrounded by a positive, supportive culture at work that helps them to prevent any issues being triggered in the workplace. Yes, in some cases issues arise for other reasons, at which point business owners have a moral duty of care to provide the right support the individual needs to get the help they need.

Is it often the case that people don’t realise what their own mental health situation is?

When you’re busy, and the workplace often is an energetic environment, there is a danger that you don’t take a moment to reflect and think about how you are actually feeling. Plus, when everyone else looks fine on the outside, the danger is that you push any concerns to one side.

By introducing initiatives like the hypnotherapist, perhaps offering mindfulness sessions or simply providing a quiet space to reflect, business owners can help their staff find the time to prioritise their own wellness and recognise when there is perhaps an issue they need to deal with.

What do you think can be done to improve understanding of mental health illnesses?

Talking about mental health is key – both in terms of celebrities and influencers speaking out, as Prince Harry and the Duke of Cambridge have done recently for example, as well as business leaders. People need to feel comfortable in sharing their own stories,

What is the most common misconception?

I think the most common misconception is based on the term “mental illness” itself – thanks to the news, film and TV, it conjures perceptions of really serious conditions. Awareness is growing around the broad spectrum of mental illness and the fact that it ranges from mild depression or anxiety through to more serious issues that requires a greater level of help and support.

There is help available and it’s important that people understand how to access it.

How do you unwind after a tough week – and do you have any rituals to improve your mental health?

After a tough week, there’s nothing better than being at home and spending quality time with my family.

While I don’t have any rituals as such, I’m always mindful of making time for myself, getting out in the fresh air and switching off. I have also recently taken part in the hypnotherapy sessions myself and found them to have a hugely positive impact on my outlook and wellbeing both in a personal and professional capacity. I genuinely believe that culture and attitude to mental health comes from the top, so I’m very conscious of the messages I’m sending to the team.