November 13, 2018 in True Strength, Resilience

Outputs from #cipdACE World Cafe session on ‘Reducing Stress and Supporting Mental Health at Work’

At this CIPD Annual Conference session on Thursday 8th November 2018, Nicky Ingham spoke about her own personal story of struggling with her own mental health, Ian Pettigrew spoke about the need to address organisational culture and help people be resilient and be there for them if they struggle, and David Hayden facilitated a world cafe discussion to capture the wisdom in the room about this topic. The following is what was captured in the world cafe discussions:


1 – How do we help people maintain good work-life balance?

  • Educate leaders and challenge traditional views
  • Show some empathy
  • Leaders must lead by example
  • Use data to highlight the business case for happy productive employees
  • Have a 4-day working week?
  • Use flexible working (and focus on integration, rather than balance)
  • Break the trend of presenteeism
  • With email, use signature block to explain time delays and explain when don’t need response
  • Implement the French rule about no email at weekends
  • Be explicit about what expected from people
  • Help leaders be aware of the impact of their behaviour (e.g. emailing at 10pm)
  • When flexible working, be clear that people aren’t always available
  • We need to think outside the box and be creative with solutions
  • Managers need to have different conversations and challenge the norm
  • A mindset shift is required 


2 – How to avoid using things such as yoga/mindfulness as a sticking plaster for poor culture that is damaging/overworking people?

  • Directors need to set culture: go home/switch off
  • Change the culture/ethos; it shouldn’t be necessary to work long hours to progress
  • Close office at 7pm
  • Be clear on email etiquette – no need to respond after 7pm/at weekends
  • Help people understand priorities & highlight the loss of productivity/tiredness and risk of ill-health
  • As HR, don’t just deal with the symptoms; identify (and do something about) the root cause
  • Change perspective; workload is always busy, and we need to make good choices
  • Set and respect boundaries


3 – How can leaders role-model good behaviour/lead by example?

  • This needs to start at the very top
  • By encouraging conversations about wellbeing
  • Change long hours/always communicating culture
  • Respect other people’s time
  • Education
  • Understand accidental diminishing behaviour
  • Give permission for honest conversations about impact of leaders’ actions
  • Show impact
  • Story telling
  • Share experiences
  • Wellbeing and good mental health should be a strategic objective
  • Share experiences of organisations showing how wellbeing impacts the bottom line


4 – How do we support freelancers/those working alone/remotely (who could slip through the net of any programmes supporting mental health).

  • Deliver your messages in a way that remote workers want to hear about it, in order to promote engagement
  • Use a network of wellbeing/mental health champions
  • Use social media, including WhatsApp and Twitter groups
  • Collaborate with other organisations/individuals
  • Videoconferencing
  • Gamification


5 – How to make an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) effective

  • Know your culture; no one size fits all
  • Share experiences across organisations
  • Give people time to access EAP services
  • Clear signposting to support
  • Be really clear on the purpose of an EAP
  • Change mindsets around asking for help
  • Report on ROI


6 – Do HR departments actually exacerbate the experiences of people suffering mental health challenges in the workplace through poor practice?

  • Remember: there is no health without mental health
  • HR needs to be mature and emotionally intelligent to deal with issues case by case
  • Mental health issues can surface wider company problems
  • When people are off with poor mental health, need to agree how they want to be contacted, who keeps in touch with them, support their manager in how best to support them (with a focus on return to work)
  • HR needs to role model good behaviours
  • HR can’t solve this with a process! Need a strong capability, good judgment, emotional intelligence, and a flexible process
  • CIPD training should include how to deal with the ambiguous situations (and adapt response to unique situations)
  • HR need to be skilled in helping people with poor mental health and the organisation needs to be aware of HR’s expertise in this area


7 – How can flexible working help?

  • Life isn’t 9-5 anymore!
  • Flexible working improves engagement, productivity, and recognises individual needs
  • Different start times can relieve the anxiety of getting to work
  • Makes it easier to get the kids to school
  • Flexible working can ease pressures, and recognises individual needs
  • Allows space for hobbies and a focus on physical health (which helps mental health)
  • Being able to walk dog in daylight = better quality time outside = happier person
  • Flexible working in a powerful recruitment tool and a retention tool
  • Allows people freedom within a framework
  • Allows people to keep working when they can’t work prescribed hours/location
  • Allows people to work around appointments and commitments
  • Enables carers to look after others
  • Allows people to work at a place and time that is best for them, and hence produce better outputs
  • Need to be careful about potential presenteeism amongst home workers
  • All of the above needs a culture of trust


8 – How can we destigmatise poor mental health in the workplace?

  • Awareness and understanding; continuous education for the whole workforce
  • Making people feel comfortable to talk about their mental health, and share good news stories (from the top down)
  • Sharing good news stories
  • Real life case studies
  • Top down
  • Have Mental Health First Aiders, including managers
  • Make people accountable for this across the business
  • Help people to understand more; people are often scared of saying the same things in case they worsen the situation
  • Raise awareness
  • Explain what mental health is to people
  • Challenge people that use negativity when Mental Health is discussed
  • Dignity at work
  • Talk about it!


9 – What practical things can wellbeing champions do?

  • Signpost and promote wellbeing based on 4 pillars of practical tools (which hopefully provide something for everyone):
    • Physical
    • Mental
    • Social
    • Financial
  • Get feedback from employees about what stresses them and what support would help
  • Coordinate volunteer days
  • Signpost people to links/EAP
  • Signpost to other resources internally & professionals
  • Promote the role of wellbeing champion, and its benefits
  • Promote and communicate events


Closing remarks on the key things to do next:


Nicky Ingham: It is important to be honest and true to yourself when going through challenging times, it can happen to anyone at any level.  It is okay not to be okay and the more we talk openly about mental health and wellbeing in our profession, the more it will become part of day to day life without fear of reprisal or stigma.  Workforce leaders have a unique position acting as the organisations conscience and we should take our rightful place at centre stage supporting organisations to shape a culture that embraces wellbeing as part of its DNA rather than the next ‘fad’, transparency engages the workforce to give of their best in an organisation that encourages openness and honesty in all that it does.


Ian Pettigrew: Get the organisational culture right; As HR professionals, you probably already know what needs to be addressed in your organisation and we tend to get the organisational culture we deserve. Whilst you might have to play the long game in changing things, don’t be complicit in poor behaviours that damage people. Also, HR should be at the forefront of initiatives on wellbeing and resilience and we have a huge opportunity to practice what we preach, lead by example, and show people that self-care is not selfish. I wholeheartedly support Nicky’s emphasis on the importance of talking; The book ‘Option B’ by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant is a great resource, and this is a great video on the power of talking:


Source: Option B



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