A new approach to mental health and workplace wellbeing

Back in early 2020, when the full force of the devastating Covid pandemic hit the world, here at Sigma Connected we talked widely at the time about the health and wellbeing of our staff – with around 80% instantly switching to work from home as part of lockdown restrictions.

We worked around the clock to ensure the wellbeing of our colleagues was our number one priority – putting procedures and processes in place to make sure they felt supported, had access to interactive resources and links, the latest training on mental health awareness and support through our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

However, fast forward almost three years and in so many ways we have changed, including how we operate as a business day to day due to so many of our staff now working from home.

First class mental health support

One of the most important initiatives we have developed further is around our Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) team.

The impact our MHFAs have had since the launch at the start of the pandemic is incredible, especially as more and more people interact with them as part of our quest to promote positive mental health not only in the workplace, but one that stretches into their personal lives also.

With 20 people initially trained back in 2020, split between male and female, we are currently in the process of training a further 10 individuals which will make 30 people by the end of March. Led by myself as the Lead Mental Health First Aider, we will have a large team of people who have the ability, outside of their normal roles here at Sigma, to help and support colleagues as and when they need us.

The types of confidential support the team offer can range from a simple one-off conversation to longer term chats online via Teams, or over the phone, directing colleagues to the range of wellbeing and development materials available on our Sigma Discovery platform. For those who may need additional or longer-term support, they can be signposted to professional counsellors and other specialists / organisations for deeper discussions.

I am delighted with how people feel they can be so open with the First Aiders, knowing it is helping them through their struggles.

Going faster and further

We have even gone one step further and now ensure that those MHFA discussions aren’t only on a reactive basis. We make sure that when people are onboarded as part of their induction, they undertake a survey which includes questions on current or past illnesses, disabilities, and their general mental wellbeing. Based on the information provided, as the Head of Health and Safety, I will facilitate a meeting with the new staff member and their line manager to see how Sigma Connected can support them.

This highly confidential and proactive approach identifies straight away any help an individual may need. And it doesn’t stop there, at the start of every year it’s also now mandatory for every single Sigma Connected employee to complete annual Mental Health Awareness training through our e-learning portal – creating further awareness around issues such as stress, anxiety, disorders and conditions.

Our ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’ initiative also supplements this with a weekly programme centred around topics such as the importance of feeling and staying connected, mental health triggers, physical health and even healthy eating.

The success of our programme was underlined just last month when, following an audit, we became a Platinum Accredited Member of the Workplace Mental Health Charter. This rare and fantastic recognition is down to the hard work of our MHFAs.

Why we care?

Aside from the proud recognition we’ve received, I’ve outlined in this short blog some of the initiatives we’ve undertaken to ensure we look out for our people, and importantly, where we think we’ve improved. Many ask why we go to so much effort.

Quite simply, I believe businesses must do all they can to support their people and we do it not only because we take our duty of care very seriously, but because we truly want to make a difference to people’s lives and hopefully play our part in helping them live a better one.

It doesn’t just stop now the Covid pandemic is fading away as in many ways it has left mental scars for thousands. Colleagues are still reaching out and it has made me more passionate than ever to see our people supported in as many ways as we can. I want them to know we are here.

It’s important to us that Sigma’s work in this area isn’t just seen as a tick in the box and this means constantly developing, and listening to our colleagues, to see what else we can do to help moving forward.

We have more MHFAs coming through which is great to see. We also have a new series of podcasts planned, easier ways for people to get in touch through micro communities by using internal social media platforms such as Yammer, and also a bigger drive to reach out to more male colleagues.

Another big change will see us rebranding and bringing all our wellbeing platforms and materials under one identity called ‘Sigma Minds’ which is set to be launched in April.

Together with the amazing work of our MHFAs, the rebranding is a huge opportunity and underlines how far we’ve come in the past few years. It’s a significant milestone for us as we keep striving to be an employer of choice where we support and connect with our people like never before.

About the author

Peter Harkness is head of health, safety and facilities at Sigma Connected. Readers can connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


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