Emma Cordingley, Early Careers Manager and HR Advisor at Hiscox, on the launch of Hiscox’s ‘WeMind’ network and why mental health awareness is so important for a healthy workplace.
The world is changing. More people are talking about mental health at work although for some, it is still seen as something to be hidden away and dealt with via a ‘stiff upper lip’. This has to change. At Hiscox, our objectives are to support, inspire, educate, and to destigmatise mental health in the workplace so that every Hiscox employee can realise his or her potential and cope with the normal stresses of everyday working life. It is with this mission that we have launched the ‘WeMind’ employee network which aims to bring greater levels of mental health awareness and support to our employees.
‘WeMind’ focuses on mental health and wellbeing
Supported by senior management, ‘WeMind’ is made up of a dozen or so Hiscox employees organised into a committee with champions across our UK offices. The idea is that ‘WeMind’ focuses on mental health awareness and promoting the importance of looking after our mental wellbeing, with a programme of regular events, activities and both internal and external speakers. It also drives initiatives such as classes in Yoga, Pilates, mindfulness, and nutrition, as well as our fortnightly ‘walk and talk’ and other sports clubs. In addition, anyone can go on a specific half or full day mental health awareness training course, run by the charity MIND. Initially this awareness training was set up to help managers and those in supervisory roles to recognise the signs of mental health problems in their teams but we opened up the training to everyone in the business, particularly when we realised signs of mental health issues are often first recognised by an employee’s peers rather than their managers.
For the first time we have the names of qualified mental health first aiders listed next to the names of first aiders in our office noticeboards throughout the UK. These employees have undergone a two-day mental health first aid training course provided by MIND. It’s a big change and gives employees a first point of contact if they need help. From the mental health first aider, they might then be referred to HR for further help and/or meetings with their manager to help manage workloads. Employees can also access a 24/7/365 helpline through our confidential and free Employee Assistance Programme, which offers counselling for work or family issues. There have been occasions when I’ve talked to people in the business who have been quite desperate – even with suicidal thoughts – and the counselling on offer has really helped them get the support they needed.
At this moment, WeMind is a UK initiative for Hiscox but we’re looking to grow the network in our offices in Europe and the US to ensure that all our employees have access to the mental health support and training that they might need.
An employee’s view
Andrew Sellers – Hiscox’s Group Head of Claims Supplier Management – on his own mental health experience and the value of mental health awareness training.
I found the MIND training course revelatory and humbling. During the session I quickly grasped just how little I had invested on the subject throughout my career. That is now changing. In particular I learnt about ‘presenteeism’; where we are physically present at work but our minds are elsewhere and we are just going through the motions. I unwittingly experienced that when I was dealing with a bereavement and a tremendous sense of loss seven years ago. I know on some days I was overwhelmed and I should have called ‘time-out’; talked with my team and gone home. Looking back, maintaining a ‘stiff upper lip’ was not the right thing to do.
Appreciating that stress and anxiety top the work absence league table for UK Plc was also an eye opener. We need to create an environment in every workplace where we all feel safe and confident to talk about mental health challenges we may face from time to time. I have a different perspective now.