Supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace

Supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace

The following post is by Richard Lucas, co-founder of govox.

In all honesty…. it took me 25 years to ‘get it’.

Maybe it was because I was focusing on other areas, or maybe mental health and wellbeing just weren’t openly prioritised before, but either way, this has been a crucial journey for me in realising what matters when leading teams and being a ‘supportive’ leader.

I’ve led teams of varying sizes for over 25 years, I’m proud to say with some success (okay, not always but I’m presenting my best side!). But in the last couple of years the subjects that rear their head with no obvious immediate solutions, are that of mental health and wellbeing.

Now, if I continue my honest streak, I have to confess for me that I did see an immediate solution – but it was wrong! They took the form of the “everyone has a bad day” view and the classic “Man up” type of support.

But one day that changed.

Now this isn’t going to be a story of complete transformation; I still have to work on being more open to understanding the needs of others, but after 25 years one call started a cycle of change that has led to today.

It wasn’t the usual scorecard-focused, commercial performance call… it was a little more personal than that. This very difficult conversation was about the fact that one of my extended team had failed to show up to work that day.  Cut to me thinking “what a pain… the customer’s been let down… etc”. You can see how the traditional leader in me would immediately react to this. But the light bulb came on when we found out why. The night before he had tried to take his own life, alone in a local park… and found by emergency services (absolute heroes) the following day.

This changed everything.

We do, of course, put support in place (we are great at that, aren’t we?). This support has been ongoing – we care about our people!

So… why didn’t we know? What could we have done? Did we contribute?

In this format, it’s difficult to articulate the feelings, thought process and journey that followed, so without dwelling on the negatives, I’ll move on to the positive outcomes.

We had to create a way to be closer to our people, to help us prioritise the conversations that matter. Honest hat on again, these ‘conversations that matter’ were previously driven by a regular scorecard which basically aimed to find out ‘who do I need to support, so they can deliver (for us) better?’. Pretty one dimensional and only effective in getting the job done, not looking after our team.

So, how could we be more pro-active, more people focused? After all, we are ‘great leaders’; we know our people… don’t we?! Our annual employee engagement survey took care of us knowing what was going on in the business; All good. Since then, I’ve had that explained to me as ‘the equivalent of taking a bath once a year’ – another penny dropped! This actually was us asking, and only listening to the bits we liked…

Fast forward a few months; lots of navel gazing, personally challenging conversations and crucially bringing in experts, took place. And the power of the ‘check-in’ was born. It’s so simple in its principle:

  • Check In regularly with your colleagues
  • Use technology
  • Make it quick and simple
  • Deliver simple insights (not loads of data, thanks!)

And so govox was born.

Early intervention is key to prevention

govox is designed to help anyone with responsibility for a group of people – leaders, managers, HR professionals or occupational therapists – to identify employees that may be struggling with their emotional wellbeing at any given time, and prioritise the conversations that matter.

Check-in regularly with your workforce

govox uses a simple check-in, accessed by the user on their phone or tablet, etc. Each check-in consists of a non-intrusive questionnaire, designed by mental health experts, to identify the early warning signs of isolation, stress, depression or anxiety without asking blunt, closed questions. Employees simply select from a pre-defined set of multiple choice answers. It takes less than a minute.

Identify employees who need support

The govox online wellbeing dashboard turns check-in data into a dynamic visual insight which is presented in the form of:

  • An overall happiness score – to monitor wellbeing trends across the workforce
  • Red flags which indicate an individual with a potential issue or unmet need
  • Comments; for a deeper understanding based on candid feedback

These at-a-glance insights provide the trigger for line managers to proactively address problems or provide support, rather than only becoming aware of an issue once an employee is signed off or resigns. Intervention is often as simple as an informal catch-up over coffee, or could involve agreeing steps to restore work/life balance, or arranging counselling services.

Putting purpose into practice

Users range from small businesses to large corporations, with over 20,000 check-ins completed in the first year alone. Our mission is to give employees a voice in confidence, and equip employers to identify at-risk individuals earlier, to reduce sickness absence and improve retention in the modern workplace… or to prevent ‘that’ call ever being made again.

We’re only at the beginning, but being a leader finally seems holistically advantageous.