Keeping company values fit for the mental health challenge

October 10, 2022

Every year on World Mental Health Day you will read endless blogs such as this, extolling the virtues of positive wellbeing strategies and policies; this is something incredibly commendable and has done so much to remove stigma surrounding mental health issues.

What I have found so encouraging is the diminishing calls for the removal of stigma.

Businesses have listened and acted. I genuinely believe that there are fewer and fewer workplaces now where mental health is not being actively discussed.

Is talking about mental health enough, though?

How has the corporate world actually responded to the need to address mental wellbeing? HR departments have put together programmes, including providing healthy food, employee assistance, and subscriptions to Calm, to name a few. They have refocussed benefits to ensure they were more supportive of mental health, and looked at the causes of burnout and how to avoid it.

Still, the global mental health crisis has worsened with Mind reporting that 1 in 4 of the UK population suffers from poor mental health each year.

The PR industry is widely recognised as one where poor mental health is prevalent.

This time last year the CIPR) and PRCA commissioned a report on Mental Health in the PR.

The research found 90 per cent of PR professionals reported struggling with their mental wellbeing to an extent between 2020 and 2021, compared with 65 per cent of UK workers overall.

More people than ever are looking for mental health support and more people are reporting feelings of burnout or ‘silently resigning’ from their jobs and just checking out.

Why is this happening if we have come so far?

Certainly, the news agenda is anything but supportive of positive mental health. If you can make it through the 9 o’clock news without storm clouds taking over your headspace, you simply are in possession of a superpower.

I feel there is more to it than just the news cycle, though.

All these (certainly worthwhile in principle) corporate initiatives are simply the mental health equivalent of green washing unless they are firmly rooted in a firm’s core values.

Again, many corporates see the pronouncement of their values as a box-ticking exercise. They run a workshop, they get some feedback from the team and, lo and behold, by the magic of a bit of wizardry, words are printed and displayed on the walls of offices only to be forgotten or ignored by the teams that they surround.

Values need to drive how your business treats people the whole way through their employee journey, from the minute they begin looking at your website all the way through the interview process, whilst as an employee and as an alumnus.

Values can also shift with time. Pre-pandemic cultures were more driven, less forgiving, and in many cases highly, perhaps even dangerously, competitive.

Ask your teams now what they value and the shift may be surprising. The social agenda and team composition are far higher up the priorities list than they have ever been. And, after a significant period of being starved of contact during the Covid lockdowns, connectivity and a sense of fun is significantly more important to today’s employee.

Whilst I am a believer that a firm’s values should be deep rooted and built into the foundations of the business, I also believe that they, along with the policies which support them, need to flex in tune with a world that can turn on a six-pence.

Alongside this, mental health policies need continually revisiting – what was fit for purpose last year may not be now.

Ask yourself if your employee support is actually in tune with the current issues your team are facing, such as the price of energy and the cost of living? What can you do to keep those policies relevant and the support they bring rather than relegating them to a dusty old segment of an employee manual?

Above all, ask your teams what they need. Dialogue, empathy and communication are vital – traits and skills that we should, in the PR industry, have in spades.

In recognition of mental health support needing to be so much more than just a day for us to reflect once a year, today I’ll be beginning a year-long challenge raising money for Mind.

Throughout my own health struggles, both physical and mental, I found a surprising (certainly for those who know me well) love for running.

I will support mental health wellbeing with a 12-month challenge whereby I am committing to running 100 kilometres each month.

My fundraising page, which can be found here, will have updates on how I get on each month, but please do either join me or support me on this challenge.

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