Over 60 members of the Swindon Mindful Employer Network (SMEN) came together online this month to hear from local experts in the field of mental health and the workplace.
Chaired by Yazmin Taylor of Swindon & Gloucestershire Mind (SG Mind), SMEN holds up to 5 meetings a year in partnership with Swindon Borough Council and Business West to help empower organisations - large or small - to support the mental wellbeing of their staff.
At a time when businesses are looking at new working arrangements due to the easing of lockdown, our April meeting served to underline the importance of putting staff mental health first at a time of change.
WeDoHR’s Managing Director Sarah Cook was the first guest speaker. Sarah has been directing the people functions of organisations for more than 15 years, her career has been spent working in SME businesses who are growing both organically and by acquisition in the UK and across the globe.
The key takeaway from her talk was that when it comes to the wellbeing and mental health of your employees, one size does not fit all. As she put it “what some will find a refreshing change others will struggle to get to grips with.”
In order to cultivate a supportive environment which takes account of different working styles in an organisational setting, Sarah suggested using the Myers Briggs test.
Myers Briggs assesses an employee’s personality type and assigns them a colour as a predictor of how they will react in certain situations.
In this time of huge change and stresses and strains we never expected to be part of working life said Sarah, Myers Briggs offers a useful tool for spotting the signs of overload and provide support and interventions for your employees that will work for them as individuals.
Following Sarah Cook, TeamDoctor’s Rosie Rosie Runciman and leading Occupational Psychologist Emily Hutchinson looked at ways of coping with the causes of stress at work.
Emily Hutchinson gave a insightful exposition of the relationship between stress and productivity, suggesting that a degree of stress can be positive for an individual and the organisation. However, she warned that too much stress can lead to burnout – a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that leaves employees struggling to function at work.
Whilst burnout can last months or even years added Rosie Runciman, it is “not an irreversible state” and can be overcome by individuals and organisations. Even so, the best course of action is to take steps to mitigate it in the first place. Most notably, this can be achieved through sensibly managing workloads – something which Rosie acknowledged had been complicated somewhat by the pandemic.
Our last guest speaker James Hackett, Director of Swindon’s Inspire Creative, shared his own inspirational journey of starting and running a business despite contending with his own mental health issues.
James spoke passionately about the need for openness about mental health in the workplace if it is to be managed effectively.
The next SMEN meeting will take place on 9th June.