Mind Matters: empowering employees to lead the conversation

Does your organisation actively promote conversations about mental health?

Today I have a guest post for you by Chloë Marsh who has over 12 years’ experience in internal communications and employee engagement and is here to talk about mental health in the workplace.

She currently works for innovative London housing Provider RHP as their Head of Communications and Engagement.

At RHP she’s been involved in them gaining Investors in People Platinum status and appearing in the top 10 of the UK Great Place to Work list twice in the past five years (once at the number one spot). You can find Chloë @chloealexandra7 on Twitter.

I’ll hand you over…

Mind Matters: empowering employees to lead the conversation

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been working hard to open up conversations around mental health in the workplace. It’s been positive to see a greater openness in the wider world and we’re keen to mirror this in our organisation.

Although we made progress, we realised it was largely as a communications team that we were driving these conversations (usually using official focus days as a catalyst).

Over the past six months however we’ve achieved a big step change.

This shift has occurred as we’ve worked to empower employees to lead these conversations themselves.

This is how we’ve done it:

1) Champion champions

By far the most important thing we’ve done over the past twelve months is to introduce Mind Matters Champions. This is a group of people from across the business (currently around 20) who have volunteered to attend a two-day course run by the British Safety Council to become a Mental Health First Aider. Their role is to be people that employees can go to if they feel they need to talk to someone. They have been trained to spot signs of mental health, be expert listeners and signpost to advice and support.

We’ve realised it’s not enough to train people and then expect them to go out into the organisation to support mental health matters on their own. We’re therefore very much working in partnership with them from a comms, HR and L&D perspective. This includes helping them pull together huddle activities, providing nudges for them to keep the conversation going and importantly, checking in regularly to see what support they might need themselves.

2) Use focus days but don’t make the only focus

As a communications team we’ve found a great way for us to start talking more about mental health was to structure activity around associated national and international focus days throughout the year, such as Time to Talk and World Mental Health Day. We’ve found this useful as the organisations that run these days have a huge amount of resources you can use for campaigns and activities.

Most recently we jumped on board the brilliant ‘Brew Monday’ campaign from the Samaritans that turned Blue Monday on its head and encouraged people to connect over a cuppa. As well as using their useful resources, we also brought the theme to life in our own way by giving everyone branded tea pouches (with everything you need for a brew on the go). We set people the challenge to take the time to connect with someone that day.

It was a joy to hear how people had used the pouches – particularly seeing photos of our Retirement Scheme Managers (who work on their own remotely) who had made a special effort to go and see one of their peers that day for a catch up.

We really value having these focus days as an anchor and will continue to get involved in them. However, we’ve also realised that it’s not enough to talk about mental health on a day dedicated to it – conversations need to be happening all the time.

Therefore, we’ve challenged our Mind Matters Champions to find ways to keep up the conversation throughout the year. They’ve been doing a great job so far in running huddles, posting interesting articles/ resources on our social network Yammer and they’re about to start having regular drop-in sessions. We’re here of course to provide support, ideas and a little nudge if things go quiet.

3) Make it personal

We all know that hearing a personal story from someone rather than something corporate is so much more powerful. Therefore, we’ve tried to find ways to encourage people to share (where they’re comfortable) their own experiences of mental health.

Once people see one person open up it builds trust and others follow – which has led to a range of powerful stories from across the business.

Our Chief Executive has led the way, sharing personal insight into why mental health matters are important to him. Just last week one of our Caretakers wrote beautifully about his experience of stress and depression – it was extremely descriptive and am sure would have helped others who are going through similar situations to feel less alone.

Although we’ve made progress in normalising the conversation around mental health, we still have more to do and we’ll continue to put energy, thought and care into it.

Because after all, minds matter.

Post author: Chloë Marsh.

Thank you Chloë, I couldn’t agree more with your stance, particularly around peer-to-peer communication and how it can empower others to share their stories.

If you want to know more about mental health in the workplace, do sign up to the Mental Health Leadership Masterclass I’m running alongside workplace mental health expert Jo Hooper @madandsadclub. We have a new date, 4 June 2020.

You’ll leave this one day Masterclass with:

  • A clear understanding of your role as an employer.
  • A template for a set of mental health guidelines that you can then take away to tailor in your organisation.
  • Resources to support your people once you’re back in the workplace.
  • An understanding of the reality of what it’s like to struggle with your mental health at work.

See the website to find out more information and to save your place.

Further reading about mental health via the All Things IC blog 


Thank you for stopping by


First published on the All Things IC blog 9 March 2020.

Mental Health Leadership Masterclass 4 June 2020


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