The Mental Health at Work Commitment in a small workplace: Momentum
Office Manager for Momentum
Momentum are team of structural engineering consultants working across all sectors, including arts, culture, education, community, residential and commercial. Last month, they signed up to the Mental health at Work Commitment, helping push the number of signers over the 2500 milestone.
Here, Kelly Bagnall, the Office Manager for Momentum, explains what signing the Commitment means to her organisation, and offers advice for other small businesses starting out on their mental health journeys.
We are a small organisation with 35 technical staff and 3 business support staff. We are a very friendly team, and work hard to create a culture of professionalism with a strong work ethic.
We think it is very important to de-stigmatise mental health. Poor mental health can affect anyone at any time, and we feel it is important that our staff know that if they were struggling, we would not judge them, their job would not be in jeopardy, and we would offer them support, rather than negatively impact or amplify their situation.
That’s why we signed the Mental Health Commitment.
We make sure we provide options for our staff
We are a very busy office, often juggling many projects and clients at once. The nature of our work requires that we communicate with many external parties, work to strict deadlines, and hold a level of responsibility for the health and safety of staff, end users and occasionally the public. This level of duty and workload can become very stressful for an individual and can impact their mental health and wellbeing if they do not feel supported.
So we make sure we provide options for our staff, aimed at both keeping people healthy and helping those in need right now.
For example, we have two trained Mental Health First Aid Responders. Their role is to promote a positive culture towards mental health and staff well-being, provide information to staff to support themselves and one another, and be a confidant for staff requiring support with their role or offering guidance towards getting professional help.
We also have a BUPA Cash Back Plan for all staff following three months of employment, which offers a level of financial support towards therapy. This includes a 24 hour support line with professional mental health practitioners, a CBT course and also therapist fees.
We also meet regularly for general well-being discussions, organise well-being outings and socials, and try to spend time together away from work visiting various events, exhibitions, and study tours.
It is important that our team represents equality
We think feeling represented and valued, regardless of gender, race or identity, is a vital part of staff wellbeing.
We are a 33% female owned company, with a 33% female workforce. Within a sector that has been historically aimed at the male working group, we feel it is important that our team represents equality. Whilst we employ everyone on their own individual merit, our diverse team makes us an approachable company for all applicants.
The industry as a whole has become a lot more diversified, and this is now supported by the education system all the way through to the recruitment process.
Our working hours are flexible, and staff have the option of working from home for part of their working week – aside from graduates and apprentices who we think need the daily support of the team to enable them to grow their skill set, and have access to senior engineers for guidance and mentoring. We have also introduced a 9-day fortnight, to encourage even more flexibility and quality time for our team.
Alongside this we also encourage a diverse, inclusive, creative and empowering environment that lacks a corporate hierarchical approach. Senior Management are valued for their experience and mentoring capabilities, not for their superiority. Everyone is involved within projects, ideas generation and decision-making, as well as doing a fair share of tea rounds and washing up!
Do not be frightened to tackle the subject
If we were to offer advice to a firm of our size who wanted to start their own mental wellbeing strategy, we’d say do not be frightened to tackle the subject in the workplace – whether it’s the initial suggestion to a director, through to communicating with staff.
You could consider identifying staff members who would be confident to train as mental health responders. They may have experience themselves, have helped friends or family, or just like to help people. It doesn’t have to be senior staff, rather staff who are approachable and relaxed who can provide support to staff at all levels.
And when it comes to supporting individuals who have disclosed their mental health concerns to you, be prepared to help, and not judge or be suspicious. Mental health is not easily seen, so people can often question its presence. Listening is vital, sometimes that is all that is needed.
But also remember that confidentiality is key. People will feel vulnerable opening up, so as long as they are safe, it needs to remain private. If senior staff need to be involved to assist workload, absence, time off for appointments, then ask for their consent to discuss with others first.
And lastly, talk about your mental health policy and plans! It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if staff know that they have your support, it is a start.
All pictures credited to Momentum Structural Engineers.
Has your organisation signed the Mental Health at Work Commitment? Whether you work for a small organisation such as Momentum or a larger workplace, your organisation can improve the wellbeing of its staff by signing the commitment and working towards achieving each of its six standards.
You’ll join hundreds of other organisations who have already signed, joining the growing movement for better workplace mental health.
Check out the standards here.