Important Steps to Address Mental Ill Health in the City of London

In the years since the recession, it has been essential for organisations in the City to make significant cuts and reduce their costs, but without compromising the quality of the services they offer. Organisations have had to improve their efficiency, maintain their levels of productivity with fewer resources, and achieve better value for money.

This same period has also seen a significant rise in workplace health and wellbeing programmes, in which organisations are increasingly choosing to invest time, energy and resources in their greatest asset – their staff.

Increasing attention has been drawn to the importance of mental wellbeing, as well as the physical health of employees. As a result, there has been a greater emphasis and awareness of mental health issues and attitudes have become more enlightened in recent years.

With mental health issues affecting one in six British workers each year, workplace wellbeing is not just the right thing to do from a moral perspective, addressing it and embracing a preventative approach also poses a convincing business case for organisations.

Health and wellbeing programmes in the workplace are no longer simply in place as a reactive tool to support those who are already unwell. Leading and progressive organisations are increasingly taking a more holistic approach, focusing attention on measures to address issues before they become a significant problem to both the individual and to the effectiveness of the business. As more work is done to empower employees with information and promote a healthy balanced lifestyle, expectations of the workplace and the employer are beginning to evolve and change.

Last year our organisation, the City of London Corporation, took part in the Healthy Workplace Charter for the first time. We were awarded an ‘achievement’ award and the feedback highlighted that our staff could benefit from increased awareness and support around mental health. In combination with our internal wellbeing survey, the feedback from the Charter has helped inform us and shape the direction of our wellbeing programme, identifying which areas should be addressed, how this should be done and the most effective ways of communicating these changes to our staff.

Following the formal establishment of our health and wellbeing programme, mental health will be the first of our internal themes. The interventions for our programme will be based around the Corporation’s core behaviours; Lead, Empower, Trust. Our emphasis will be on providing our staff with the information, training and services they need to make informed decisions about their own personal health and mental wellbeing.

Our internal work will focus on the importance of establishing and maintaining strong working relationships, listening to each other and empowering our staff to identify the signs of mental health problems in themselves, as well as in those around them. Our aim is to continue to foster an open and honest culture, to create an environment where employees feel no stigma or discrimination in discussing mental health.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Although positive steps have already been taken, it will be a long and gradual process to fully integrate wellbeing into the culture of all organisations, not just for the City of London, but beyond. It will be a process of continual learning, interaction and evolution. For the Corporation, our aim is to fully equip our employees to be informed and resilient individuals, who feel supported at work and open to discuss both their physical and mental health in the workplace. We hope to inspire our staff to lead healthy, happy and balanced lives.

Rebecca Abrahams

Wellbeing Project Officer HR @Rebeccabrahams