It’s a mind f*ck but it needs to be done

The InsideOut LeaderBoard, published in yesterday’s Sunday Times, is a timely call to action for business leaders to smash the stigma of mental ill health in the workplace.

I am proud that together with another 41 senior leaders from organisations, including HSBC, PWC, Deloitte, Landsec and Tesco, MullenLowe salt has put our name to #SmashingTheStigma. While we’re only at the start of our journey, we’re committed in making a change to the communications industry and beyond.

I’m often asked why I spend my time championing this cause, and its connection to communications. For a start, it’s deeply personally to me; sharing my story of clinical depression became my purpose to try and help and care for others. And I believe this is an important part of my MD role: it’s proven that leadership talking openly about their own mental health struggles encourages employees to feel more comfortable to do the same, creating a more open and inclusive workforce culture. But this is the first step of a long journey. Talking alone won’t fix anything. I’m deeply conscious of this and relish the pressure I feel to turn words into action.

So, what are we doing at MullenLowe salt? We’ve made communicating and working to improve mental fitness our social mission at salt, which feeds into our company’s purpose: positive change through communications. We will be bringing this to life in a few ways, including:

  • Committing our mental health action plan: to Time for Change. In doing so, we’re being held to account to do what we say
  • Revising our policies: employees will be encouraged to take on agile working in an attempt to help reduce stress levels sometimes experienced travelling to and from the office or working in an open plan space. Shorter working days will be implemented on Fridays during the summer
  • Implementing wellbeing days: days that can be taken as sick leave but labelled as ‘wellbeing days’ for when you’re not feeling mentally fit but don’t want to pretend that you have the flu. And having a BUPA employee assistance programme in place to offer professional free advice where needed
  • A proprietary Head Talks initiative: a series of talks from internal and external individuals on their story, their mental health struggles and how they manage them. These talks will range across various themes to allow us to touch on the multiple facets of mental health e.g. workplace burnout, social anxiety, coping with failure, how to cope after a life event and so forth
  • Doing Mental Health First Aid training and sharing the insights across the business so that everyone knows what to look for and how to approach mental illness with colleagues
  • MullenLowe salt leadership continuing to share experiences within the communications industry in the hope that others will follow suit

We’ll continue to review and appraise the impact of our social mission not least as there’s no rule book for doing it right; businesses notoriously struggle with finding the right thing to do, not just say. Keeping cultures mentally fit isn’t easy. In fact it’s a bit of a mind f*ck but it makes business sense to give it a go. And it starts with leadership.

As the HRH The Duke of Cambridge said at the World Economic Forum in Davos 2019 “I’d love to see more CEOs and those in positions of leadership come out and talk about their mental health.”

Well Prince William, here you go. #letstalkaboutit #bcorp #employeeengagement