16 October 2019

Building a resilient county - workshop 4 notes (16 October 2019)

We all have mental health

 Suffolk Mind’s aspiration is that Suffolk is the best place in the world to live and work when it comes to supporting positive mental health and wellbeing
 We all have mental health and are on a continuum which regularly moves according to a number of internal and external factors
 Jon Neal outlined a series of emotional and physical needs, which can each affect our mental health if not met
 There was also discussion about the distinction between ‘stretch’ (which can be a healthy way of instilling fulfillment and achievement at work) and ‘stress’, which is often the cause of a deterioration in the quality of an individual’s mental health

About mental health and targets

 The group started a discussion about the potential negative impact of solely focusing on meeting targets
 One example was a performance appraisal split 50/50 between whether employees had met their objectives but also the behaviour they had demonstrated to do so (both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’)
 There was general agreement that targets should not govern how we do things, although it was acknowledged that they don’t go away
 One other important focus was how colleagues support each other as a team, working towards the same objectives
 One suggestion was that stretch vs stress can be supported by empowering people to find their own solutions, and giving them permission to discuss what stretch/stress means to them

About technology

 The group felt that increasing advances in technology can have a negative impact, such as the pressure to be ‘online’ and respond to emails out of hours
 There was some discussion on when it was acceptable to email (or not) and whether a limit should be imposed. One specific example was including a footnote in an email to explain that, although the sender may be issuing it out of hours, there was no expectation that the recipient should reply immediately
 However, some felt that Suffolk must be able to compete globally, and any self-imposed limits on working out of hours could jeopardise this
 Flexible working may involve working out of hours on occasion, and may suit some people

Creating a climate of openness

 Many felt that a mark of creating as resilient organisation is being able to accept, and talk openly, about mental health at work and being able to say “I feel vulnerable”
 There was general agreement that these workshops have helped with this, and inspired many attendees to take this back to their workplaces, but that we have to continue the momentum that has been created
 One way of doing this is being aware of what support is available, both within individual organisations and more generally, and to be able to signpost staff as necessary

Addressing the root causes

 Despite a greater understanding of resilience, and how to embed it within workplaces, increasing workloads and other pressures on the workplace will not go away. There was a feeling we must address root causes rather than the symptoms- this work must not be a “sticking plaster” but rather a means to have a more realistic review of the factors that affect workplace wellbeing
 The group felt that could support each other by sharing good practice, policies and general suggestions around what works. Specific ideas included:
o Creating networks of practice between similar sectors / size organisations (Public Health already coordinates a medium size business group and others old be welcome to join)
o Pooling resources, including having a single place to download and share policies for others to adapt and use
o Setting up a directory of resources that provides easy access to agencies and resources that can support good wellbeing in the workplace
o Acting as ambassadors / advocates for other businesses, working as ‘buddies’ by lending expertise and ideas. This can be explored as a continuation of this work after the summit on 1 November.
 On a wider note, the group felt that we shouldn’t ignore the role of managers in this work, and to ensure they have the support they need
 The group reiterated the point that there is not only a moral obligation to invest in workplace wellbeing, but that there is a clear business benefit

Some of the most important factors that support wellbeing in the workplace

 The ability, or ‘permission’, to talk about concerns with a genuine climate within organisations to support good mental health
 Good role models that can show vulnerability but still succeed
The value of HR supporting confidentiality
 Blended support and a range of offers (eg EAP, training)
 Using supervision to encourage conversations about mental health
 Managers need safe spaces to talk

Having a set of policies on various topics from different size organisations in one place – invite contributions from businesses to build a useful resource.

Feedback on all of the four workshops: