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We are This Can Happen - a group of individuals passionate about
improving mental health in workplaces. We’ve come together to put on a 1-day
conference on November 20th at the O2 Intercontinental in London to
offer practical solutions about how to tackle this pressing issue. Our founders
Jonny Benjamin MBE, Neil Laybourn of the Channel 4 documentary The
Stranger on a Bridge (pictured) and Zoe Sinclair of Employees Matter have been joined by Heather
Kelly, who previously led the development and management of Mind’s Workplace
As part of our event, we’re striving to partner with organisations who share
our core aims and values, which is why we sought out LawCare. We are delighted
that they are on board. Our shared agenda to improve workplace mental health
for the legal sector will allow us to tackle this critical issue head on.
LawCare CEO Elizabeth Rimmer and her team are strong voices in the
workplace mental health space, aiming to help end the stigma and encourage a
positive change in attitudes to allow everyone to be honest about their
wellbeing and thrive in the legal sector.
This Can Happen’s Neil Laybourn and Heather Kelly recently had a chat about LawCare and mental health in the legal sector as a whole.
Q. Neil, can you tell us a bit
about your experience in this sector?
Neil: Jonny and I started our
campaigning work in the legal sector in 2016. We’ve worked with many firms who
have been hugely supportive, many helping to raise funds for our Heads Together/London
Marathon fundraising campaign in 2017.
Q. How do you feel the legal
sector has reacted to the raised profile of workplace mental health?
Neil: In the legal sector we have
come across organisations which we feel
are examples of best practice when it comes to staff mental health. Law firms are
prominent voices in the UK corporate conversation about improving employee
mental health and we hope to see this attitude adopted across the wider business
landscape. Many other sectors are still only beginning their journey to tackle
mental health industry-wide.
Q. What’s the one thing that’s going
to create lasting change when it comes to workplace mental health?
Heather: This is an ambitious and
important question so I’ll give my honest answer. I believe it will come from
companies being held accountable for looking after the mental wellbeing of
staff, for example publicly traded companies being expected to report data on
the subject in annual reports to shareholders, such as is now the norm with CSR
I also think it will come from companies committing to consistent training
of managers, or project leads, on how to spot signs and symptoms of mental
health problems in colleagues and how to manage teams in a way that promotes
positive mental health. Organisations must be accountable for ensuring they’re
training people properly to know how to manage others well and managers must be
held accountable for leading with consistency across the organisation when it
comes to standard practices that support good mental health at work.
Most often people are promoted based on their merits, not their people
management skills and they often never receive such training as they rise in
their career. This isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone but the
investment in proper training of people with management responsibility can make
a massive impact to an organisation as a whole (data from the Mind
Workplace Wellbeing Index supports this).
Examples of consistent people management tools which promote positive mental
health include regularly scheduled 1-2-1s to allow staff the opportunity to
discuss how they’re doing. Creating Wellness
Action Plans (WAP’s) with staff is also a great way for leaders to
demonstrate that they care and are available to help. A WAP involves a staff
member sharing with the person they report to what ways of working best support
their mental wellbeing. This is reviewed every quarter or six months with an
open conversation on what reasonable improvements can be made.
Q. What needs to happen in the legal
sector in terms of improving workplace mental health?
Heather: I’ve worked with a
number of law firms during my time at Mind managing the Workplace Wellbeing
Index and at This Can Happen. I consistently hear that the sector as a whole is
taking the matter of staff mental health seriously but because the culture in
law firms is often centred on fast-moving, client-facing projects and billable
hours, the job can be very demanding on mental health.
Legal staff move from project to project, in other words from leader to
leader, regularly so consistency is hard and managing mental wellbeing is a
challenge. Law firms should consider training leaders on workplace mental
health and there should be a standard set of guidelines that all project leads must
follow. They should then be held accountable. This is the ideal culture change
that I think could really make a difference in the industry and can be an
example to other industries that operate in a similar client-facing model, e.g.
professional services and advertising.
The mental health passport, currently used in the public sector, is a great
example where people can be open about their overall health and wellbeing and
share this with new managers without having to repeat their history. It
includes clinical information about one’s history, their preferences and can
include reasonable adjustments that best support them to thrive at work. This
allows people to be open without fear of judgement or being treated
differently. The key thing is that the passports need to be used from the top
down and adopted completely into the culture and considered normal practice.
Friends of LawCare receive 10% discount off the ticket price to the conference. Use code: TCH10LAWCARE and book here
Heather Kelly started her career as an award-winning producer/broker working with the Lloyd’s of London insurance market before she made a transition to work in the social enterprise and not-for-profit sectors. For four years she worked for the mental health charity Mind, where she led the development and operation of the Workplace Wellbeing Index. She and her team supported over one hundred UK employers in making the mental health of their staff a business priority whilst producing commercial revenue to support Mind’s charitable work. Helping to awareness raise and break the stigma around mental health, particularly in workplaces, is a personal mission for Heather because of her own family’s experiences with mental illness.
Neil Laybourn was travelling to his place of work over Waterloo Bridge in January 2008 when he spotted someone standing on the bridge, about to jump. Amongst the hundreds of people crossing the bridge in rush hour, Neil decided to stop and help the person. He then went on his way to work. 6 years later Jonny Benjamin started his search for the person who saved his life with the ‘Find Mike’ campaign and a couple of weeks later the two were re-united. Since then Neil has become an international mental health campaigner, working with charities, companies and thought leaders sharing his insights into mental health.
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