1. Personally lead your organisation’s wellbeing initiative, in words and action
2. Share your personal stories, and encourage others to share theirs
3. Collaborate, internally and externally
That’s what we in the City Mental Health Alliance have learned from working with our members and others over the last decade, starting in the aftermath of another crisis, and developing our understanding through both calm and choppy waters since.
How does that translate into practice?
Personal Leadership:Leaders often decides that their organisation needs to do something on wellbeing, andelegates the task of developing and implementing a wellbeing strategy to HR, L&D, comms or other teams. All play critical roles, and must be involved. But without clear, open, enthusiastic leadership from the very top, their efforts will fail, and the associate budget wasted.The Senior Partner, Managing Partner, CEO or equivalent must lead key calls, not just put their signature to written communications. She or he must demonstrate through their personal actions their genuine belief in the important of wellbeing to their people: calling in to team meetings/socials, participating in group chats, sharing their stories about how they are keeping themselves well. And they must personally authorise appropriate expenditure
to make the strategy effective, not merely signpost people to overburdened charities whose limited resources should be kept available to those without the good fortune to work for an organisation which can afford to pay for appropriate services.
All are particularly important in the current crisis, when demand for help in keeping ourselves well, and the importance of well people to the survival of so many organisations, has never been higher.
Story Telling:No leader has all the answers. But all leaders have stories about how they are keeping themselves physically and mentally well, and focussed, in these difficult times. Share them, including things you are finding particularly difficult, what coping mechanisms you’ve tried, which have worked and, more importantly, which have failed. Show that leaders are as fallible as everyone else.
In doing so, recognise that everyone is in a different situation, facing different challenges and with different resources for dealing with them – shared access to limited IT/internet connection, living alone with only virtual access to social contact, juggling caring/selfeducating responsibility with work commitments, family tensions, dealing with illness, death or bereavement of loved ones. But also recognise that at least some of your ideas will berelevant and new to some of the people you’re talking to, and that all of them will appreciate your honesty and openness.
Collaboration:This has been a fundamental principle of CMHA’s work from the outset: providing opportunities for law firms and other businesses, including their leaders, to talk openly about mental health and share experiences. It has been the source of such success as we have achieved in reducing stigma, improving the way we talk about mental health and identifying practical steps businesses can take to help their people keep themselves well – and, unknowingly, helping our members and others prepare themselves for the current situation. It is also how we are continuing to help our members now: with regular communications with and between our members to share experience and learn from each other. (See the CMHA website for a summary of the results so far.)
Many others are adopting the same approach, including LawCare and the CBI (eg in their respective recent webinars on mental health). Talk to others in your external network. Share your experiences openly and listen to theirs. And do the same within your organisation. Listen to what people in different areas are experiencing, encourage them to develop and implement solutions that work for those in a similar situation, and help them share their ideas with others. And perhaps most importantly, as we know from the oxygen mask analogy, look after yourself so that you are able to continue to help others.Nigel JonesLawCare ChampionCity Mental Health Alliance Co-Founder and Advisory Group Chair
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