It’s ‘Time to Talk’ in the workplace

07 February 2019

Our CEO Diane Lightfoot highlighted the need for employers and employees to talk more about workplace stress at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The FCA’s Embrace network is encouraging its staff to start talking about mental health as part of Time to Talk Day to encourage open dialogue and normalise/ ‘usualise’ mental health conversations. They are promoting the ‘ask twice’ concept – often people will automatically say ‘I’m fine’ when asked ‘How are you?’ They are encouraging staff to get to know each other better so they know when to ask twice – a follow up question like ‘Are you really fine?’ often leads to people opening up about mental health issues.

Talking about your own experiences of mental health can really help get the conversation into the mainstream and make it feel safe for others to follow your lead. We can all be leaders in this space – wherever we sit in an organisation and that is why days like Time To Talk are so important.

 Diane Lightfoot

Diane was representing Business Disability Forum who provide an advice service, consultancy, publications, professional development/training, events, networking and best practice guidance. We support businesses to become “Disability Smart” via our own Disability Standard which is a whole-organisation accreditation with evidence based assessment. We also work on policy and thought leadership, informed by the views and experiences of our members.

Diane said: “Mental health is one of the biggest topics to our advice service – also top topic of interest in our member survey.  We are contacted about the full breadth of mental health – from stress, anxiety and depression to severe anxiety disorders (eating disorders, OCD) and schizophrenia.”

“So, employers need to be talking more about work related stress. This includes how teams work, good communication, workload and skills gap analyses, and creating an environment where people are not bullied, harassed or discriminated against. And the legislative context is not just the Equality Act when we talk about work related stress; it’s also about employment legislation and health and safety law. To displace this topic into “mental health” not only means it won’t be addressed correctly; it also means there is a potential legal risk to organisations who are not acknowledging it.

She highlighted that Business Disability Forum advocates a holistic approach to managing mental health at work: Culture Proactive Responsive

“Firstly culture is so key. I love the Peter Drucker quote: ‘Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast!’”.

Diane added: “We talk about encouraging a culture where people can be their ‘whole selves’ at work and don’t feel they have to pretend to be something they are not. Language is key here – Tell or share – not disclose or declare. You’d disclose points on your driving licence or a criminal record or declare that you are smuggling…”

"Proactive is the preventative aspect of supporting employees to manage their health and wellbeing. This includes not only physical health – though of course that is important – but also other wellbeing factors including financial. Can include wellbeing campaigns; resilience training; healthy eating; exercise; mindfulness; preventing people from becoming unwell at work.

"Responsive – to anyone who has become unwell. Just over 50% of mental health related sickness is due to workplace stress – which also means that half isn’t. So, given that it is therefore impossible for employers’ interventions to prevent all episodes of mental ill health, it is vital that if someone does become unwell, support is available."

Business Disability Forum provides consultancy and training to support mental health at work, as well as resources such as the Briefing on adjustments for people experiencing stress, anxiety and depression and a Line manager guide on mental health at work.