In the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue in a given year. In our industry, the number is even higher at 1 in 3. In a world where we are always on – never separated by more than a few metres or minutes from emails, social media and all of our beloved technology – finding time to take a step away and have a break can feel impossible.
If we cannot find a time to switch off, to look after our wellbeing and have honest conversations about mental health, the statistics will keep rising and mental health charities will face even higher levels of demand than they are already.
At RPM, as in many agencies, our people are our business’ best asset – in fact, without them we don’t have a business at all. A happier and healthier team means better results will be achieved for us and for our clients. Our reputation as an employer is also improved, meaning people want to work for us and for longer and we can continue to attract world class talent.
According to Time to Change’s Attitudes to mental illness 2014, only 40% of people said they would be comfortable talking to their employer about a mental health problem, with 48% saying they would feel uncomfortable. This needs to change. We spend the majority of our lives at work; it needs to become a place where vocalising mental health and wellbeing is normal, and the fear of stigma and adverse consequences of raising these issues are things of the past.
In 2016, we launched our Mental Health First Aiders initiative. Mental ill health costs UK employers an estimated £35 billion each year - broken down, that's £10.6 billion in sickness absence, £21.2 billion in reduced productivity, and £3.1 billion in replacing staff who leave their jobs for mental health-related reasons (source: MHFA England).
The Mental Health First Aiders are there to ensure a safe, stigma free environment where everyone feels confident that they can speak openly and benefit from a genuine support system. An employer investing in an initiative like Mental Health First Aiders sends an important signal – that it is ok to struggle, it is ok to prioritise your wellbeing, and it is ok to talk about mental health at work.
This initiative has had a marked effect on the business from a culture perspective – RPM is a place where people can feel safe to be vulnerable and ask for help when they need it. We have running clubs, mindfulness session and today we host Tea in The Park for World Mental Health Day – all opportunities for our team to come together, take time out of their day and focus on themselves. At RPM, we value our people as much as we do their work. Commercial gain has also followed, with absence due to reported mental health illness dropping by 73% from 2016 to 2017 – a by-product of a happy, more valued workforce.
Our agency purpose is Actions Speak Louder, and in that vein, we joined this year’s Lord Mayor of London’s pioneering mental health campaign, This Is Me, which aims to reduce the stigma of mental health and dispel the myths in the work place to raise awareness and the wellbeing of us all. This video spans our agency at all levels showing that no matter who you are, adverse mental health can affect you and with and open environment where the taboo is smashed, we can move forwards together with hands up for healthy minds…
Hugh Robertson, CEO and founder, RPM