Developing a Good Place to Work.


I was running a leadership development course and exploring resilience when one of the participants suddenly declared “I get it….I understand now, I simply have no resilience, I can’t cope”. On talking to him over the break I asked him whether I could help. To cut a long story short, I was able to get him support through coaching but, the real issue was having someone to listen and take him seriously. This extremely bright man, who was in a senior position, was demonstrating signs of burnout. He talked of being exhausted, which he put down to lack of sleep – a symptom not a cause, not thinking clearly, unable to concentrate on jobs, flitting from things and not always finishing important tasks and all of this was impacting upon his performance. He was stressing because he knew he wasn’t performing to his usual high standard and this was adding further to his anxiety. It was a terrible but all too often heard story, he was experiencing that burnout-downward-spiral and couldn’t get back in control. Part of the solution was finding him someone with whom he could talk to about his experiences, a problem that he had let grow because he didn’t think there was anyone at work who would be interested in his issues.

Mental health and well-being are high on the world of work agenda and so they should be. The Health and Safety Executive suggest that 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems at some point in their working careers.

12.5% of all sickness days are attributable to mental health problems. It is something that employers cannot afford to ignore and yet, although the evidence is that more companies are offering Employee Assistance Programmes, there is so much more that can be done.

At Strategi Solutions we are committed to providing a great working environment in which all colleagues can feel secure and well supported. When our new office was being designed, we were all invited to contribute ideas about what we thought we should have and the result is a brilliant office space that is bright, cheery and inclusive. But even the best work places need other things to help the emotional and psychological well-being of colleagues. We are convinced that investing in peoples’ health, mental and physical, is an investment in performance. Happy workers are known to be more productive.

One thing that can be done is to implement some Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training. Mental Health First Aiders have:

  • Understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing

  • Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues

  • Confidence to step in, reassure and support those in need

  • Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening

  • Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support - whether that’s self-help resources, through their employer, the NHS, or a mix

A report (MENTOR) by IOSH and the University of Nottingham showed that where MHFA is used well in workplaces, several ‘active ingredients’ for success could be identified. These include:

  • clear vision and rationale for introducing the course and managerial support

  • enthusiastic coordinators who encourage support, champion the programme within the organisation and post-training, deal with issues and concerns, and lead a network

  • mandatory recording of formal interactions

  • a community or network of active trained members

Getting people to discuss their concerns, helping them identify the root cause of their distress and then working with them to identify a clear way forward can provide an empowering experience for both parties. Perhaps the most important thing is recognising employer responsibility for ensuring well-being and creating the culture and environment in which mental health can grow and people can feel safe and valued.

At Strategi Solutions we offer MHFA courses led by our Director of Safety and Development, Bob Barlow. People who have attended have said that it is one of the most worthwhile development experiences they have undertaken.

If you notice people in your organisation who are experiencing symptoms that might suggest a mental health problem, why not get in touch with us for more information about training Mental Health First Aiders. We run open courses or in-house events.

Linda Forster