UK-listed headhunting firm Robert Walters Group has launched an ambitious awareness drive around mental-health and wellbeing in all of its domestic and international offices, encompassing more than 4,000 workers. 
At the heart of the year-long campaign is a challenge based around the number 60 – urging staff to perform a feat of their choice in, say, 60 seconds, 60 minutes, 60 attempts or over 60 kilometres – in remembrance of the 60 men around the world who die every hour from suicide.
With that figure in mind, the challenge will play out under the social media hashtag #BreakTheCycle. In addition, the campaign will urge staff to check in with each other regularly, in efforts to boost wellbeing across the entire firm.
For Robert Walters Group chief marketing officer Stephen Edwards, the industry sector that the firm has chosen to operate in fuels it with a greater responsibility to take a lead. “We are in the business of helping companies recruit and retain valued employees,” he said, “so it only feels right to address this issue at home first.
“The onus is really on the employer to introduce initiatives that encourage wellbeing. This includes raising awareness of the role employees play in each other’s wellbeing and encouraging staff to connect with – and check in on – their colleagues.”
In particular, Edwards stressed: “The issue of male mental health and wellbeing has gone under the radar for far too long, and we want to remove any last stigma attached to this.”
A key partner in the firm’s campaign is men’s health awareness charity the Movember Foundation. Its executive director and CEO Owen Sharp said: “Men’s health is in crisis … In the UK, 75% of suicides are men and in England and Wales, suicide is the leading cause of death among 15- to 49-year-old men. It’s great to see global organisations such as the Robert Walters Group taking responsibility for their work practices and employee wellbeing.”
The campaign was inspired by research the recruiter published last year,  which found that 88% of workers consider prospective employers’ mental health strategies a vital factor when searching for roles. However, only 51% of employers actually have such strategies in place. This makes mental health in the workplace one of our biggest leadership challenges.
How should an employer with little experience in this field go about developing a fully fledged mental health strategy?
The Institute of Leadership & Management head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “For the past three years, we have been working with Business in the Community (BITC) to produce an annual Mental Health at Work report [Ed’s note: follow these links for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions]. We’ve been an important partner in that work, and we are continuing to contribute to it alongside other partners such as Mercer Marsh Benefits and YouGov. Our approach is to examine mental health through an intersectional lens that takes into account age, gender, ethnicity and LGBT.
“So for firms such as Robert Walters Group – or any other organisation that is looking to develop a mental health strategy – there is a great deal of information out there in the public domain to take advantage of and digest. BITC has some other fantastic resources that are freely available on their website. We have our Mind Culture report, which we published in the autumn of 2017. In addition, there are high-profile campaigns on the annual calendar, such as as Time to Talk Day and Mental Health Awareness Week – and, thanks to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, we now also have the Mental Health at Work initiative.”
She notes: “It’s very much about joining with insightful partners, absorbing their ideas and spreading them. YouGov surveys carried out in conjunction with the Mental Health Foundation have been instrumental in this field by attracting the engagement of thousands of people. Speaking from my vantage point within the Institute, I can confirm that we have seen shifts in awareness in the three years since we began our work with BITC. We know how much higher on the agenda mental health is among corporates. On the specific point of suicide prevention, the Samaritans are particularly strong in this area – and again, BITC has published a free toolkit that sets out some appropriate measures in detail.”
Cooper stresses: “There is a plethora of advice – but it’s incumbent upon firms to carve out the time to find out the necessary information, form relationships with sympathetic, expert bodies and run mental health awareness training and development activities for their staff. We at the Institute have identified how important line managers are for organisational cohesion. This is particularly true within the arena of mental health, because line managers are most likely to pick up on changes in behaviour in their staff, or to hear about difficult times that employees are having in their lives. That puts them in pole position to take the requisite steps to give staff the support they need.”
She adds: “Often with mental health issues, the answer is not simply to tell an employee to take some time off until they’re feeling okay. Work can be part of the solution for getting better. So it’s about making special adjustments that will enable staff to access the help and support they need, while ensuring they won’t feel isolated from their colleagues.”
For further thoughts on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on the healthy workplace