Malcolm Hollis is a firm of independent commercial building consultants. There are 320 staff working in 20 offices around the UK, in a relatively male-dominated industry.
Melanie Olrik, Human Resources Partner for the company, explained her concerns for her own staff when reading about poor mental health, “if the statistics I’d read were right, there were probably people suffering in my own company but not saying anything. If they were left unsupported it could become a clinical matter”.
Revealing that her light bulb moment came as she realised “mental health is an asset – something we all have and sometimes our mental health is better than other times”, Melanie Olrik set out to find an appropriate training program.
“The tricky part was finding someone to train the managers. In my view you have one shot, and if you get that wrong, people will not re-engage.”
Melanie Olrik was introduced to the Mental Health at Work team and Jane Beston, who commissioned a training program for her staff.
“Jane worked really hard with us to understand our culture, the words we use and how we work. She talked in a way that felt relevant to our managers and how we communicate with people. With her clinical knowledge, passion and commitment, she introduced the training to us and talked in a way that felt personal and supporting.”
The courses were very successful with 100% good or excellent feedback rates from staff, said Melanie Olrik:
“We had incredible feedback from the managers on the course, and it really helped their understanding of good mental health. It took on a momentum of its own, with word spreading that the course was fantastic. We have implemented a number of initiatives, and are now half way through a 12-month program of mental health awareness for the whole company.”
She relates that mental health is no different to physical health, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but there is still a stigma attached to having poor mental health.
“For an initiative to change culture, it is important to start at the top, and for people to talk to us without being stigmatized. All the partners were unanimous in this approach. We have a caring culture at work but if the leaders aren’t engaged, it won’t make a difference despite how passionate I am.“
Malcolm Hollis is a company that has had exceptional growth over the last four years, with employees working incredibly hard, said Melanie. She firmly believed if the statistics she had read on mental health were correct, they had a number of people suffering in her workplace and she wanted to know who they were.
“We are missing an opportunity not to talk to them, which is why the program by Mental Health at Work was key for us”.
The company are establishing a team of volunteer ‘Mental Health Champions’, who are staff trained and equipped to speak to colleagues with any concerns. They make sure their staff can access their Employment Assistance Programme (EAP). Well-being is now top of their agenda in management meetings, performance reviews and 1:1’s, not at the end or as an afterthought.