Why it’s time to act to improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

Jodie Hill Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
Jodie Hill Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
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BOSSES must lead by example and display self-compassion to help create a healthy and productive workplace, a major business event was told.

However, a leading analyst warned that some managers were not “walking the walk” and still working more than 70 hours a week.

Chris Burton Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Chris Burton Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

The event, which was hosted by the Collaborative Professionals Network (CPN), explored the theme of “being kind to yourself” with presentations from Chris Burton, of the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association and Jodie Hill, from Thrive Law, who is leading a campaign to improve mental health in every workplace.

The CPN was established in 2016 to shout about the large numbers of professional services firms that have established a base in Yorkshire.

It also aims to provide a forum for debate about issues facing the regional economy, such as the importance of protecting employees’ mental health.

A recent study found that the total cost to the British economy of staff turning up for work despite being ill could be as high as £26bn a year.

The event, which was held at the office of First Intuition in Leeds, included tips for boosting your resilience, such as using cognitive behavioural therapy, surrounding yourself with supportive friends and having a healthy lifestyle,

Speaking afterwards, Mr Burton said: “I’m a great believer that stress is going to happen and it is not something we can sweep under the carpet.

“It’s about how we come back from those difficult times. There are simple tactics and coping mechanisms that we can put in place to cope effectively.

“When I’ve been through tough times in the past, something that has been really important to me is having good people around me.

“If you are not with the right people who are picking you up in that way it can be really difficult.”

Mr Burton added: “The other thing for managers to bear in mind is to lead by example. People pick up on your behaviour and pick up on what you’re doing.

“The danger is that we underestimate just how much of an influence we have over people. How we behave is going to be really important.

“There was a manager, for example, who used to talk about the importance of work-life balance years ago, before it became trendy and yet he used to do 70-hour weeks.

“You’ve got to walk the walk as well as talking the talk. If you say one thing and your behaviour is different, people tend to follow what you’re doing.

“Diet and exercise are hugely important and things we can have an impact on.”

Ms Hill has established a political campaign to make mental health risk assessments mandatory in the workplace.

The campaign is gaining national traction, with high-profile individuals and politicians endorsing it on social media.

In her presentation, Ms Hill stressed the importance of surrounding yourself with colleagues who understand the importance of promoting good mental health.

Ms Hill said afterwards: “The whole point of sharing my journey is to help others and to show them living proof that being kind to ourselves and investing in our mental health pays dividends.”

Karen Eckstein, a lawyer who is one of the founders of CPN, said: “Jodie’s very honest account of her experiences and how she dealt with them resonated with the audience and encouraged people to open up.”

The event was chaired by Greg Wright, the deputy business editor of The Yorkshire Post. The Collaborative Professionals Network was created to encourage collaboration and communication between professionals working in Yorkshire.

The current bodies forming CPN are: The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, Leeds Law Society, The Institute of Directors, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Association of Taxation Technicians, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Chartered Insurance Institute.