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Mind control: People often don’t realise they’re struggling until they hit a brick wall

Conversations between employers and those struggling with mental health have largely failed to happen due to stigma, fear or lack of education, Legal & General's Vanessa Sallows told Real Business. This needs to change.
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There seems to be a disconnect at work, with bosses and staff expecting different things in terms of the communication process. It’s a fact borne from Legal & General research prior to the launch of its campaign around spotting the signs of those struggling with mental health.

The campaign, Not a Red Card Offence”, delved into the world of sport, hoping to highlight the need for conversations between employees and employers – and it featured key players within the industry.

Nigel Owens, a world-renowned rugby referee taking part, said: “It’s important people don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if they experience a mental health issue. It’s not a sign of weakness, in fact accepting it and talking about it, is a sign of strength. And when you do talk to people you’ll realise it’s quite common.”

Curious about the campaign, as well as the statistics uncovered by its research, Real Business spoke with Vanessa Sallows, benefits and governance director at Legal & General Group Protection. We learned one of the biggest issues was identifying the signs before hitting that proverbial brick wall.

What do you believe are the benefits of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing?

We know there is a clear link between health, engagement and productivity. The benefits of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing are a healthier, more engaged and productive workforce who feel valued by their employer.

In what ways are you investing in your employees’ health and wellbeing?

At Legal & General we put a real focus on investing in employees’ health and wellbeing as we understand how important it is. We do this via reduced membership costs for gym facilities, free healthy breakfasts at all our sites, Group Income Protection, PMI, Mental Health First Aiders, a cycle to work scheme, access to occupational health, childcare vouchers and flexible working.

There are many more but this gives a flavour of the range of benefits and the different areas of our employees’ lives where we invest in.

If money was no object, what health and wellbeing perks/schemes would you like to have in place?

Legal & General currently provide a comprehensive package, but one area which is important to us and something we are working on delivering is carer support. Being solely responsible for the care of another person can have a significant impact upon mental and physical health. Legal & General is keen to support our employees who do this as much as we can.

How would you advise SME bosses to address staff mental health?

It’s really important for all business leaders to understand the mental health of staff and what they can do to support anyone who might be struggling with an illness.

There are many ways to do this, including conducting a stress survey, arranging stress management or resilience workshops, encouraging managers/team leaders to highlight issues or concerns, encouraging open conversations between employees and employers and providing line manager training.

This is something Legal & General has done. It has had a positive impact on our business and is well-received by employees.

Do you believe that mental health as a taboo subject persists?

We are on a journey and I think in some industries this is still a taboo subject, but there are many positive campaigns breaking down these barriers. These include “This is Me in the City”, “Heads Together”, “Be in your mate’s corner”, and Legal & General’s own “Not a Red Card Offence”.

Our campaign, which launched earlier this year, looks to tackle the stigma which is attached to discussing mental health in the workplace and encourage conversations between colleagues and employers to provide the support to those struggling with it.

There is a disparity between what employers think in comparison to employees, Sallows explains on the next page

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

Real Business