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Mental health support at HEINEKEN

We’re moving in the right direction to end stigma around mental health in the workplace. But it will take time

The health and wellbeing of colleagues is something that has to be front of mind within businesses. At the end of the day, it’s people who are at their heart.

Mental health are two words on everybody’s lips at the moment and rightly so. It’s more important than ever and we need to not only listen, but also take action. A recent report from the CIPD showed that the number of people that have experienced mental health problems at work has grown from a quarter to a third over the last five years, and almost 80% of office workers in Britain are unhappy with their working lives.

Hearing these stats is worrying. At HEINEKEN our people and their work satisfaction is something we take very seriously. Currently 84% of HEINEKEN’s 2,000 colleagues say they are proud to and love working here, and we want to keep improving on this.

People’s satisfaction with their level and type of work and the support they receive day to day is integral to their health and wellbeing. We hear too often how people with mental health problems feel isolated and too embarrassed to discuss them, and as an employer we have an important role to play here. By signing the Time To Change pledge we made a public declaration to our colleagues of our ongoing commitment to end the stigma around any forms of mental illness and to ensure they can feel comfortable discussing any concerns. If we continue to talk about this topic and it becomes part of our daily language hopefully it will continue to develop a culture when open, inclusive conversations about all forms of wellbeing are commonplace.

To help with this, we’ve recruited 30 mental health champions who have been trained by mental health first aiders to help spot the signs of a mental health issue and provide support to colleagues who need it.

I’s incredibly important to us that every single one our 2,000 employees know that if they’re struggling with a mental health issue they have the full support of their manager, their colleagues and the business.

However, while signing the pledge and recruiting our mental health champions is a great start, there’s much more we can and will do. I strongly believe that employers have a crucial role in bringing about change. Firstly, we need to lead from the top. Our MD David Forde has spoken passionately to all colleagues about supporting each other through illness and wellness – whether physical or mental. But this isn’t just about our senior team, it’s also about educating and encouraging a culture of support throughout our business.

To support our managers to talk about mental health with their teams we’re educating them on how to approach topics; starting with being mindful and curious as to how colleagues are feeling. We’ve done a number of things to support our managers. From resilience training sessions to help them manage stress and improve their own wellbeing, to a three-week campaign called ‘Take 10 Together’ that provided guidance on how to spot the triggers and signs of mental ill health, and importantly how to start the conversation with someone they think is struggling, and provide that environment where a colleague can be open.

As employers I believe we’re moving in the right direction to get rid of the stigma around mental health in the workplace. But it will take some time for colleagues to share a mental health issue as easily as they would share a physical ailment so it’s our responsibility to raise awareness and provide workplaces where it’s safe to share.

The bottom line is that discussions on mental health needs to become the norm. Being mindful of how our colleagues feel and providing that type of support is a core and critical part of a manager’s role – being present, and being aware.

Jane Brydon is HR director at Heineken UK