Insurer Direct Line has 17 offices and 20 accident repair centres in the UK, housing 10,300 employees overall. To support all of these staff members in the difficult early months of 2019, the organisation has worked to embed communication and support around mental health into its culture.
Richard Stanbury, head of employee relations and senior business partner at Direct Line, says: “I would expect the challenges within the organisation to be similar to those facing the UK population. As people come out of the Christmas and New Year period, for example, there’ll be financial concerns. Relationship issues can be quite a major factor in the Christmas break. This time of year also accentuates issues that were already in place.”
In March 2018, more than 1,100 managers underwent mental health awareness training, and in May through July, Direct Line introduced a mental health first aid network. The organisation now has more than 130 mental health first aiders, with at least one on each floor of every building.
“We’ve gone down the track of trying to take a similar approach to mental health first aid as we do for physical first aid,” says Stanbury.
The organisation conducts quarterly calls among its trained first aiders, to share key learnings and challenges. In addition, it held a mental health first aid conference in October 2018, which included external speakers and workshops.
“This was an opportunity for learning, a bit of a thank you for volunteering, and also to make sure that the impetus behind having these first aiders was kept alive,” Stanbury explains. “There’s an enormous level of competence [among] the mental health first aiders. The opportunity to learn from others is really appreciated.”
Direct Line now has an enhanced culture of communication and support around mental wellbeing with which to advance into 2019, fitting with its organisational aim to encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work.