EXCLUSIVE: Royal Mail Group enhances mental health support during Covid-19 pandemic

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Employee Benefits Reset 2020: Royal Mail Group has supported its employees through the Covid-19 pandemic with a wide-reaching mental health strategy.

The organisation launched its Healthy Minds Matter five-year plan in 2017, and has enhanced its offering in light of the pressures that the current pandemic has placed on employees. The strategy is built around a compass with four key aspects: increase awareness, decrease stigma, signpost to tools and support, and know where to get help in a crisis.

In his session in the Employee Benefits Reset online series, Dr Shaun Davis, global director for safety, health, wellbeing and sustainability, explained how Royal Mail Group previously had 160 mental health ambassadors in place, but in the last six months has increased this to nearly 500. The role of these employees is to raise awareness of mental health and normalise conversations around mental health, as well as to signpost support to their peers. Their roles have also been expanded to health and wellbeing ambassadors.

“They have been really key in helping us to unlock a lot of the health and wellbeing challenges that we face,” said Davis.

In addition, the organising has increased its e-learning opportunities, including mental health awareness training for managers.

It has also upskilled its 5,500 physical first aiders to include mental health first aid. Davis said: “It’s been really valuable to us. Where [we] have a trusted relationship with physical first aiders and to upskill them in mental health first aid, I’ve seen some great results. It’s been incredibly positive.”

Royal Mail Group’s mental health first aiders wear a discrete compass badge to identify themselves. “It’s a very low-cost but effective, subtle messaging, that underpins that culture of people talking about mental health,” said Davis.

Davis explained that the Healthy Minds Matter strategy has become ever more important during the pandemic, especially as the majority of employees at Royal Mail are classed as key workers and having been continually working during the pandemic. “We’ve had to use our mental health strategy in anger during the Covid crisis, it’s really been pulled upon a lot, as well as our financial assistance programmes,” he said.

“In times of turbulence and change, mental health might be challenged for a variety of different reasons. You’ve got the immediate issue, mental health or physical health, but then you’ve got the ripples after that and need to think about how that might play out.”

Reaching such a broad employee base needed a clear, but simplistic, strategy about mental health, explained Davis. “My vision was that we would have people out in all our 1,500 units who could help to support the mental health agenda, and in doing so would help to remove some of the anxiety and fear factor that was out there. We gave them a simple acronym to remember: ACT.”

The acronym is broken down into: acknowledge if you or someone close to you is not their usual self; communicate: if you are not feeling okay, or someone around you is not feeling okay, create a culture where people will share that and be comfortable to talk; and take action. Find out what support is available and encourage others to do the same.