Inspired by the national Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2017, Fletchers Solicitors decided to do more to support the emotional wellbeing of its 435 employees, based in Southport and Manchester.
The firm invited staff to volunteer to be mental health ambassadors in February 2018, asking for employees’ reasons for wanting the role and choosing candidates based on their responses. These ambassadors now work across all departments and are available for staff to speak to at any time. They regularly meet as a group to discuss how to engage the workforce, and they also organise events and initiatives throughout the year.
To further support employee wellbeing across the board, Fletchers Solicitors has implemented monthly tea and talk sessions, which began in October 2017, cycling challenges, discount gym memberships, book reads and initiatives around Mental Health Awareness Week and World Suicide Prevention Day. The organisation also trained 12 mental health first aiders in May 2018.
In addition, staff have access to an employee assistance programme (EAP) through Care First, offering 24/7 phone or face-to-face support and advice on a range of issues, from mental health and wellbeing to debt and gambling issues. Employees can also sign up to Medicash, which offers counselling sessions and reimbursements on treatments such as acupuncture. These benefits were introduced in 2015.
Kimberley Allen, HR co-ordinator at Fletchers Solicitors, says: “It is hard to measure the improvements we have made. Though we can look at tangible things, like sickness reduction, I am conscious that this [does] not measure the personal value we may have added to people’s lives in knowing that they have someone who they can speak to, who will listen and who will understand.
“From an HR perspective, we can see that there has been a change in the way managers look to support their team, when they know someone may be struggling with mental health, and we have had an increase in people being open about their struggles and asking for that help.”
In the future, Fletchers Solicitors intends to expand its network of mental health ambassadors and qualified mental health first aiders. Allen says: “It is an uphill battle trying to break the stigma of people’s perceptions of mental health, but it is a challenge we look forward to meeting head on.”