In 2018, Charlotte Wiseman Ltd was recruited by innocent drinks to develop and guide its workplace mental health program. innocent has been widely praised for its inclusive and encouraging workplace culture and it has a proactive approach to positive mental fitness. This commitment comes from the top and is practiced throughout the business.
“Being encouraged to learn about Mental Health and how we can support others while looking after ourselves is the responsible thing to do, regardless of role or where you sit in the company” – Sam Simister, Future Development Director.
innocent’s programme is aligned with company values and a strong commitment to social responsibility and sustainability. A chief goal of this strategy is to break down the stigma around mental health in order to build a community founded on mutual support and resilience. Laura Thompson and Tim Dorsett have been the driving force in embedding these values and changes in the workplace.
“Our aim is to have an open and honest culture around mental health and wellbeing, where people feel comfortable talking about their mental health.” Tim Dorsett, UK Culture and Office Manager
Phase One was training managers and team members in mental health awareness, which included how to look after colleagues experiencing a decline in mental fitness. Classes were initially separate for managers and team members, but this was quickly changed so that all levels of the company learnt together. Despite being voluntary, classes were quickly oversubscribed. Feedback is always crucial in refining courses and the topics covered. The level of engagement and collaboration by innocent employees was significant in evolving the programme.
“We should all be looking out for each other, not just managers. The mental health training now sits within our ‘core offering’ of training courses here at innocent and everyone is strongly encouraged to attend it.” Laura Thompson, Office and Culture Specialist
Reflecting on learnings from the initial programs and classes, we recognised the need to offer more one-to-one mental fitness guidance to employees. All staff had access to an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme helpline) as well as health insurance. However, this support was more focused on supporting those with mental ill-health, rather than a more preventative approach that helped someone deal with a specific problem or halt a decline in general mental wellbeing.
To address this, phase two offered confidential ‘mental fitness coaching’ to give people the resources to proactively manage their stress, mindset and health to prevent small challenges from becoming bigger issues.
We started this as a pilot of two days and evaluated the response. The interest was solid, but we felt engagement could be higher. We stuck at it and continued to offer 20 x 30-minute sessions per quarter for our team of 250 at Fruit Towers in London. Gradually, interest and participation increased, driven by word of mouth within the company and the offer of more flexible times that met the needs of the community.
Eighteen months after commencing the project, we have continued to see increased engagement, even after we switched the coaching sessions to Teams and Zoom due to the pandemic. It is hard to say whether this enthusiasm has been driven by the influence of the pandemic, the continued promotion of coaching by the directors, Heads of department and Culture Team, or by the positive feedback that is being shared amongst the team.
What is certain is that we have provided huge support to those in need and enabled individuals to take ownership of their own wellbeing without adding extra pressure on managers. It has hugely benefited the company by ensuring that people can optimise their mental fitness and productivity whist working remotely.
“When we give Charlotte a brief for a webinar or a video we’d like her to make, Charlotte will give her recommendations and input too, and will often go above and beyond in her support. It shows Charlotte cares.”
A key contributor that has been fundamental to the performance of the innocent team over the last year, has been the creation of a bespoke innocent mental fitness video series. Twelve short five to eight-minute videos were shared on a weekly basis, starting the first week of the initial lockdown. Covering a range of topics relevant to the on-going changes we were navigating, these videos offered practical evidence-based tips to inspire, help and reassure everyone through this period of uncertainty. The response to these videos was overwhelming and proved their value as an additional tool in the mission to support good mental health and fitness.
“We collaborate closely with Charlotte to make sure the training, coaching, videos and webinars are what we’re looking for. Charlotte makes this process so easy and adapts her offering to suit what we need here at innocent.” Laura Thompson, Office and Culture Specialist.
innocent has now established a network of MHFA England Mental Health First Aiders and a robust, flexible working policy to transition effectively into a hybrid workplace. It continues to use key dates, such as World Mental Health Day and Stress Awareness Week, as a platform to remind everyone of the support that is available. On-going mindfulness classes, weekly Mindful Moment emails, gym access, yoga and pilates classes, shared workplace bikes and Friday socials all add to the thriving community at Fruit Towers and this has been extended to and embraced by its hubs in Europe and Asia.
“The training that Charlotte has been delivering for us over the past two years has had a huge positive impact on the culture of mental health at innocent. Our mental health support has come a long way.” Tim Dorsett, UK Culture and Office Manager
We continue to work closely with the team and look forward to evolving and building on these successes. Inspired by the great work commitment shown by innocent, here are three simple tips you can take away:
Make it inclusive
Too often the focus is on training managers to be aware of the signs of poor mental health. If you want people to take ownership of their own wellbeing, then ensure that everyone has a basic understanding of mental health and fitness. This allows employees to identify and troubleshoot issues before they become a significant problem. It also makes it easier for them to speak to their managers or the People team when they need help. By extending your training to all team members you break down stigma and empower individuals to take charge of their own mental health.
Make your values matter
From day one, innocent as a brand has been clear about its values and ensured that these are communicated and demonstrated in everything it does. It also ensures that every person in the business understands what these mean in the context of the business and how these relate to their specific role.
Almost every company celebrates and promotes its values. A much smaller number ensure that their employees understand what these require of them personally and how they can deliver on them. Values are the foundation of workplace culture, resilience and staff loyalty. We could all learn something from innocent and the importance it places on its values and how they touch on everything it does.
Play the long game
It is a simple fact that the best ROI comes from establishing an integrated, long-term approach to mental fitness in the workplace. Running the odd workshop here and there, without a considered strategy, can actually have a more detrimental effect than doing nothing at all; it can give the impression that you are ‘box-ticking’ rather than investing in your team.
By committing to your mental fitness agenda, you can improve productivity, reduce staff-turnover, attract the best talent, promote collaboration and reduce presenteeism as well as absenteeism. That doesn’t mean you have to rush that process. Instead, as at innocent, consider this as a journey in which you need to remain adaptable and curious, reacting to ever changing business needs, listening to employee feedback, understanding emerging research and constantly refining your offer for optimal impact.
“Prioritising mental health isn’t a business decision or investment opportunity, it’s just the right thing to do.”