How Time to Change Wales Changed #TeamJCP.
It was almost a year ago that JCP Solicitors started thinking about how we could formally pledge our commitment to supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, culminating in us signing our Time to Change Wales pledge in September 2019.
Since then we have made consistent progress with our plan month on month with amazing initiatives. These have included Directors openly sharing their mental health experiences in our quarterly newsletter, recruiting and training mental health champions, reviewing all our policies in line with our pledge and many more besides. April and May’s plans were in hand until, like all other employers, we were hit with the most complex business problem of a generation.
As a HR Manager, my role is to oversee the wellbeing of staff and a catastrophic event like the Coronavirus has really thrown that in to the spotlight. People are coping with unprecedented anxiety and fear, everyday support mechanisms have been taken away due to social distancing and self-isolation and our normal methods of communication have been challenged. Our face to face engagement with each other and planning future events has been taken away And we are finding that this can really affect mental wellbeing.
“As a HR Manager, my role is to oversee the wellbeing of staff and a catastrophic event like the Coronavirus has really thrown that into the spotlight. People are coping with unprecedented anxiety and fear, everyday support mechanisms have been taken away due to social distancing and self-isolation and our normal methods of communication have been challenged. Our face to face engagement with each other and planning future events has been taken away. And we are finding that this can really affect mental wellbeing.”
Of course, many things are completely out of our control but at JCP we decided very early on that our responsibility as an employer goes way beyond ensuring the wheels of the business keep turning, and that we should help our employees in any way we can. Our main focus is to maintain contact with staff and we have done that by redesigning the job role of our HR team so that their main goal is now to maintain contact with staff members. We don’t speak to staff about work, we talk to them about life and their families and we directly ask about their mental health. We check-in, we do not check-up. This frank openness leads staff to talk to us and each other about how they are feeling and enables us to recognise where we need to signpost to other services or take other steps.
We encourage line managers to maintain regular contact through Zoom meetings or WhatsApp groups and we encourage them to be real, to talk about their own anxieties and emotions to allow team members to know that it is normal to be feeling unsettled and that there is support all around them if they need it.
Our marketing team have created a closed #TeamJCP Facebook group where we share funny stories, photos of our cats sitting on our workstations, videos of our children creating chaos and host a Sunday night quiz on Facebook live. This is light hearted fun but with a real purpose to improve mental wellbeing, stay connected , boost our staff morale and keep some team unity in a new world where our desks are the furthest apart they have ever been.
We communicate openly about mental health by email to all our staff, sharing support services such as the NHS Every Mind Matters which is a fantastic resource. We also share tips from our Mental Health Champions, such as limiting media exposure and self-care tips. Our champions are available for staff who may not want to discuss how they are feeling with HR or a Manager and they are currently working on Mental Health awareness week for May and innovative ways to take part in that from home.
We also have a staff community group who share weekly recommendations on things to do to occupy yourself whilst in lockdown from books to podcast recommendations
We are doing all we can to try and ensure our staff are safe and healthy at home and the feedback we are getting is that staff feel cared about, which is really important to us. Our consistent message is that it is ok not to be ok and never has that been more poignant than now.
Jacqui Gower is the HR Manager at JCP Solicitors. Her primary role is to oversee the daily routine of 200+ employees across offices in South, East and West Wales. As part of the management team Jacqui thoroughly enjoys the ever changing nature of her role. She is enthusiastic about attracting the right people to the business, and then assisting them to succeed in their careers by creating a culture of continual development and growth. Jacqui is a strong believer in a good work and life balance, flexible working and family friendly policies, whilst maintaining good company values.