Hayley Thomas, Engagement Lead of Firstsource Cardiff shares how the Pledge has been a vital tool for Firstsource, particularly during this time.

When we started our action plan for our Time to Change Wales pledge I had been in Firstsource for 6 years in multiple positions.  I had been an advisor, who needed support, a Team Leader who had to support others, a WorkForce Management lead who had to look at absence levels and had my own personal experience of mental illness. So when I became Engagement Lead I knew this was an area we both could and needed to work at. Ceri, a Time to Change Wales ambassador told me about the programme and we started work.

The key to your action plan and making changes is buy-in from every area – HR, Leaders, Support areas, L&D, Facilities – everyone. At some point all these areas have input in helping an individual or may need support themselves. They have all been part of shaping individual experiences and development and will have ideas on how you can improve. We were fortunate enough that all departments were looking at their own initiatives or wanted to help already.

Working together via meetings and emails, we formed our action plan, with some actions on-going today. Some examples of initiatives we started as a result were our People’s Champions and our team of First Aiders. People’s Champions are a group of advisors and support staff that meet each month, for an update on things we’ve done over that month and an opportunity to discuss ideas and get honest feedback we can use to improve the workplace. We already had physical first aiders, but now we additionally have a team of mental health first aiders, with posters up alongside the physical team – so no matter what someone’s issue they can see who they can turn to for support. Again, these are from all areas of our business so there’s always someone on shift and identifiable. Both have been a great success and really helped us shape the way forward for us.

We signed our pledge on World Mental Health Day – October 10th 2019. We had started to do our 6-month review to see what worked, what didn’t and how we could plan for the next 12 months. Unfortunately, with Covid 19 and the changes to roles this is something we’ve put on hold, but we have done other things to support our staff during this time.

Some things we’ve done is request our leaders to regularly call their advisors to check on their wellbeing, we send out an engagement pack daily – that includes NHS information, information on where to get support, a mindfulness exercise or a puzzle and then activities that adults can do and activities for parents and children. We’re using our private Facebook page more every day – giving everyone opportunities to interact, we use it for fun posts and for daily operational updates. We are also doing “Get To Know” posts at the moment – we had a lot of new starters at the start of the year that may not have met our management team – so we’ve asked them questions about their likes and dislikes and sharing them so everyone knows who they can turn to for support. We started sending out handwritten birthday cards to those with birthdays in April and May – along with stickers, banners, sequins and mini bunting – so it’s like a mini party and we’ve had a phenomenal response. 

We’re always looking for more we can do and processes we can develop and will continue to do so with the support of Time to Change Wales. The way we work with mental illness is a lot like mental illness itself – we’re all learning, a lot of us will suffer and need support at some time in our lives and careers and we will continue to work towards better ways to improve mental wellbeing to prevent mental illness and to support people through their mental illness.

Now more than ever, if you’ve not considered the pledge before is the time to do it. The isolation many people are suffering is or can be a contributor to mental illness, and more than ever people need additional support to deal with that and anxiety over the challenges that lie ahead. It doesn’t stop there either, even once we start to return to our previous normality, there will be those that struggle to reconcile with our new normal, that are anxious about integrating again and they need and will need you.

Get on Teams or Slack, put in a meeting and look at the action plan guidelines. We’ve got this. You’ve got this.

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