Mental health charity Leeds Mind work with a variety of service users who have experienced stress related illnesses and are now ready to return to work.
By more closely with the local Mind Service Workplace Leeds, employers can raise awareness within their own workplace and challenge stigma surrounding mental health.
Through creating opportunities and hosting work placements, employers can give community members back their confidence and help them to return to working life.
The Leeds office of Eversheds Sutherland (a Mindful Employer) created a 6-week paid placement in their Finance department. HR Business Partner, Catherine Brant share’s their experience of working in partnership with Workplace Leeds and the positive impact the placement had for service user Semere.
About The Employer:
“As a Mindful Employer, we were really keen to be involved with the Back to Work Placement scheme, having partnered with the MIND organisation for a number of years. We hosted the Mindful Employer Leeds Conference in 2014, and have continued to support key initiatives and work closely together since.
Supporting good mental health and employee wellbeing are fundamental to the way that we work at Eversheds Sutherland, and we recognise the role that a positive working environment can play in fostering an inclusive, high performance culture.
In order to deliver great service to our clients and to remain engaged, motivated and resilient, we have a number of support tools and services that are accessible to all employees. These resources include established employee networks, a dedicated and confidential employee assistance programme, resilience training, and practical suggestions to help promote good mental and physical health.
We firmly believe in working together to support each other, and feel that our culture encourages this. We promote regular dialogue between individuals and their managers, have an open approach to giving and receiving feedback, operate a buddy system, and place emphasis on creating a friendly, social working environment.
The Back to Work scheme operated by Leeds MIND is a great initiative. Often, the thought of doing something is far more daunting than the reality, and we really wanted to provide an opportunity to help build someone’s confidence in returning to work.
The team at Leeds MIND were fantastic, and after our initial meeting, I felt confident that we would be fully supported as we embarked on the process of defining the scope of the placement – and we were. One of our key priorities was to ensure that anyone joining us would share our commitment to client service excellence and the team at MIND really understood this.
Admittedly, we had some initial reservations about potential circumstances surrounding the placement and practical factors. In scoping the placement, it demanded a level of openness on both sides to fully understand what would and wouldn’t work for us. Fortunately, through those discussions, we were able to overcome any potential challenges, and the MIND team were on hand to support us every step of the way.
One of the main aims of the scheme is to really help prepare individuals for returning to the working world, and so we were keen to keep the experience supportive but also true to life. We conducted an interview with our placement candidate, Semere, asking questions about his experience, skills and motivators before confirming the placement.
There was a natural alignment with Semere’s background and interest in Finance, and we were able to arrange a 6-week placement for him to join our Credit Control team based in our Leeds office. We timed the start of the placement with two others joining the team, and we think this was really helpful in assisting with Semere’s integration. We had also arranged a ‘pre-joining’ session that allowed Semere to meet the team, see the offices and familiarise himself with the surroundings before his first day with us. He also attended our new joiner induction programme, was given a new joiner buddy, and there were regular catch ups with his line manager.
“He soon settled into a routine, established a rapport with his peers and became ‘part of the family…”
We were really pleased with how Semere settled into the team, particularly given their initial apprehensions about the placement, having not participated in anything like this before. The team are a lively group, and we were unsure how Semere would adjust given that he seemed very shy at our first meeting with him. However, he soon settled into a routine, established a rapport with his peers, and became ‘part of the family, joining in on the banter and sharing the coffee runs’. Overall, the experience has been very positive for us, and we feel it is ‘definitely a worthwhile experience that others should engage with’.
It has also served as a reminder that everyone has a positive contribution to make, and re-affirmed out commitment to the pledges that we made as part of signing the Mindful Employer Charter.
Continuing The Journey
Like many organisations, we recognise that we are on a continuous journey in understanding and supporting good mental health and wellbeing, challenging stigma and eliminating unconscious bias from the workplace.
We have recently launched our Ability Employee Network Group, which is a forum that provides employees with an opportunity to give feedback on their own experiences and to make suggestions on how Eversheds Sutherland can make further improvements to help all disabled employees, inclusive of anyone experiencing mental health concerns.
We will also be hosting an event later this year in partnership with Leeds MIND and the Mindful Employer Leeds Network to continue to discussion.”
If you are an employer who would like to develop the employability skills of those looking to return to work, find out how you can get involved by visiting: http://mindfulemployerleeds.com/make-an-employer-pledge/ or call Mindful Employer Leeds on 0113 230 2631.