Depression, stress, anxiety, burn out, negative life events, financial difficulties, social stress, exhaustion, loneliness, frustration, pain, sadness, and loss are all a part of life, but that doesn’t stop them being really hard.
No matter our role in society or our respective companies – everyone is fighting their own battle, and often trying to fight the battles of the people they care about too. Most of this is done in silence, catalysed by lockdowns.
With that in mind, and seeing as this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, Mortgage Solutions is asking: How has your company’s attitude changed toward mental health?
Covid and the lockdowns definitely had an impact on the mental health of people across the country and in every office. As an employer we were very focused on mental health throughout the pandemic, and that hasn’t gone away. We have more open and honest conversations about how our staff are feeling and support them on a deeper level. Having those initial conversations right through COVID has opened the doors to a more open, lasting, and honest dialogue about mental health.
We provided a lot of training and information to our management team throughout the pandemic, which will help them recognise issues early on and deal with a changing workforce.
We found that offering more flexibility with working arrangements, changing to a fully hybrid working office with designated days in the office to collaborate and socialise, gives a better work/life balance. Hybrid and remote working has also benefitted the business, enabling us to employ staff from a wider geographical area and giving us a higher overall quality of candidate to choose from.
Everyone is different, so we discuss working patterns individually. We have seen more staff asking to alter their hours, which has been driven by people re-evaluating their lives during lockdown and wanting to spend more time with family or on hobbies to give them a better quality of life, which we fully support.
Varied mental health support options are key to this too. We have a wellbeing support team for physical, emotional, financial and social support, free access to the NHS Thrive app, and a 24/7 online GP offering mental health counselling among other services.
At Landbay we are seeing the stigma around mental welfare being lifted, and people are more willing to talk about it and share their experiences, which means we can give colleagues the resources they need much earlier than before.
We promote the culture that it’s okay not to be okay, and encourage people to speak up when they need support. Within the business, we have trained mental health first aiders and an approachable HR team, providing a point of contact and support, and an external employee assistance programme to provide 24/7 professional counselling. We also have “Time out Tuesdays”, where we organise activities for the team to take time out of their day and focus on their wellbeing – we arrange everything from in-office massages to hotpod yoga.
The wellbeing of our team really matters, and the culture here has always been very supportive. We are like one big family – we are still there for one another as we were before and during the lockdown.
What started off as a Crystal macro-focussed project has now expended to make it a wider market conversation through the Mortgage Industry Mental Health Charter (MIMHC).
What we saw with the internal focus is that our staff needed support and conversation around how they’re feeling to be encouraged, but more importantly, they needed to feel listened to. We put frameworks in place and listened to how they wanted to conduct their work, which has really improved things.
This is serious for us, it’s not just words. Yesterday we had a coffee roulette – our 58 staff members were paired up randomly to have a 30 minute chat with people they wouldn’t normally talk to about how they’re feeling. As a result of this and other changes, our staff now feel listened to and more motivated.
We also conducted an industry survey in Spring 2021 and found that 75 per cent of respondents said their company offered no mental health support. Turning this around is our number one aim.
Off that research, we could see that mental health and issues have been ignored industrywide, so we created MIMHC to come together as an industry and ensure all companies get mental health on their radar, and to stop staff suffering in silence.
MIMHC is only about six months old, but we’ve already got 35 signatories from a really lovely cross section of the industry. We want to get over 200 signatories by the end of the year. We do a quarterly newsletter and provide access to our website with expert-led reference material and guidance.
This spring we found that 46 per cent of companies have mental health frameworks now, which is amazing, but it still means we’ve got 54 per cent of businesses without it, so we’re only just getting started. I think there’s forward momentum around the topic, especially this week, like Shawbrook with its mental health adviser scheme, but even around this week we’re seeing more action.
However, the 2022 survey also showed that there’s still a lot of people who don’t feel great. Brokers are working longer hours and the continually busy market place is running people down from a lack of sleep and continued work stress over years.
I think, despite the progress, everyone knows that we’ve still got a lot of work to do.