It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is nature and the environment. Taking a breather and escaping into the natural world has become a fundamental part of our lives – over lockdown, 45% of people reported that visiting green spaces helped them cope with the strain of the pandemic.
As the world slowly opens and our busy lives continue, it’s never been more crucial to support the mental wellbeing of ourselves and the people around us. At Barker, we’re continuously looking for ways to support our employees’ wellbeing. That’s why in 2021 we were proud to introduce the Employee Assistance Programme. The programme helps people across the organisation, sharing wellbeing events, running classes and providing a safe space for people to talk about their concerns.
We caught up with 3 members of the Employee Assistance Programme – Donna Wagstaff, Yvonne Ritter and Dan Bowler – to learn a little more about the role, and the support they provide at Barker.
Why was it important for Barker to introduce an Employee Assistance Programme?
Donna Wagstaff – As a practice, Barker has grown exponentially in the last 2 years. From a 30-member practice in a single office to 75+ employees across 4 locations. It is no longer as easy as stopping by the desk and checking in on staff members or sharing a cuppa, but we care about our staff and their wellbeing just the same.
Recent studies have shown an increase in mental health issues. The stress of home schooling, isolation/lack of social contact, longer working hours and taking fewer breaks have all contributed to this, causing a greater sense of uncertainty, anxiety, and depression.
So, we felt that a small but qualified in-house assistance was the best answer. The Employee Assistance Programme offers our staff a way to connect with some familiar faces. This encourages them to maintain a healthy work/life balance, an active lifestyle and crucially, is a route to letting them know we’re here to listen and help should they need it.
As Employee Assistance Programme personnel we sit hand-in-hand with the professional counselling services offered by our Sage Employee Benefits scheme and AXA Private Insurance.
What advice would you give to an organisation who is considering its own mental health support team?
Donna Wagstaff: Be proactive, show you care about your workplace by maintaining an inclusive work environment and a continuous dialogue with staff. Remind them that help is at hand. Encourage everyone to adopt an activity away from their desks and outside of work – be it a sport, walking, painting, or anything that inspires and makes them happy.
What’s your go-to wellbeing activity this #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek?
Yvonne Ritter: This year’s theme is Nature, so we are encouraging our team/staff to head outdoors and spend time in nature. We sent out a list of suggested outdoor spaces and encouraged staff to go and enjoy a walk, run, have a picnic, or even just read a book in the park.
You currently run fantastic online exercise classes for the staff, will you be introducing any additional classes when you return to the office?
Dan Bowler: I am hoping to continue the on-going HIIT sessions and resume our football sessions. We’re also looking to engage the team in a running club.
Thank you all for sharing your perspectives!
Be sure to look out for more updates on the mental wellbeing initiatives we’re running by following our social media channels for updates.