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The Emotional Wellbeing of your Employees Remains a Priority


As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Acorn by Synergie’s MD Bernard Ward discusses how the emotional wellbeing of your company’s employees should very much be your business.

We all know that since the pandemic many people are suffering more with mental health issues – some statistics show around one in six people are now experiencing a mental health problem each week – but many aren’t asking for help. In fact, only 1 in 3 adults with a common mental health problem are thought to be currently getting treatment.

As business leaders, therefore, the mental health of our employees is vital to the health of our organisations. Happy people make happy companies – that’s a known fact. The more people feel valued and listened to, the more likely they are to stay and feel motivated in their current role. And yet, day in day out in our work at Acorn by Synergie, we still see people leaving jobs because they are under too much pressure and don’t feel valued.

Like so many, there are personal experiences and challenges which have shaped me as the man and business leader that I am today. Having to take the reins of my family business at a young age, and the life changing decisions I had to make during that time, have all left their mark on me and the way I work and deal with people today.

What you see is what you get with me – I’m transparent and I work hard to make my colleagues feel that I’m always here as a sounding board. In previous jobs, I’ve listened to colleagues suffering from domestic abuse, those under significant amounts of stress and those with financial burdens and have helped where and when I can – just by listening mostly, as I’m not qualified to give them the real help that they no doubt need.

So, when I joined Acorn by Synergie, I spotted an opportunity as its Managing Director to put real solutions in place, to offer expert help to those in need and to provide tangible respite for those under pressure mentally and emotionally too.

I spent my first few weeks in this business driving around the UK visiting and having hour long meetings with each and every one of our 178 staff members. What I discovered was that Acorn’s staff have the same issues and stresses you would expect of most people, to varying degrees, from financial woes to familial issues.

So, I came back to head office and decided to implement a few simple things that would help those in need in our organisation.

We signed up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment pledge, a framework to support mental health support in the workplace and also set about fundraising for Mind UK, which I’m very pleased to say we raised £30,000 for in 2022.

We set about putting in place simple solutions like setting up free appointments with financial advisers for every staff member to help them navigate the cost of living crisis. Flexible and hybrid working is now offered as, since Covid, our working patterns have changed and like many businesses, we have now implemented this officially too.

A few members of our senior leadership team in particular were also really feeling the stresses and strains of work and so we brought in a life coach, to discuss with them how they are dealing with work stresses and to give them advice on coping strategies.

We’ve also introduced an analytics tool called Open Blend, which supports a monthly review of our colleagues’ mental health, as well as their performance in the workplace, to make sure they are doing ok. We have set in place ‘you days’ where, if someone is struggling for any reason, they have a day available to take purely to focus on themselves, as well as giving people their birthday day off – all of which has helped reduce our attrition rate by 38%.

These measures are by no means the answer to everyone’s problems, or indeed the end of our work around mental health, but what we do know is that in introducing them, our highly valued colleagues are sticking by and working with us more closely than they ever have been. We also see this work as an ongoing initiative that we put into our day-to-day work here, and would therefore, whole heartedly recommend to other businesses too.

Ultimately, we know that people suffer and cope in different ways and we will continue working to ensure that our colleagues have what they need, when they need it. ‘Be kind’ is a phrase I’ve seen used a lot over the past few years, and sometimes – particularly in business – it can be easy to forget that kindness isn’t just about giving, but also about being human, about being approachable, about humour, laughter and looking on the bright side of life, rather than the negative.

Compassion, understanding and transparency are the things that I have worked hard to implement at Acorn by Synergie since I’ve joined. Therefore, to ensure that my colleagues are as healthy as my business and, as we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week this week, I would implore you to do the same.

Business News Wales