At Optimum, our whole team works remotely, so those photocopier chats, cup of tea talks and corridor smiles are sometimes missed. A lot of people say that your work colleagues will end up knowing more about you than some of your friends away from work, as talking to them means nothing is off limits. Whilst our team do meet up every few months at Team Days, it certainly makes you very aware of the chit chat you miss. As the team has grown larger, we noticed that especially in this remote environment, mental health and wellbeing issues can sometimes not be as easy to spot, so it was decided that volunteers from the team could go on a Mental Health First Aider course to help identify the signs of mental health issues, wellbeing problems or just general interruptions to life.
Victoria, our Financial Consultant, and Steph, our Marketing Co-ordinator, put their names forward and took part in the course. A good balance came from this with Victoria being one of our consultants and Steph being part of the Business Services team. Both Victoria and Steph make themselves available through WhatsApp for a quick message or call to be there for the whole team no matter what the problem may be – or there may not be a problem, someone may just need to break away from their work for 5 minutes to clear their head before their next task. Following their training, Victoria and Steph suggested that a Wellbeing area be created on our internal platform. This area holds information such as who the Mental Health First Aiders are and how to contact them, ideas for how to exercise more, what to eat, help and advice about finances, menopause, general help lines amongst other things, what to watch on TV, the next book you should read, something new to learn, and places to explore.
We asked Victoria why she decided to put her name forward to be a Mental Health First Aider:
Looking back over the last few years, I realise I have often found myself volunteering for roles (in my personal life and career) where I need to be in the role of a listener, so when the opportunity arose to undertake training as a Mental Health First Aider, I put my hand up. As a society, we need to reduce the stigmas around mental health and if I can help through being a dedicated person to talk to, I hope I can prevent my colleagues from suffering in silence and feel safe to bring the subject up.
I have gone from working for a very large company of over 5,000 employees to Optimum as a small company and coming in as the 13th employee. I think it’s great that even a small company like Optimum takes mental health seriously enough to seek out a mental health first aider.
Steph was also asked why she wanted to be a Mental Health First Aider:
Before my current role I worked in schools for almost 6 years. Being surrounded by children, teachers, parents, and support staff, you start to understand what causes a person to feel unwell, anxious, stressed or just generally not feel like their usual self. Noticing these problems and then helping the person to deal with them is something that is so important. Whether it is referring them to the appropriate person or just being a bouncing board to air frustration, I always felt better as a person knowing that I had helped in some way, however small.
So, when we were asked if anyone would like to take part in a Mental Health First Aider course, I was straight in there. Being part of the Business Services team I have flexibility with my time during the day with minimal calendared meetings making me available to the whole team whenever required. We all need to vent sometimes, or just have 5 minutes down time, and I find it interesting listening to people and understanding how I can help them. Whether it is talking about the weather or a tough situation, I like to do whatever I can to help people live well and be part of the work community and not feel left out. This way, people increase their resilience, engage better, hopefully have less sickness, perform better and are productive with their time. I want to be the constant, visible reminder that improving company mental health and wellbeing is important to the culture of Optimum and it is noticed.