Simon Blake, Chief Executive, MHFA England

Twelve weeks ago, in the UK we had a very different view of the world. But it was one where we have increasingly been understanding the importance of a strategic focus on people’s mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.


And that focus is only getting stronger. In that spirit it is brilliant that Associations Week has the theme of wellbeing.


At MHFA England we believe a focus on workplace wellbeing is of critical importance because on average we spend over a third of our adult lives at work. Work can be health creating and for too many it is a stressor. The economic and human cost is enormous.


And that is in usual times. In extraordinary times, the need to focus on workplace wellbeing is even more important.


We have had a crash course in emotional literacy, with more and more people genuinely looking out for each other, government emphasising the importance of exercise for our mental health during the pandemic, and employers working hard to ensure employees have the advice they need to protect their wellbeing through both this initial period and as we all find a way to navigate the new normal.


We have seen evidence of greater connections within communities, numerous acts of kindness and greater recognition of the importance of NHS staff and other key workers. In no way do I want to underplay the enormous difficulties, challenges and sacrifices that people have made, however we can, and must, take heart that overall we have adapted incredibly well to the restrictions on our way of life, and use that as a platform to build confidence and strength for the weeks and months ahead.


At the beginning of Lock Down MHFA England produced advice for staff. In summary, the advice sets out the following: build routines before, during and after work; staying connected with colleagues and friends; keeping active and getting support from friends, family, support services such as the Samaritans, or a Mental Health First Aider if you have them.


Ten weeks in we now know quite a bit more about the importance of getting the balance right: that disconnecting is as important as connecting, that video calls will take over your day unless you put some parameters on them and that phone calls may be retro but they are a great way of communicating when you cannot look at yourself on the screen any longer. And that we need time to think as well as time to do.


At MHFA England our aim is to keep on learning. In line with government guidance we will continue to work from home until September at the earliest. This week we begin talking to staff about how we can best support them in working from home in the three months ahead and to inform our planning for the return to the office.


In the meantime, we have asked people to make meetings 25 or 50 minutes instead of 30 minutes or an hour, to be meeting free between 12 and 1 to ensure there is time for lunch, and for meetings to cease at 3pm on Friday. A month in I wrote a blog that summarised some of my learning.


MHFA England has compiled a list of useful resources, along with information about advice and training which you can find here. You can also email to find out about workplace training.


Never has it been more important for all of us to be checking in with ourselves and each other. If you do so already, keep on doing it. If you haven’t started yet, now is the time.

Associations Week 2020 ©. All rights reserved


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