A smart approach to occupational health
With over 91 million work days lost every year to poor mental health in the UK, it comes as little surprise that business leaders across the country are asking the same question: What can we do about this?
There are apps, helplines, tried and tested workplace formulas, but the daily flood of news stories about the growing cost of business of under-performance and time lost because of issues affected by workers’ mental health suggests that whatever is out there isn’t working.
Perhaps it is because there is no legal requirement, the type of legislation that was introduced for workers’ safety in the workplace, that companies have no set framework to work to and so remain uncertain on best policy and practice; it is down to the conscience of individual employers to support the mental wellbeing of employees.
GENIUS is a new programme that has taken the undeniable link between strong mental health and occupational performance and turned the traditional approach on its head. It turns away from being about solving mental health issues affecting some staff; it is about occupational performance affecting everyone.
Developed over seven years by performance experts at the rail talent specialists, Ford & Stanley, the programme takes a completely fresh view of how businesses should be supporting staff and poses some very challenging questions about why businesses do what they do under the banner of health and safety.
Gone is the traditional support package, long-term counselling, referrals through NHS health professionals, and the stigma of being labelled as having a ‘mental health issue’ as if it somehow excludes you from everyday life.
A NEW MULTI-SKILLED APPROACH
GENIUS employs multi-skilled practitioners who meet face to face with employees at their most convenient location, often at their workplace during a break. They are skilled in a wide range of disciplines – including performance coaching and mentoring, NLP, counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and stress management – because until an individual sits in front of them they will not know how best to help.
With the focus on occupational performance, access is for all because, in the same way that we all have physical health, we all have mental health, along with the same wide degrees of severity.
GENIUS is for high performing, focused individuals who just want to stay on their ‘A game’, people suffering a temporary lack of focus, potential high performers who wish to develop, those suffering some form of trauma in their lives which, naturally, is impacting upon their performance at work.
Peter Schofield, Ford & Stanley chairman, said, "Some of our practitioners work with the elite of the sporting world, helping them remove mental distractions and achieve the focus required maximise their talents. Such people are not considered to have mental health problems, so why should the same not apply to someone who works in industry or commerce?"
GENIUS – so named because it helps staff ‘release the genius within’ – underwent an 18-month pilot in the UK at the global engineering company Sandvik, where management reported a tenfold payback in terms of staff being at work more, performing better, improved key staff retention and enhanced employer brand / reputation.
"It helped those wanting to improve, deal with a difficult work colleague, build confidence and rediscover lost motivation. In an extreme case, it helped an employee successfully return to work who was on the brink of suicide, and others suffering severe depression. It created amongst the workforce a strong sense of loyalty to a business which was showing them that it genuinely cared about their wellbeing."
FAST AND EFFECTIVE
GENIUS is fast and effective; the average time it took to help an employee get to where they wanted to be was four sessions, and because it was easily accessible to all, people weren’t nervous about talking about it and word of mouth ensured the service was used to its maximum.
Andy Duncan, consulting director of the GENIUS programme said, "Respecting the uniqueness of the individual is key when it comes to asking that first question "how can I help?" because only then will we know how to help, and help quickly and effectively."
"Often we are looking at the silent killer of performance - presenteeism' (at work but not performing), which saps the effectiveness of individuals and the collective performance of the organisation. Presenteeism often goes under the radar and unaddressed, but because our practitioners are often in the workplace and people see results so quickly and tell their workmates; that underlines how GENIUS is unique."
WHY SHOULD WE?
GENIUS was introduced to the rail industry at this year’s Rail Safety Summit, where the banner on its stand quoted a client stating “Our health and safety policy is 99% safety, 1% health - I'd like to do something about that" - really caught imagination of delegates.
Peter Schofield said, "That statement clearly resonated with a lot of people but, ultimately, someone is going to have to justify any investment to shareholders."
"Share price, performance of a business and the individual contributions of employees are inextricably linked; it is common sense that if more people are present and performing, they are more productive, and the bottom line is healthier."
"Most employers in the UK rail sector cite retention and recruitment of talent as a key barrier to performance due to skills shortages."
"Case studies show that programmes like GENIUS can help address these two crucial problems, but it requires an organisation with vision to take the right steps."
KEEPING STAFF FOCUSED AND AT OPTIMUM LEVELS
Alan Dick Communications, which provides end to end telecoms-based services to the rail industry, is one such company in the process of adopting GENIUS to support its workforce.
Jason Pearce, Managing Director, said, "At AlanDick Communications we recognize our staff operate every day in high risk environments and on critical infrastructure. As such the wellbeing of our staff, and helping them keep to their optimum working levels, is crucial to us, and not only because a happy and motivated workforce is more productive."
"Within the sectors we operate there is quite rightly a focus on safety measures to prevent physical injury. We are of the view that mental wellbeing is as important a factor for the industry, and one that does not receive enough open discussion or focus. In a high risk environment the cost of people not being in the “right state of mind” could clearly have catastrophic impact."
"At AlanDick Communications we are innovators and that doesn’t just mean in terms of technology; it also means ensuring we work hard to provide the very best environment and support for our workforce. We have been reviewing a portfolio of measures to help support our staff with their work wellbeing, and are always looking at new and forward thinking ways of doing this. We like the GENIUS model, which fits in with our brand as fresh, modern and different. In a highly challenging market we have to go the extra step to retain and attract the best staff, and we think the GENIUS programme will provide a USP to our business in doing exactly that."