As is common in the technology sector, SSP Limited’s business is fast-paced and pressured. With 800 employees globally, it is inevitable that many individuals at SSP Limited will be impacted by mental health challenges.
SSP Limited signed the Time to Change Employer Pledge on 10th October 2018.
Prior to this, the organisation had an existing diversity strategy and working group driven by employees aiming to create an inclusive working environment, but mental health was not widely discussed. The male-orientated environment of the organisation also impacted the extent to which mental health was talked about.
According to Jemma Mckenzie, SSP’s HR Director and Time to Change Pledge Lead, “we all knew how important mental health wellbeing was, but we didn’t generate or enable conversations in the workplace”.
Yet when Jemma took the initiative to scope employee interest in the topic of mental health, they found a number of employees who were passionate about raising mental health awareness.
Mental health awareness had become more prominent at SSP Limited since the business went through a unique situation which required reorganisation and a reduction of employee numbers. This was a difficult time for a number of individuals at SSP Limited, so raising awareness across the business of the warning signs and triggers of poor mental health, as well as equipping managers to support their staff, became more of a priority.
With the understanding that bringing about sustainable change needed more than a HR process, senior colleagues at SSP Limited signed the Time to Change Employer Pledge and a number of colleagues from across the organisation were recruited as Employee Champions.
This engagement from all levels of the organisation was key for embedding change at SSP Limited; among the most impactful actions taken has been the sharing of stories about mental health, which have come from individuals across the organisation.
In 2018, one member of the Executive Team shared a video interview speaking about their lived experience of mental health. This gained hugely positive feedback, sending a message that “if the COO can talk about it [mental health], then so can I.”
This positive feedback encouraged other senior leaders to share their stories, which in turn led to colleagues from across the organisation writing mental health-related blogs for the SSP Limited social networking site.
Jemma, SSP Limited’s HR Director, said:
“As conversations around mental health began to happen, we started to see just how many of our people were affected by it in some way. Lots of our people, from the Executive Management level right through the organisation, have shared mental health challenges that they have faced or continue to face. This, in turn, has encouraged others to either share their story or seek support.”
After taking the Employer Pledge, SSP Limited was able to channel this appetite for talking about mental health into a company-wide commitment to “end discrimination against mental health.
Time to Change provided resources including videos and printed materials from the #AskTwice Campaign “to help educate our people and provide access to valuable advice and support”. Key events in the mental health calendar such as World Mental Health Day provided an opportunity to raise awareness and bring people together.
World Mental Health Day 2019 saw SSP Limited hosting a number of activities, including a breakfast session, a live-streamed global meditation session, a mood questionnaire encouraging colleagues to seek help if appropriate, a lunchtime walk, factsheets on various topics, and promotion of the Employee Assistance Programme.
The day was an opportunity to “pull together some of the great work our people have been doing and to reinforce our inclusive culture of people bringing their ‘real’ selves to work”.
The biggest impact of taking the Employer Pledge has been the shift in workplace culture around talking about mental health.
Employees at SSP Limited have taken the opportunity to talk more about mental health and made it their own by starting a men’s club, where the topic can be discussed outside of the workplace in a more informal way.
Some colleagues have even reported changes in the workplace having a positive effect on their personal lives, as well as well as giving space for challenges from personal lives to be addressed in the workplace.
SSP Limited are keen to ensure that “whilst we have more activity going on for specific days, we have an ongoing communications and activity plan to ensure this topic isn’t just discussed once a year but becomes part of our culture to talk about.”
Ensuring that employees are not only able to spot the signs of any potential mental health issues, but also have the confidence to talk about such issues to managers or Mental Health Champions, is both an employee and business priority for SSP Limited.
Going forward, SSP Limited are looking to use eLearning to better educate managers on the topic of mental health and make sure managers understand their accountability within the company’s mental health commitment.
SSP Limited are also hoping to do more work on wellbeing, unconscious bias and diversity and inclusion, to improve their workplace in a holistic way.
The combination of several planned interventions and the steady normalisation of conversations around mental are helping to bring about sustainable and meaningful change to SSP Limited’s approach to mental health.