User Conversion is a conversion optimisation agency made up of 26 specialists and based in the heart of Manchester.

Their focus is on improving user experiences and positively impacting businesses through a combination of data, insight and experimentation.

User Conversion’s involvement with Time to Change was catalysed by one team member opening up about their struggles with depression to the whole business on Time to Talk Day 2019. The overwhelmingly positive response this received encouraged the agency to start officially marking dates in the Mental Health Calendar.

It was on their search for ideas for how to mark World Mental Health Day that Beth Lang, User Conversion’s Head of Operations, came across the Time to Change Employer Pledge. Beth had always felt that the way for a business to be successful was for its people to feel happy, secure and motivated, and the pledge offered another way to do ensure this.

“I immediately knew it was something that, as a business, we would want to get involved with. Our entire business strategy is based on people, but most of our mental health and wellbeing initiatives prior to taking the pledge were either solely led by me, or were sporadic, ad hoc things done by team members.”

Whilst there wasn’t any overt mental health stigma at the agency before signing the pledge, the combination of inconsistencies in approaching mental health and lack of openly talking about the topic “could have easily given the impression of stigma”.

The agency had always had small pockets of people who openly talked about mental health, but the conversation very much flowed in one direction, rather than being actively discussed. 

However, as a particularly young workforce, User Conversion’s employees were perhaps more open to talking about mental health than employees in the average workplace.

The flexibility of their workplace, which featured no time-tracking or micromanaging, also lent itself to being changed for the wellbeing of employees.

“We didn’t have a plan, we didn’t have consistency, but we did have a real belief in the importance of ensuring that as a business we were supporting the mental health of our team.”

Signing the Employer Pledge enabled User Conversion to become more consistent in the monitoring of employee wellbeing, to involve its workforce in the process of improving mental health in the workplace, and to enhance its communications around mental health.

Recruiting Time to Change Workplace Champions played a major role in making this progress. According to Beth,

“By recruiting the Champions and signing the pledge, we’ve increased engagement in our initiatives. It helps massively that all this stuff isn’t ‘top down’ anymore, but rather a team of peers championing them internally.”

With nine out of User Conversion’s 26 employees having volunteered as Champions, a large chunk of the workforce is involved in peer-to-peer engagement around mental health, which has strengthened the idea that activities are “for us, by us”.

The Champions took the initiative to host a number of activities in the wake of signing the pledge.

To mark World Mental Health Day 2019, they used a quiz, leaflets and fact-sheets from Time to Change’s website to get people talking about mental health, making sure to share these with remote workers too.

This not only helped to improve people’s knowledge but was followed by several colleagues “suddenly discussing openly their challenges and their previous hesitations about opening up” about their mental health struggles.

Throughout the year, Champions also organised a number of sessions to educate their peers, including myth-busting lunch and learn about therapy and a creatively titled session, “What the f*** is mindfulness?”

To mark Blue Monday, Champions took the initiative to write a handwritten note of appreciation to every colleague. This was so popular that it has become a permanent feature in the way that employees are recognised for their strengths and given positive feedback outside of formal structures. 

More formal interventions that have been made at User Conversion include introducing flexible working, with the option for some members of staff to work entirely remotely.

The agency has also been ensuring that it regularly monitors its staff wellbeing through a quarterly wellbeing survey, with the idea that acting on feedback will improve employee engagement, empowerment and mental wellbeing.

Signing the Time to Change Pledge pushed the agency towards being more consistent in its monitoring of wellbeing, whilst the openness encouraged by the increased focus and discussion around mental health meant that employees began changing the way they reported absences.

Following a member of the team sharing their lived experience with mental health on an internal blog, one Champion disclosed that they had been using flexible working to hide the fact that they had been going to therapy.

Yet the improved attitudes to mental health in the User Conversion workplace had enabled them to see this in a more positive light and no longer feel the need to hide it. As a result, this individual now feels able to put their therapy sessions in their work calendar.

The idea that mental health is a taboo subject has shifted across the entire organisation; in instances where individuals have had to take prolonged periods off work for their mental health, colleagues are able to refer to this openly in a way that avoids treating it like a secret but rather frames it as necessary time off.

In their journey to improving mental health in the workplace, User Conversion have found that their biggest strength is the combination of the structured approach to changing workplace culture, offered by the Time to Change campaign, and the flexibility which is built in to their young and innovative business.