A leading tech company has committed to doing all it can to support employee mental health as it closes in on almost a year of remote working.
Hull-based APD Communications is supporting Time to Change, a growing national social movement run by the Mind and Rethink Mental Illness charities, and is encouraging colleagues to talk openly about their feelings and embrace the support available.
Time to Change is working to transform how people think and act about mental health. APD has signed up to the campaign’s Employer Pledge to build on the support it already offers to its people and to play its part in ending the stigma around mental health, improving attitudes and behaviour towards the issue and ensuring employees feel supported.
The company says taking care of mental health is more important than ever, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For almost a year, colleagues have been working from home, separated from their colleagues, with many juggling the demands of work, childcare and home schooling. The business has adopted a flexible approach to work patterns, to support those with parental and other responsibilities.
APD managers have organised a wide range of online social activities to keep colleagues connected, including beer and gin tastings, wreath-making, brownie baking, “walk and talk” time, quiz sessions and virtual tea and coffee meetings.
The business – a leading supplier of software used in emergency services control rooms – has also worked with its charity partner Hull & East Yorkshire Mind to provide advice on working from home, stress awareness, sleep, meditation and more to help employees take care of their physical and mental wellbeing.
Now, with thoughts around Valentine’s Day, APD is reminding its team to #loveyourmind. “Pick-me-up” boxes will be sent to APD’s 130 colleagues across the UK, including herbal tea, coffee, hot chocolate, marshmallows and a journal to contribute to self-care and remind them they are supported.
APD has also recently appointed its first qualified mental health first-aider, product owner Anna O’Connell (left), and nine other employees have volunteered for the role.
Anna joined APD in March 2020 and only had three working days in the office before teams moved to remote working ahead of the first lockdown.
She said: “I put myself forward because I’ve seen people suffer and wanted the chance to show that mental health issues are nothing to be afraid of and can be worked through.
“I’ve done physical first aid before and, while mental health is less visible, it’s no less important. Having someone to help, support and guide you makes a problem easier to deal with.
“It’s refreshing to work for a company that is open, listens and takes mental health so seriously. Everyone at APD has been amazing. All we have to do is ask for help if we need it and it’s there.”
Wendy Hiley, talent attraction and engagement business partner at APD, said: “Mental health has always been important to us, but even more so since the Covid pandemic began.
“We want to tackle the stigma around mental health by supporting our people to be open about how they feel and know it’s OK not to be OK.
“We already have a culture in which our colleagues feel safe and secure talking about their mental health at work and adopting Time to Change builds on that.”
Rhiannon Beeson, APD’s commercial director, said: “We all know this has been an incredibly difficult time. For almost a year now we haven’t been able to be with each other.
“Those water cooler moments have gone and dozens of people have joined the business but never met anyone in person.
“We’ve made it our priority to create online initiatives that replicate how we would normally socialise together in the office. We’ve been encouraging our teams to run lunch-and-learn sessions and we’ve put on several virtual events too. Wherever possible, we’ve supplemented these activities with postal deliveries to break up the repetitiveness of everything moving into the virtual world.
“It’s also incredibly important to us that our people feel supported to work flexibly, so they can continue to manage their parental and other responsibilities throughout this time.
“If a little one pops up on screen during an online work meeting, we celebrate it, or if a different working pattern is needed, we’re all for embracing that and making sure we see each other as people, not just colleagues.”