J Brand: The Challenges of Putting Mental Health First in an Unfamiliar Industry

Working in the electrical and data industry, mental health was long an afterthought or even entirely forgotten. It just was not seen as a business priority. Thankfully, that has now been turned on its head and the psychological wellbeing of staff is viewed in the light it should be – essential.

We have made a significant effort, in terms of time and resource, to give our staff options on how they take care of their own mental health. Progress has been made, but we fully understand that there is a way to go.

At J Brand, we have around 40 office-based staff, with well over 100 engineers out in the field spread right across the country. That has its advantages in a business-sense, but in terms of employee mental health it presents challenges. How can we ensure that we are providing sufficient support should a staff member need it? Lockdowns and the surrounding isolation only added to the urgency of reinforcing our company systems which are in place to give help if it’s needed.

We now put more effort than we ever have into improving and maintaining the mental health of our employees, through a variety of schemes. What worked for us, may also work for your organisation.

The first, and perhaps most effective, is providing private cover for all J Brand employees. There is a cost, however we’ve found the investment well worth the money. It may sound clichéd, but often all somebody needs is a supportive voice to hear them. A trained professional is a phone call away at any time of the day or night for our team – that means there is always qualified help if it’s required.

Therapy is not for everybody, but we think it’s important to offer the choice. Referrals can be provided for more comprehensive treatment such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or other recognised forms of help.

Everybody is different and what works for one person, does not work for another. Speaking to a stranger can seem like a daunting experience, especially if the individual in question is under a lot of stress. That’s exactly why we invested in the training of mental health first aiders for members of the J Brand office team.

We have had several people complete the St John Ambulance mental health first aid course – a two day qualification which equips them with the knowledge to to identify issues and offer assistance if required.

Gaining a more comprehensive understanding of what mental health is, how to spot any potential problems and what help can be given if there is a difficulty.

For some, a friendly face is a greater comfort and that’s exactly why we found the modest investment so worthwhile. The service has been used by multiple members of the team – hopefully averting more severe complications further down the road.

It’s no secret that men struggle to talk about their mental health more than female counterparts, so with a predominately male workforce getting these messages across has been absolutely essential.

Engineers can be out delivering electrical hardware deployment projects on the road for weeks at a time away from their families. That can be a lonely experience and it’s something that those of us based in the office are acutely aware of and keep in regular contact with the men and women on the ground. A quick phone call to just ask how they are can go an awfully long way in helping them to feel connected with the team.

Bottling up emotions and refusing to openly discuss them only causes harm. I would say – if you’re unsure and feeling uneasy or anxious, speak to somebody. Best-case scenario is that it’s nothing to worry about, but in the worst-case getting help early is vital.

Building an employee’s worth and sense of value to the company is also important. Of course salary plays a role in that, but so does fostering a general feeling of team spirit and togetherness. Easy to say, very difficult to do. Every company is there to make money, but from my experience these investments easily pay for themselves over the medium to long term.

Our company ethos is ‘My Customer, My Responsibility’ and we take that extremely seriously. Every single member of staff represents J Brand, with almost all speaking to clients in some capacity. A healthy and happy individual is naturally a more effective ambassador for your brand – adding to the value of efforts in improving a workforce’s wellbeing.

Every company is different and will have their own financial priorities, but for us we felt like this was all money well spent. A happy workforce is a satisfied and productive workforce, which from a selfish perspective ultimately will be more profitable for the company.

Properly investing in your workforce’s mental health benefits your staff, your clients and your profits. If you’re not doing so already, I would wholeheartedly recommend devising a strategy today.


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