Here at Orb, we are keenly aware of the relationship between mental health and the workplace. Various recent surveys have shown how much work time has been lost due to the poor mental health of employees, and we’re convinced that a lot can be done within the working environment to change this situation and to manage it better. It’s a goal which makes sense not only morally, but also from a business perspective – for when all is said and done, happy staff are a good deal more likely to be more productive staff, too.
Orb wants to play its part, by empowering both employers and employees to make this idea of a “well workplace” a reality. In practical terms, it means that we try to adopt an open, stigma-free, flexible and supportive attitude to all our policies and practices, and to the way we work with people.
To this end, we have developed a training programme, which we’ve titled Essential Skills in Work and Volunteering for Positive Mental Health. We started trialling the course in 2014 – click here to read about the experience of one of our early trainees – and it has now become a standard part of our induction programme for all new staff and volunteers. It can also be of particular benefit to our service users, as they transition into volunteering positions within Orb, as part of their journey towards fully re-engaging in a working environment.
Although the training inevitably covers certain areas that are specific to working at Orb, it does differ significantly from other induction courses, in that it specifically tackles issues relating to mental well-being in the workplace and that could be any workplace.
Having worked with a lot of different people over the last couple of years, we’ve come to the conclusion that promoting workplace well-being is a two-way process. On the one hand, employees can take practical steps themselves, to help them stay well – but crucially, their place of work also has to have the attitude, the understanding, the working practices and the training to make that possible. In other words, effort is required from employers as well as employees, to make a healthy workplace possible.
The results speak for themselves. We have repeatedly had the pleasure of witnessing people emerging from enduring periods of mental ill-health and economic inactivity, going through the volunteer training with us, becoming volunteers at Orb, and then progressing to further education or salaried employment.
We have also seen the training benefitting members of the Knaresborough community, who have put themselves forward as volunteers and sought to give something back. It has been particularly wonderful to see how such training can impact positively on our younger volunteers, enabling them to go out into the wider world, feeling better prepared to look after their own mental well-being, and with raised expectations of what a good, healthy workplace should look like. We look forward to seeing how these raised expectations will translate into tangible workplace improvements, further down the line.