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Opening up in the workplace

Director of Communications and Engagement at Civica, Sarah Turton, explores how an honest conversation around workplace wellbeing and mental health is crucial to a successful organisation

Nowadays, people’s perception of a caring employer will likely centre on how much it values its people. Research by Mind confirms that a culture of fear and silence around mental health, as opposed to an open and supportive one, is costly to employers. If people don’t feel genuinely appreciated and able to reveal their true self, then how can they be content and fulfil their full potential?

I’m very proud to work for Civica, an Investors in People Gold accredited organisation which takes wellbeing seriously. We’re a global business with a diverse team, of which more than 500 of our colleagues are home based in the UK alone. Ensuring we maintain our bright, open and dynamic culture is therefore key to ensuring that everyone maintains a real sense of belonging and mental, physical and financial wellbeing. Without the foundations of a strong and supportive culture and a comprehensive wellbeing strategy - whatever the benefits - people will rightly question whether their employer genuinely puts its people first.

Wellbeing in the workplace is an area which Investors in People has led on for many years, supported by its ‘We invest in wellbeing’ framework and accreditation, and we were delighted to host the first West Yorkshire Community Circle on this very theme earlier this year. Local accredited businesses came to hear what we do to improve our own people’s lives beyond our benefits package, but we were especially keen to share a journey rather than a destination, and how we continue to learn.

For example, career progression and development is an area that’s conducive to feeling supported in the workplace. We’ve recently launched a global development framework, The Civica Way, which empowers and enables our people to be their own ‘Chief Learning Officer’. By taking control of their own development in relation to the six attributes and associated behaviours that we want to be ‘famous for’, our people are trusted to make their own decisions about their career and how they advance to the next stage.

The businesses which joined us for the West Yorkshire Community Circle were of differing sizes, operating in different markets, made up of people with different ideas, values and cultures, with a different story and journey to share. The day we close our eyes and ears and think there’s no room for improving the way we do things here at Civica, is the day we close the door to opportunity and start to regress. We’re a forward thinking business and place a real focus on engagement, recognising that it works both ways. We watch and listen as much as we talk and share, believing that the real value and success comes from collaborating, and not only with our colleagues, but with our customers, partners and additional stakeholders too.

Other organisations certainly face similar challenges, so having opened up our network in West Yorkshire and offering our office space for smaller organisations to have a voice and share what they’re doing in the future means that we can grow stronger together.

Wellbeing in the workplace will only become more front of mind for employers, particularly as the younger generations - our future leaders - view provision for mental health as a deciding factor in their job searches. Going forward, as employers and recruiters we should share best practice with each other to keep the conversation a priority, or in some cases even begin that initial discussion with employees, to not only attract the right talent, but to help our existing employees thrive in a safe and happy environment.