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Improving mental health at work needs to be on everyone's agenda

Thursday, 23 March 2017 Heidi Kirkby

Heidi is the Benefits and Credits Operations Wellbeing Co-ordinator at HM Revenue and Customs and one of our Wellbeing Champion winners tells us how she improved wellbeing in her office. 

Heidi Kirkby is the Benefits and Credits Operations Wellbeing Co-ordinator for HM Revenue and Customs and a winner of our Wellbeing Champion award. Our Wellbeing Champion awards recognise two outstanding individuals who have been nominated by their peers for playing a key role in promoting positive mental health in their workplace. Heidi recognised that one of the biggest factors affecting staff at HM Revenue and Customs is mental health problems. As a result she set about making positive changes to how the organisation handled this. Since Heidi's been involved with the Workplace Wellbeing Index, there has been a definite positive shift in behaviours and attitudes from managers and peers towards staff affected by mental health problems.


From the moment I met Lancashire Mind at our Mental Health Awareness event in Preston in May 2016, I knew I wanted to work with Mind to help put mental health back at the top of our wellbeing agenda.

It was shortly after this event that I received an e-mail from Mind inviting me to take part in the first year of Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index. I was a little sceptical at first but the more I read about the Index, the more I felt that this was something that we would benefit from being part of.

"I had to make sure staff knew that through engaging with Mind we were committed to change."

I prepared a business case outlining the benefits taking part in the Index would have for our department. Once management agreed to it I couldn’t wait to share the news with Mind, for me, signing up to the Index showed our commitment to wellbeing and was a positive step to supporting mental health in the workplace.

In September 2016, we signed up to the Index. I was assigned a support officer from Mind who phoned me to welcome me on board and talk through the next steps. I couldn’t wait to get started. So, how was I going to get as many people as I could to complete the employee survey? I had to make sure staff knew that through engaging with Mind we were committed to change.

"I wasn’t happy with how many people had completed the survey, I decided to step it up a notch."

The people at Mind made the job of promoting the Index a lot easier, they sent us posters and draft communications that we could use when advertising the Index. They also sent a ‘dashboard’ which let me check the staff survey response rate – something I quickly became obsessed with, and would check every minute of the day. I even started to use a tactical approach and let senior managers know if their area was no longer in the lead – well a little bit of competition never did anybody any harm! And it worked.

We put up posters advertising the survey on every floor, in kitchens, on performance boards, and even on the back of toilet doors in 18 buildings across the country. I wanted to make sure that everybody in the department knew that we were taking part.

"For me, this is what makes it all worthwhile, we are actually making a difference"

On the day the survey went live, we published a message from our director with the link to the survey on the intranet. After a few days, I wasn’t happy with how many people had completed the survey, I decided to step it up a notch and sent an email to every single member of staff. I needed to reach out to 5,500 in total. To my delight, this did the trick, I saw a huge surge in responses. Mind expected a response rate between 10 to 15 per cent but we completed an amazing 35 per cent.

To keep the momentum going we arranged another mental health awareness event. This time we tried something different, we asked our colleagues if any of them would like to share their personal experiences. The response was overwhelming and the feedback from the event was better than ever. One attendee wrote, “attending the session has made me realise our business is moving in the right direction to support employees health and wellbeing within the workplace. I felt this was a real break though!” For me, this is what makes it all worthwhile, we are actually making a difference.

I want to make sure people know that their views have been taken seriously and that we are committed to creating a better way of working, not only for individuals, but for the whole organisation. I believe that working with Mind can only help us going forward, and can only be a good thing.

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