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Supporting hearts and minds

Legal & General has partnered with Minds@Work to provide SMEs with mental health support

25 Oct 2021

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Mental health is an extremely important issue to Legal & General, which is why we have recently been supporting a new initiative from mental health charity Minds@Work.

The HIVE programme has been specially designed to support SME leaders and colleagues in improving mental health support within their organisations.

Geoff McDonald, Co-Founder of Minds@Work, says the programme is a natural progression for the charity following successful programmes that tended to focus more on larger organisations.

He had previously worked at Unilever before moving on with the intention of helping to build workplaces where people could talk openly about their mental or emotional struggles. He met Co-Founder Georgie Mack who shared his vision, and the two worked to set up an event where leaders could discuss mental health. Following an initial meeting of just 14 leaders, the network grew until they were well into the hundreds of attendees, and it was at this point they decided to take a more formal approach.

“We went through the process of creating a charity called Minds@Work and we’ve been able to employ people to manage the community events and we’ve now got over 2,600 members of the community around the UK and in other parts of the world,” he says. “Our purpose essentially is to inspire and to equip individuals to go back into their workplaces and to address the stigma of mental health.”

Something for everyone

Through quarterly live events, the charity has helped support many leaders to improve the mental health support their organisation offers; however, McDonald was concerned that there was little support for SMEs.

With financial support from Legal & General, the HIVE programme was set up.“The idea is that leaders from SMEs come together in the programme,” says McDonald. “The first modules get them to appreciate their own wellbeing. If a leader doesn’t care about their own wellbeing, they won’t care about the wellbeing of anyone in their organisation.”

Each session focuses on different physical aspects of wellbeing, such as sleep, exercise, and nutrition, and relaxation which can all have a great impact on how people feel. Although HIVE is a completely novel virtual peer support programme, it was designed in partnership with the UKs foremost peer support experts from the NHS, so safety was always a top priority.

“We leave them with tools, ideas and thoughts on how they can then go and lead on mental health back in their SME,” he says. “And they can build a strong peer support network.”

Sara Heald, Head of CSR at Legal & General says the programme is filling a gap in mental health support. “Minds@Work identified that SMEs are the largest group of employers and employees, who have the least amount of support around mental health,” she says. “They are small businesses that don’t necessarily have a wellbeing person dedicated to looking after employees in that way.”

Supporting SMEs is such a big thing for us, as is supporting mental health. There was just that natural fit.

Just rewards

Responses from attendees have been incredibly positive, with 85% of participants saying that they felt there was someone within the programme they could turn to for support. Meanwhile, 77% said they had made good progress towards their health goal. And it has also won plaudits externally.

In September 2021, the HIVE programme was recognised at the Southern Enterprise Awards, hosted by SME News, where it was named as the Most Innovative Nationwide Workplace Mental Health NPO 2021.

“I don’t know how that happened,” McDonald laughs. “I don’t know who nominated us, but it was amazing.”

And while plaudits such as these aren’t everything, Heald says it is important to receive this sort of recognition.

“This type of award gives credibility,” she says. “The programme has been recognised by peers, organisations and the judges as a real credible programme. That’s useful as it has the right evaluation to show that the programme is making a difference.”

McDonald says that most of all though, he is given peace of mind by the fact that the programme is levelling up mental health support.

“The last few years large organisations have really taken on the challenge around mental health, but they have no excuse not to, they have a big HR function,” he says. “Someone running a business with 50 people, where do they turn? To know there is something like Minds@Work that can offer that support is really important.”