Tue, 24 Mar 2020

In times of great uncertainty, our mental health is often the first thing to suffer. Now, more than ever, it’s important that we learn to recognise the signs that might appear when our colleagues are struggling and take steps to prevent this where possible.

We sat down with our Head of Talent, Careers and Development, Vicky Waters, to talk about BNP Paribas Personal Finance’s commitment to the ‘Time to Change’ initiative, and her advice for looking after your mental health when you’re working from home.

Time to Change

On average one in four people experience a mental health problem each year, yet the shame and silence surrounding it can often be as damaging as the mental health problem itself.

The ‘Time to Change’ initiative, led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, is all about shifting the way people think and act about mental health problems and ending discrimination towards those who suffer from them.

To show our support for this movement, all of BNP Paribas Personal Finance’s UK territories signed up to the Time to Change Employer Pledge in October 2018, committing to a comprehensive plan focusing on awareness training for managers, rolling out a mental health first aid training programme and hosting a series of awareness events for employees.

In addition to this on-site support network, our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offers up to seven coaching sessions with a counsellor and is available to all our colleagues and to people in their household.

On her own experience using the service, Vicky says: “After I lost my mum the EAP was a real lifeline for me, and having that additional support outside of my immediate circle helped me to recover from such a great loss in a stronger way than I would’ve done otherwise.

“People are often very fearful of asking for help because they feel like they’re admitting they can’t cope, but it’s so important to remember that reaching out doesn’t make you a failure and in fact shows a great deal of strength.”

Remote Working - Vicky’s Top Tips

Working from home can easily make people feel isolated, so we asked Vicky to share her top tips for maintaining relationships with colleagues and remaining positive in these unprecedented times.

Vicky says: “For me it’s all about creating connections. Some people will be working completely on their own and missing their family and friends, while others might have a house full of people and be worrying about concentrating.

“Making time for a daily team video call where you can see each other’s faces gives people that all important social interaction, and also acts as a chance for you and your colleagues to offload and share whatever’s on your mind.

“You could also try adding an element of fun to these calls with regular team challenges, which can be a welcome distraction from the uncertainty and fear we’re all experiencing at the moment.”

On her second top tip for looking after your mental health when working from home, Vicky says: “Self-care is key. Keeping up the routines you’d normally follow every morning, whether that’s getting into the shower or doing your hair, helps you to retain a sense of normality in a time when the world around you feels very scary and confusing.

“Make sure you schedule regular breaks too. Step away from the screen and mentally divide your space up into ‘work zones’ and ‘home zones’ to help create boundaries. It’s all about mindset and these little changes can make a big difference to your mental health.”

Also on the subject of screen time, Vicky warns: “Avoid watching the news constantly. In times like these it’s all too easy to become glued to news websites and social media, but try not to obsess over it if you can. Focusing on the things that you can control, like making a nice dinner, rather than things that are out of your control, really does make a huge difference.”

As we adapt to the new “normal”, Vicky suggests trying to identify some positives that you can take from a difficult situation like this: “Ask yourself the question- is the opportunity nowhere or is the opportunity NOW here. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a new language or improve your cooking skills but haven’t had the time. Now’s the perfect chance and learning a new skill is also a great distraction and keeps your mind stimulated.”

While it’s inevitable that most of us will experience some level of anxiety in a situation as unprecedented as the one we find ourselves in now, it’s so important to remember that you are not alone. We’ve given managers knowledge too and with our Mental Health First Aiders, there’s always someone to talk to.