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NEWS SPECIAL REPORT


CULTURE TRIP’S APPROACH TO


MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE


ormula


not always and not for everybody. “So I became disillusioned.


As care professionals, you do not intervene in people’s private lives or reach into their workplaces. “Now, if I see people suffering


emotional illness or stress, I have the power to do something about the social aspects. What I’m doing with Culture Trip could potentially have a lot more of an impact.”


Mental health ethos Naudts’ views on mental health and mental illness sit at the heart of Culture Trip, which aims to pioneer how firms should provide healthy and inclusive workplaces. It is based on a belief that helping


staff take beter care of themselves not only benefits the company but also means they will give back to the communities they live and work in. “We have a duty of care to keep


stress levels to a minimum, although you cannot reduce them entirely, and especially not in a start-up,” he says. “And there’s a level of stress


inherent in working in a city like travelweekly.co.uk


London, but people perhaps talk about mental health here more openly and readily.” In a few years, Culture Trip has


expanded rapidly from a handful of employees to more than 200 when it moved to new offices last year. Naudts admits to still having the


psychiatrist’s urge to intervene if he spots signs of anyone suffering in the business, but accepts he is no longer in a position to do so and that scaling his vision of a compassionate business culture is complex. “I’m struggling with how to


make people understand that all that compassion and empathy and understanding is there, but I cannot actually express or extend that in the way they would expect,” he says. Culture Trip’s progressive and


radical polices on sick leave and flexible working are innately more difficult to manage than for physical illness or injury. And such an open approach may have costs, says Naudts, who admits it could be abused, but they are outweighed by the benefits.


MENTAL


HEALTH MATTERS


Culture Trip offers flexible working hours and allows employees to work from home as much as their line manager is comfortable with and without it getting in the way of hitting goals or teamwork.


A wellbeing and social good portal offers information including mental health and wellbeing services as well as video tutorials for yoga, meditation and mindfulness, while an in-house wellbeing practitioner offers one-to-one and group yoga sessions.


Culture Trip even has a pioneering


policy to recruit staff who have suffered mental health issues. Te identity of the first such employee is unknown to Naudts and colleagues. As well as work being therapeutic


for sufferers, Naudts believes employees who have found ways to cope with mental illness are a potential asset. “On a very simple level, work is a


distraction from your life worries,” he says. “We all need some kind of sense of belonging, some sense of structure to mentally thrive. Life experience makes you a more rounded person and mental health problems accelerate that. “Suffering from anxiety or even


depression, as long as it’s not too severe, is not a reason to be denied the benefits of being part of a workplace. “By excluding people with mild


mental disorders, you make those mild mental disorders worse. As a society, I don’t think we can do that. “I want to take diversity and


inclusion to mean actively recruiting and employing people with common mental health problems. Tere is simply no valid reason not to.”


 Some employees act as ‘mental health champions’, raising awareness and sharing experiences.


An Employee Assistance Programme, provided by Axa, helps employees find guidance on coping strategies.


A diversity and inclusion programme sees events organised to discuss issues such as mental health and cultural representation.


In Mental Health Awareness week in May, external speakers and internal mental health champions joined a panel entitled ‘No Stigma, No Shame’.


The firm offers wellness workshops and webinars to empower employees with information to help them better understand and/ or cope with mental health related challenges.


27 JUNE 2019


17


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