Removing the taboo around mental health at Lloyds

Written by Vicky Mulchinock on . Posted in News

Removing the taboo around mental health at Lloyds

Earlier this week, Lloyd’s CEO, António Horta-Osório wrote for The Guardian about mental health and attitudes to it the workplace. Since taking a leave of absence to deal with serious insomnia shortly after joining the bank in 2011, António Horta-Osório has spoken openly and frankly about his challenges with mental health. At that time he spent nine days at the Priory clinic to prevent a nervous breakdown after his insomnia reached a tipping point. With the support of his family and employers, he was able to make a full recovery. Not only did he return to work, but he led Lloyds to become the first bank rescued by the government fully to repay taxpayers’ money.

This is not such an unusual scenario. People take time out to recover from mental illness and often people with mental health issues return to work stronger and more successful. But what sets António Horta-Osório apart is that he took the decision to go public about his illness and his recovery. While progress has been made in confronting the stigma of mental health in the workplace, it remains rare for a senior business executive to share their experience and admit vulnerability in this way.

In this latest article, he shows the importance of leading by example and in creating a workplace culture and mindset where mental illness is perceived in the same way as physical illness. He talks about how removing the taboo around mental health at Lloyd’s has had powerful results, helping both staff – and the business – to thrive. Highlighting the decline in UK productivity since 2007, he points out that: “While several economic factors have caused this decline it is time to acknowledge a less visible yet more pervasive factor: mental health and attitudes in the workplace. It is clear to me that the most important change needed is one of mindset. As with our physical health, all of us can experience periods of mental ill health when immediate treatment is needed, or we run the risk of developing long-term conditions that will need continuing support. With a culture of adequate support and sufficient time off, an employee can return to work with confidence and without embarrassment.”

Using an anonymous example of one of Lloyd’s managers, he talks about how the employee used their employee assistance programme helpline to provide him with advice on coping with anxiety, mindfulness and dealing with self-control and that with the help of professionals and the knowledge that he is fully supported by his manager and his team, the employee is now genuinely excelling his role. He explains how creating a positive culture to inspire open conversations is key and that Lloyds takes an approach that focuses on the spectrum of mental health, from everyday wellbeing through to clinically diagnosed conditions, looking at prevention as well as support. “What has been most powerful for many colleagues has been the simple step of enabling people to talk openly about their experiences without fear of judgement. Changing the corporate mindset on mental health, is the most fundament step towards changing things for the better.”

“This is a great example of a senior leader making this a key issue, working to embed mental health within the values of the organisation and creating a culture that encourages employees to speak out about their personal experiences and ask for support,” said Neil Mountford, chair of EAPA UK. “It also shows the value and importance of EAPs in forming part of a holistic approach to employee wellbeing that also included physical health and wellbeing initiatives.”

You can read the full article here.

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