Answer: A “fascinating”, “innovative” and “inspiring” morning according to our clients who last week attended a mindfulness workshop hosted by Hugh James and the SAMYE foundation based in Canton, Cardiff.
Why is wellbeing on the agenda?
As a firm we have been looking at how we can add real value to the clients with whom we work and one way of doing that was to make sure that their problems become our problems, even when perhaps they might not fit strictly within the parameters of the legal advice we provide.
In May we attended Community Housing Cymru’s HR conference and a recurring theme from the conversations there and since has been the difficulties that arise in addressing the stressful situations encountered by front line staff within the social housing sector which can have a negative impact on mental health and wellbeing.
This is a problem not just within housing associations, but across all workplaces. In any role, dealing with increasing workloads, challenging individuals and demanding customers or clients is mentally taxing and can lead to fatigue, unhappiness and reduced productivity. Mental health can be a particularly difficult issue for an employer to address.
Employers duties around mental health
Employers have a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their staff, and this includes taking reasonable care to prevent issues surrounding mental health in the workplace from occurring. This is a difficult balance for employers to strike where the cause of stress is an intrinsic part of the role the staff member is employed to do.
Exploring the solutions
It became clear that some of the most innovative housing associations had experimented with a number of strategies to proactively safeguard their employees’ mental wellbeing and one of the most successful had been to introduce Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Cadwyn Housing Association in Cardiff has done so with the help of the SAMYE centre, of which Gelong Thubten is a director. Thubten, a Tibetan monk of over 20 years, was invited by Hugh James to deliver an insightful and engaging workshop on the benefits of mindfulness and the different methods of incorporating meditation into a busy work schedule. He travels the world speaking to large corporations such as Google, LinkedIn and HSBC as well as providing mindfulness expertise to Hollywood celebrities, and was in Cardiff to promote the book “How to be Human”, written in collaboration with comedian Ruby Wax and neuroscientist Ash Ranpura. Importantly, Thubten emphasised that a demanding career and a state of calmness are not mutually exclusive; the two can co-exist through mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
With the correct approach to introduce mindfulness strategies at work, there is the potential to lead to a far more engaged workforce and substantially reduce the costs associated with long term sickness absence. It can also provide greater focus and clarity to any work task. Thubten explored the scientific evidence which supports the changes made to the brain within a matter of days following just ten minutes of daily practice. Combining this with a practical session, chief executives and front line staff engaged in meditation exercises which focused on training the mind through controlled breathing and connecting with the body during a ten minute “formal” session as well as “micro-sessions” of mindfulness that can be introduced throughout the day leading to long-term changes in the way the brain works if maintained over a period of time.
The event was attended by Diane Brooks, Head of HR at Hugh James who confirmed that emotional wellbeing is high on the firm’s agenda and that it is imperative to explore different methods of promoting good mental health, both for our clients and our own staff.
Our housing sector clients have indicated that they are keen to collaborate and learn from one another and we are keen to facilitate these strategic alliances. If this approach to wellbeing is one that your organisation would like to take a stage further, please get in contact with our Client Relationship Manager Emma Poole at [email protected].
To find out more about your duties as an employer regarding mental health and other issues, Hugh James will be running an employment update seminar on 29 November 2018. This will include Insight Healthcare, a not-for-profit organisation which provides free NHS talking therapy services.