In this Episode, Tom Oxley from Bamboo Mental Health tells us about how his own experiences influenced him to get into the business of helping companies manage the mental health of their employees in a meaningful way.
Tom shares some of his approach to improving workplace mental health, the business case for it and also how to best spend your time and resources for greatest impact.
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‘Tackling Workplace Mental Health’ – Podcast Resources
Bamboo Mental Health – find out what Tom and his team are doing about workplace mental health at the Bamboo site
Time to Change – the UK mental health charity that Tom mentioned in the podcast – some great free resources here
HSE Stress Mgmt Standards – the Health and Safety Executive standard to help you manage assess stress and mental health risk factors at work
Tackling Workplace Mental Health – Transcript Taster
Hi folks welcome to episode 9 of the safeti podcast. As ever I really appreciate you taking the time to listen in. today we have Tom Oxley on the show from bamboo mental health.
Tom is going to share his very personal story of what brought him to specialize in this area. Tom opens up and tells us how his company approaches this notoriously tough topic with businesses in a meaningful and impactful way.
He also shares with us some of the common pitfalls when implementing a mental health strategy. Tom goes on to give us some recommendations on where he thinks you should focus your time, effort and resources. Let’s do it. [Music]
Welcome to the safeti podcast with your host all the way from a small green island in the wild Atlantic Ocean, Richard Collins.
We’re not going to waste any time before we get into this today as it runs a full 30 minutes. I hope you get lots of value from this conversation. I know I definitely did. Okay then let’s go talk to Tom.
Tom Oxley from bamboo in mental health welcome to Safeti podcast. It’s great to have you on the show today. How you keeping?
I’m very well thank you very much. Thanks for asking how are you?
Great yeah really really good. All the better for having you on the show now. We have attempted this on more than one occasion. So it’s good to finally get you on.
Just so the audience know we’ve had a couple of audio attempts that have scuppered us. And of course within busy doing various things. But we’re persistent as usual. We’ve got here hopefully everything will go according to plan today.
I’m looking forward to chatting to you about what you’re doing. Yeah so could even to just kick off. Do you want to tell the audience a little bit about yourself? What has brought you to opening up a company and do what you do within the mental health scene?
Why mental health?
Of course I do mental health in the workplace and that’s two things really. First of all I review employers and I collaborate with them. I help them support people with stress, anxiety, depression. Normal stuff, and I try and see it from the employers point of view and the employees point of view.
The other thing that I do is I train managers and I train people in how to have these conversations around mental health. Spot the signs that sort of thing.
Yeah I’ve been thinking about this conversation and how you actually can find the balance between looking at it from the employer’s perspective and the employee’s perspective.
Of course then you know the HSE professionals perspective as well. Who again you know may be in a slightly different position from both of those other parties. Being kind of an intermediary. Hopefully you can help us look at the business case for approaching this.
As you know there’s been lots and lots of coverage in the media, it’s on the public agenda massively. Just before we get into the details of what you’re doing. Could you tell us a little bit more about your background? How you actually got involved in it in the first place?
I’ve had a few careers really. My first job was in public relations and very successful working for an agency in Norfolk. Having a wonderful time, burning the candle at both ends and you can guess the next part of the story.
Stress at work
I found myself signed off with stress anxiety depression for what was initially two weeks. That then became three months and I really muddled through. People at work were supportive and particularly a couple of people there. Who I will be forever thankful for, they noticed that I wasn’t myself.
But there wasn’t really a, there wasn’t really a policy, there wasn’t really a process, that wasn’t really the language around mental health and so we all really muddled through and that planted a seed.
It wasn’t until I left a couple of jobs later went on to be a corporate responsibility manager.
Which is a bit of a mouthful and that means that ethical stuff for a big firm. As when I left there where I stopped there’s something in this mental health thing and I started to work with time to change. They are a fantastic national mental health charity and they had a project to do with workplaces and I helped them.
I helped them review employers. I went in and I started asking questions and I rummaged around HR policies and procedures and I interviewed lots of people.
I wrote them a report with some survey material and really started feeding back to them what it was like to work unwell while working for them. So that was a charity project and at the time I was freelancing doing that sort of thing. I thought to myself there is a business here.
There is a big need for this. I can’t be in feeling the things that I was feeling at work a decade ago and here we are in 2018 and the media only starting to pick up on it. People like Stephen Fry were talking about this stuff.
There wasn’t at the time the great sort of melee of royal families and marathon running and that’s I think that there is now. But that’s certainly you could feel the conversation bubbling up.
So there was my experience and my work would time to change and those things just kind of came together at the same time as all this media attention a couple years later. And so I find myself running bamboo mental health. But there’s quite a lot of people doing it at the moment.
But I like think of it well and there’s a methodology based on some good practices and also my personal feelings about this. There is a beating heart behind this business.
It’s pretty cool to hear that you’ve actually went from quite a negative personal experience to then helping with what was probably very leading-edge charitable work and came right through full circle to finding a business opportunity. Where you’re delivering something quite unique and impactful for both people and businesses to help us deal better with these issues. Can you tell us a little bit more with that in mind about your methodology. How you’ve used your own experiences to mold your approach?
How do you make an impact?
Yes it’s really important that I don’t rock up on the doorstep of business and start telling them what to do when it comes to workplace mental health. It’s really important than the approach is strategic and relevant and meaningful and so I what I really bring to the party is a methodology that that gives them some evidence to work with.
So I look at their HR policies and procedures. I go through them with it with a fine-tooth comb. I sit down and I look face-to-face with 10 or 20 people who’ve been unwell whilst working for them and I asked them about the stuff they went through.
Face to face
I asked them how their manager was. I ask them what they think of the leadership and I ask them where the policies are on the internet. I go to places where other people find it tricky.
I also did a star survey and that survey is a wonderful cocktail based on the Health and Safety Executive stress management standards and the CIPD.
That’s the institute of personnel development, some questions from them and I really try and figure out what the picture is at that particular organization.
So when we get down to making recommendations. Which is a couple of months down the line probably. We know we’re doing it with real people, real stories and real situations in mind.
I am very conscious that I’m not just somebody who’s had a bit of stress anxiety and depression and I’ve gone to prom to print and I’ve got myself some business cards saying well-being advisor on.
What I bring is this is an approach. Where I play back to the organization what it is really like and we work from there.
So it stays collaborative all the way through. they give me access to their people and their stuff. I go through their underwear drawers on this subject and they in turn trust me not to be sort of just shouting out the barking orders, rather trying to figure out what is right, meaningful relevant to them.
That’s fascinating that you go into that detail and I can really resonate with how that would be valuable for an organization, you know from your own experience.
Real people, real value
Yeah it’s valuable you know and if I weren’t to do that, if say I have to rock up on a construction site and say okay everybody put your tools down now we’re going to do some meditation.
That reaction is going to be we’re going to lose this one before we’ve ever started. So it is important that I get to know the organization. In getting to know an organization I get to know the employer and the employee experience. That’s how I try and balance those two things.