Fran Stulberg – Mental Health Champion

    Fran Stulberg – Mental Health Champion

    A housing professional for almost 24 years and with 10 years involvement in Riverside’s employee staff group Enable, Fran Stulberg, Health and Wellbeing Advisor, tells us how the group is run by staff to support staff through times of disability or long term illness.

    “We do this by ensuring that our ways of working at Riverside do not have a negative impact on our people’s health and wellbeing.  I have a personal and professional passion in health and wellbeing and supporting people who are experiencing poor mental health or with a mental health condition.”

    Each group has an Executive sponsor, and full support from CEO Carol Matthews.  This ensures all the group’s support plans are agreed and cascaded down to all staff from the top. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to get buy in and support from your leadership team.”

    Riverside committed to remove the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace by signing up to Mind’s Employer Pledge in 2017.  “This provided us with an action plan that we used as a framework to develop our ongoing support in relation to mental health and reinforcing the message that it’s okay to talk about these issues.

    “After developing a voluntary role outline for Mental Health Champions (MHC) we received around 70 responses from people wanting to get involved.  We currently have 240 MHC’s who are advocates, located across the country, there to support staff and in some cases signpost onto professional support organisations.  Funding MHFA training we felt was going to be a benefit to our champions.

    “To support both colleagues and managers who needed to reach out for support we developed a virtual map indicating where our MHC’s are located across the country, how many there are in a particular area and a link to their contact details.

    “As more and more staff members became interested in becoming a MHC we developed a MHC Toolkit which is virtually held on our Intranet. It has a number of support tools for our MHC’s to use while supporting a colleague, making the support process effective, efficient and consistent.  The maximum number of staff being supported by one MHC was reduced to four and Lean on Me support hubs were developed as peer support across the organisation.

    “The support we offered our staff was being recognised nationally, within the organisation, and externally, as we are now held up as a flagship example of good practice through the work we do in supporting our colleagues, and were asked by CIH and MIND to submit a case study of the support we offer.  This is included within the CIH ‘Mental Health at Work Commitment Guide for the Housing Sector’.”

    Looking after ourselves physically has so many benefits to both our physical health and our mental health, and having a healthy work environment was more important than ever when the Covid Pandemic forced so many of us into lockdown at the beginning of 2020.

    Fran adapted the role of Wellbeing by teaming up with Riverside’s People Services Learning and Development team in supporting its ‘Front Room to Front Line Workers’ by holding a variety of activities, support signposting, and keeping colleagues connected and well through a monthly Wellbeing schedule.

    “Whether frontline, home, or working from an office, a healthy workplace is a happy and productive one.  In Riverside work does not come before wellness. We set out to revitalise our health and wellbeing support offer to provide more help than ever before. Whether it’s financial or physical wellbeing or support to help our colleagues work smarter, there is something for everyone.

    We concentrate on offering support and guidance through five areas held on our wellbeing hub intranet:

    • Best You skills for them to feel safe and confident to deliver exceptional customer service.
    • Money Matters –Our ‘Money Matters’ section is there to help staff through financial worries and help saving a few pounds on shopping through our Riverside Rewards.
    • Staying Connected – Staying connected and communicating with each other promotes a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.
    • Staying Well – We are passionate about creating a healthy working environment. Maintaining positive physical and mental wellbeing is encouraged through practical support.
    • SMART working – We’ve changed our ways of working to support colleagues health and wellbeing. Introducing SMART working guidelines for a more flexible working and home life environment.

    “A series of virtual drop in sessions take place to encourage colleagues to stay connected and the start of peer support groups are being scheduled for staff to have a safe and understanding place to talk to others who may be experiencing the same or similar experiences, such as bereavement or living with cancer.

    “My work around wellbeing will remain in the spotlight as I continue to celebrate global and national disability and wellbeing awareness dates by communicating regularly with my colleagues, holding round table events, training and inviting the input of our staff around how we can continue to deliver the environment that works best for our staff and organisation.

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