Founder and CEO, HelloSelf
More companies are realising the benefits of offering their staff mental health coaching and therapy.
Why did you set up the organisation?
Until 2011, I’d lived a rather exciting and successful life. I’d been a virologist and neurobiologist at Oxford; I’d worked in healthcare marketing; started and sold my first social media company and I was running an award-winning global advertising team. Then everything changed. I had a category five brain haemorrhage while running, woke up from a coma and realised that my previously successful life had been pointless.
So I promised, if I survived, to invest my energy in three things: being happy and healthy; the relationships that matter to me; and doing something world changing. With regards the latter, there are 600 million people globally who have stress, anxiety and depression. I decided I wanted to help at least some of them improve their psychological fitness with effective therapy or proactive psychological coaching.
Are people in the UK becoming more open to discussing their mental health?
People are realising that we all have mental health and that we can actively improve our mental health much like our fitness. COVID-19 has only accelerated the trend towards greater openness because it’s made a lot of people realise what’s really important to them.
As a result, employees are demanding mental wellbeing support now. It’s also made most employers realise that their staff probably need more support and coaching than they had previously.
What are the best ways for companies to provide wellbeing and mental health support?
There are three things that all employers should think about doing. First: ensure staff have rapid access to content that helps support their mental wellbeing and psychological fitness. Second: give employees rapid access to treatment and therapy, because early intervention can make a huge difference to outcomes. Third: offer them proactive coaching to prevent illness and improve performance.
Can psychological coaching benefit people who aren’t experiencing a mental health issue?
Absolutely. I find it interesting that companies put so much time, money and effort into coaching people to be a better time manager or leader, or people manager — but give no coaching about coping with stress, making clear decisions, or growing your ‘self’ and being your best self. Psychology is important for everyone — so everyone can benefit from psychological coaching.
Is it an employer’s responsibility to provide mental wellbeing support to staff?
Wellbeing used to be a tick-box exercise. But now, good HR teams — usually led by passionate, people-centric CEOs — realise that it’s essential to staff performance. So if employers care about their staff and want them to bring their best selves to work, they should 100% be giving them access to psychological coaching.
Smart employers see this as a way to attract and retain the best staff, create great cultures and get great work and decisions out of psychologically focused minds.
What trends are you expecting to see over the coming years in this field?
I think we’ll see most employers start to offer their employees fast access to psychological coaching and therapy. This is going to be so necessary as we continue through the pandemic to our ‘new normal’ — and those companies who view this as an essential benefit, will soon be setting the minimum standard of what it means to be a ‘good’ employer.
In the medium term, I think we’ll see a lot of the executive coaching budget move towards qualified psychological coaching, because it gives companies better decision-making which is a huge competitive advantage.
In the longer term, I hope that looking after our mental health will become the everyday norm for everyone. Imagine a world where we all live 1% more fulfilling lives, where we are 1% better to those around us, and we make 1% better decisions. Apply that over 6.8 billion people… and we really will have changed the world.