Creating a culture of support and wellbeing at Coutts

We’re all products of our environment, and our increasingly intense focus on our careers has unfortunately seen more and more people suffering from work-induced anxiety.

Miles Kean, an Executive Director for Coutts, got to the point where he wasn’t sleeping and could no longer function properly before he was forced to address his mental health issues.

’At one stage I didn’t sleep for about three weeks and began to lose control of my mind. It felt like one long, slippery slope into oblivion,’ Miles remembers.

Like many people, Miles was deeply affected by the financial crisis in 2007, and the residual stress and anxiety caused him to eventually break down to his wife before seeing his GP and checking in to a rehabilitation facility. The respite saw an improvement in his health, but Miles returned to work in less than a month, after which the same problems resurfaced. It was only after his third stint out of work that Miles really confronted the factors that were weighing him down and addressed the changes he needed to make to move forward.

‘Worrying stops action and constructive thought,’ Miles explains, ’but ultimately doesn’t achieve anything.’

Be the change you want to see

Although Miles credits his manager as a huge source of genuine support during this time, he still felt there wasn’t enough awareness of mental health issues in the workplace during what was an especially stressful period. It was after several colleagues approached Miles to confide their own struggles or ask for advice that he launched a wellbeing initiative with another enthusiast, Mike Heyworth.

Having gained the support of the board, the initiative kicked off with a free health check from Nuffield Health for all employees that looked at weight, cholesterol and glucose levels among other factors. This was backed by the creation of an online hub, readily available to all employees that provides information, guidance and advice regarding mental health awareness, work-life balance and general health tips. The hub also provides access to a range of videos from Miles, his colleagues, and board members discussing their approaches to a healthy work-life balance.

Although it’s commonly acknowledged that talking about our problems can be extremely therapeutic, Mike felt that people might not necessarily feel comfortable approaching their managers about something so personal. And so, in addition to the online guidance, the initiative also involved electing 90 wellbeing representatives who are readily available for employees to talk to when they’re struggling. Line managers were also given extra training so that they’d be equipped to identify when someone might be suffering, and support their team with any potential mental health related issues. This was an element of the strategy that Miles felt was especially important to improving the overall culture.

‘If you can influence the line managers then you influence the whole population. You can teach them how to have conversations and what to do when someone says “I’m feeling under duress”. But we also want to look after the line managers themselves and give them strength, resilience and fortitude.’

We’ve come a long way

The remarkable success of the initiative was reflected in a survey that took place nine months after the strategy was implemented, showing that 24% more employees felt their wellbeing was effectively supported at work. Miles and Mike were also thrilled to accept the Wellbeing Award for Leadership and Culture on behalf of Coutts at the 2018 Employee Wellbeing Awards.

‘There are still stresses in the business, but it's a much more open culture. People feel they can be themselves and actually talk if they’re not okay,’ Mike explains.

Today, Miles is one of millions affected, and knows how important it is that we continue to talk about mental health and support those who are suffering. Thanks to him and Mike, it’s easier than ever to do that in Coutts today.

Read more about health and wellbeing within the bank.

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