There's still a long way to go before physical and mental health achieve parity of acknowledgement and recognition in both the workplace and society more widely.
It's widely acknowledged that one in four people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health issue in a given year. But the ignorance, shame and stigma associated with mental illness mean people either don't recognise what's happening or are too afraid to ask for help. Too many people are suffering in silence unnecessarily and the cost to UK business has been estimated at £1,035 per employee, per year1.
We want to use the strength of the PwC brand to lead the way for business in the UK - and we’ll do this by challenging damaging and outdated attitudes towards mental health which perpetuate stigma and stifle talent and productivity in the workplace.
1 Mental Health at Work: Developing the business case, Sainsbury Centre, 2007
" PwC is leading the way in demonstrating that proper commitment to the health and wellbeing of staff encourages performance, engenders loyalty and makes a better, more productive workplace.”
The appointment of PwC’s first full time Mental Health Leader, Beth Taylor, in January 2016 signalled our commitment to change. Then, in Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, a group of our wellbeing champions launched a campaign called ‘Green Light to Talk’, aimed at encouraging people to talk about mental health at work. More than 12,500 of PwC’s people wore green ribbons, indicating their support, and the Twitter reach was 3.4 million.
In 2017, the Lord Mayor's Appeal team adopted our green ribbon campaign and 150 organisations signed up. 70,000 ribbons were distributed across the City of London and iconic buildings like the Bank of England, One Canada Square, the National Theatre and our own Embankment Place and Birmingham offices were illuminated green.
Our people have been telling the story of their own mental health challenges and becoming early adopters of the powerful ‘This is me’ video campaign developed originally by Barclays and widely promoted through TLMA. Thirteen of our partners, who themselves have had mental health experiences, have been trained as Mental Health Advocates - demonstrating that mental illness is no barrier to career success - and offer listening support. We’ve created a Mental Health Governance Panel chaired by our Head of People and supported by a consultant psychiatrist and PwC's Chief Medical Officer. We’ve been working with Mental Health First Aid (England) to accredit six PwC people as MHFA instructors so that we can deliver MHFA training as and when we need it.
"Culturally it feels like we've begun to relax and be more open and honest. Since sharing my own experiences last year, I've had some of the most positive and powerful conversations I've ever had at work."
There's much still to be done but we're making progress. Data from our occupational health provider shows our people are now significantly more willing to disclose mental health conditions and our Green Light to Talk campaign receives fantastic feedback. We're future proofing our culture change by focusing on our new joiners as they transition into work and study for their professional qualifications.
Many of our clients and competitors are grappling with similar challenges. We're regularly approached by clients and always happy to share what we're doing and learn from their insights. Recently we’ve been very proud to partner Barclays in Greater Manchester and Scotland, co-hosting events that encourage employers and business communities outside London to take action to tackle the stigma.
And our new relationship with Samaritans - who won the PwC Foundation Staff Vote - is an exciting development. They’re working with PwC and the Lord Mayor’s Appeal to develop a Wellbeing programme with three innovative elements: emotional and mental health awareness, listening skills through e-learning and using our volunteering scheme to encourage staff to train as Samaritans listening volunteers. PwC will be the pilot organisation, with the scheme becoming more widely available during 2018.