Helen Undy, Chief Executive, Money and Mental Health
It ain’t (just) what you do it’s the way that you do it
8 June 2021
We’re pretty good at celebrating our successes when it comes to policy change, but I’ve realised recently that we’ve been keeping very quiet about one of our biggest successes at Money and Mental Health – our culture. It can be hard to put your finger on exactly what it is, and sometimes it’s easy to take it for granted until something goes wrong. But I am passionate that building good organisational culture is an active thing we work on every day, it’s about inclusion, work-life balance, transparency, respect and feeling valued for what we do. And while we can’t perfectly measure our culture, there are things we can measure that give us a pretty good picture of how we’re doing.
This year’s staff survey at Money and Mental Health genuinely made me beam with joy to hear how positive the team feel about their jobs. This feels like a slightly uncomfortable blog to write, at the risk of seeming a bit self-congratulatory, but why should we feel fine about celebrating some types of success and not others? I am incredibly proud of the collective efforts our whole team have put into preserving this creative, committed and caring ‘place’ we have built – even when we couldn’t be in the same place as each other at all. We’re not perfect, and there are plenty of areas we are going to focus on improving, but while we do that I wanted to take a moment to celebrate where we are now and recognise the hard work that it has taken.
We aim for Money and Mental Health to be an organisation that welcomes and includes everyone – allowing people to be themselves at work and adapting work where needed to make it accessible to everyone. In our recent survey 100% of the team agreed (either strongly or somewhat) that the charity respects individual differences, treats employees fairly, values employees and treats them with respect.
One area identified for improvement was being more public about our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion – which is one of the reasons I am writing this blog. We take our commitment to these issues really seriously, and are committed to making continuous improvements — including setting up an internal Equality, Diversity & Inclusion action group, conducting a diversity audit of the organisation, and establishing an action plan to ensure that we are continually improving. You’ll probably see more content on our social media channels celebrating occasions like Pride Month and different religious festivals – or exploring the LGBTQ+ or ethnic minority experiences of money and mental health problems – as we aim to do more to publicly demonstrate our values and contribute to greater understanding of the disproportionate impact that the issues have on some groups in our communities. We are aware that this is a learning process and that we have plenty more to do, but we are committed to ensure we are continuing to listen, learn, and act where we can do more.
And of course we aim not just to be a place where people with mental health problems can work, but where work is actively good for your mental health. 50% of our current team have personal experience of mental health problems, and this year 100% said that they agree that Money and Mental Health is committed to supporting their wellbeing and health (92% agreeing strongly). 100% of the team also agreed that the charity has a supportive culture, that their line manager cares about them as a person and is considerate of their life outside work (92% agreeing strongly with each statement), with responses commenting on an ‘environment of respect and care’. We’re still improving though, and this year we’re introducing new flexible working principles to help us all better balance work and life, and increasing the mental health training offered so that everyone in our team is as informed as they can be – no matter what role they’re working in.
Making it count
For work to be good for us though, it needs to be meaningful. All the flexi-hours and supportive line managers in the world can’t make up for work being boring, or feeling a bit directionless or pointless. So I’m particularly proud that 100% of our team said that they ‘strongly agree’ that they have a clear sense of the charity’s purpose and are confident that the charity is well managed, and 100% agree that they are interested in their work, feel a sense of personal accomplishment, have the freedom to choose how they do their work and are involved in decisions that affect their work.
I’m also pleased with where we’ve got to on workload, which is often the unspoken elephant in the room when it comes to discussions about workplace mental health. As a small, ambitious and relatively new charity, balancing our ambitions for impact with our ambitions as an employer hasn’t always been easy – and there have been times when workloads have been too high. This year 83% of the team agreed that their workload is acceptable, and no one disagreed with this statement (50% strongly agreed, 33% somewhat agreed and 17% remained neutral). Tackling high workloads has required difficult decisions about what we’re not going to do, honest conversations and a commitment to changing plans if they start to be at the expense of the team’s wellbeing. It’s definitely a work in progress, but it’s so encouraging to see that we can still have a significant impact, and finish work on time.
Good places to work do good things
And it’s all interconnected. A workplace can’t be truly inclusive if the workloads are so high that people with caring responsibilities or health conditions can’t keep up. A workplace can’t be a ‘mentally healthy’ place to work if employees feel they have to leave important parts of their identity at home. And a charity can’t have real impact on the scale we aspire to, that motivates us to login every day, if we fail to recognise that this is a marathon – not a sprint. We still have plenty of work to do, and we will continue to listen to our staff, supporters and peers about how we can grow and develop as an organisation, but I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made in a difficult year.