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RCN supports staff in and out of work

RCN supports staff in and out of work

“The way Validium equipped our managers with the ability to support staff facing personal challenges is helping us to better manage mental health related sickness.”

Deehan Cooper | HR Business Operations Manager | Royal College of Nursing

The challenge

When the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the UK’s largest professional union for nursing, discovered the extent to which employees’ mental health was being affected by issues outside of work, it decided to develop managers to help…

Deehan Cooper, HR business operations manager, explains, “With 850 staff working for the greater good of the nursing community, we firmly believe that the more we can support our employees, the better they can support our members. It’s an approach that’s helped us to grow from strength to strength to become the 14th best place to work in the UK, according to the Sunday Times Best Places to Work.”

She adds, “A key part of our wellbeing strategy has been the introduction of a Validium Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which 30-40% of our workforce use to get help and support with any issue affecting them. So when Validium told us half of those using the EAP were struggling to cope with an issue outside of work, in particular relationship, legal and eldercare issues, we wanted to do more to help them before they became so stressed or anxious that it started to impact their ability to attend or perform at work.”

“If someone went off sick with a personal issue, it was difficult for them to return until it had been resolved.”


The approach

“We knew that if someone went off sick to deal with a personal issue it was often difficult for them to return until it had been resolved, which could take weeks or even months,” says Cooper, “We wanted to encourage managers to notice when someone was struggling to cope with an issue outside of work, so they could support them as flexibly as possible to enable them to continue to work effectively and avoid the onset of sickness.” 

To help, the RCN invited Validium to create a workshop: ‘When Home Comes into Work’ to assist managers to think creatively about how best to support their team members.

“We wanted to bring back the human element, to make employees feel safe telling their manager what was actually going on, where they felt comfortable sharing this, so we could work with them to prevent a problem at home from becoming a problem at work,” explains Cooper.


The solution

“The ‘When Homes Comes to Work’ workshops were delivered to groups of 12 managers at a time, across ten different locations, to give them the opportunity to share their experiences of helping staff affected by issues outside of work and realise the benefits of supporting staff as early as possible, instead of waiting until a personal problem had a serious impact on their performance at work,” says Cooper.

She adds, “Managers were shown how to spot the signs that someone was struggling to deal with a personal challenge - such as reduced eye contract, increased forgetfulness or erratic work patterns - how to gently open up a conversation with the employee based on observations made at work, the importance of respecting the employee’s confidentiality and how and when to involve HR or the Validium EAP. The focus was then on finding the balance between following HR procedures and thinking creatively to respond on a personal level - without attempting to become an amateur counsellor.”

In the event that the individual clearly needed to talk and get more emotional support, or specialist legal, financial or eldercare advice, the manager was shown how to proactively refer them to the Validium EAP, so they could get free professional support.

 


The results

“The highly effective way Validium equipped our managers with the ability to support staff facing personal challenges is helping us to better manage mental health related sickness.” says Cooper. “As a result of the managers putting the new empathy skills learned on the workshop into practice, an employee going through a relationship breakdown felt able to tell their manager that they needed to nip home to post an important document, when they might otherwise have been tempted to feign illness to get home,” says Cooper.

“Another employee is now working very flexibly after their manager’s kind concern enabled them to talk about supporting a relative with a critical illness. They didn’t want to take compassionate leave, because they reported finding working therapeutic, thereby helping them not to think about it, so their manager has arranged for them to work very flexibly, so they can meet their caring responsibilities, while continuing to contribute to work in a meaningful way.”

She concludes, “87% of managers said the workshop taught them how to take an empathetic approach. While 88% of employees who contacted the Validium EAP said the practical and emotional support provided had stopped them going off sick. Employees now feel more supported than ever, which has had a positive impact on our business, enabling us to increase membership during a time of austerity.”

“Employees now feel more supported than ever, which has had a positive impact on our business, enabling us to increase membership during a time of austerity.”

Deehan Cooper | HR Business Operations Manager | Royal College of Nursing