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May 13, 2021

Mental Health Awareness Week: In Conversation With Skybound's Maria Ahmed

For this years mental health awareness week, we sat down with Skybound's Global HR Officer Maria Ahmed to discuss workplace wellbeing.

Did you know, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over the course of a lifetime? Whilst this number may vary from country to country, it’s safe to say that work is a huge part of the average person’s life, which is why mental health in the workplace isn’t something that should be taken lightly.

In recent years, businesses across the globe have started to recognise the important role mental health plays in employee wellbeing and consequentially, how poor mental health can influence company performance. According to leading Mental Health Charity, The Mental Health Foundation; “Better mental health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 Billion per year.”

Many factors in the workplace can contribute to poor mental health, which is why guidance is needed to help ensure positive mental health in the workplace is being properly promoted to improve staff mental wellbeing.

As part of our commitment to being the employer of choice for finance professionals, at Skybound we place great emphasis on the need for mental health and wellbeing support for our people. With this week being mental health awareness week, we thought it would be important to have an open conversation with our Global HR Officer, Maria Ahmed to discuss mental health in the workplace and how businesses can better support employee mental health and wellbeing.

Now more than ever is a really interesting time for a conversation on this topic. How do you think attitudes towards mental health have changed over the recent years?

I think for many years the lack of knowledge surrounding mental health has led to fear of mental health conditions and being open about them. Unfortunately, this has caused extreme stigma and mistreatment of the people who experienced them. People are now becoming more aware of mental health problems, especially in recent months and thankfully we are seeing more support become available.

Why do you think dates like Mental Health Awareness Week are so important for people and organisations to mark?

As I mentioned before, stigma is the biggest enemy to mental health, and weeks like this help to create awareness and improve sensitivity towards poor mental health which will eventually put an end to the stigma.

As a Global HR Officer, have you implemented any initiatives to help open up the positive conversation around mental health?

We launched our mental wellness initiative last year in March as a direct result of the pandemic. As part of this we arranged successful one on one sessions with staff members, discussing general wellbeing and coping methods for Covid 19 anxiety and how to improve productivity whilst working from home. This whole project was extremely impactful as it created a safe space for staff to be open about any anxieties they had and helped us retain staff during the pandemic, which was hard hitting for so many of us around the world.  

How do you equip your employees and managers to deal with stress, build personal resilience and support mental health?

Regular care calls are arranged by the HR team where mental wellness is openly discussed. In addition to this, we have introduced mental wellness courses on the company's internal e-learning platform. We encourage all of our employees to enrol on these courses which are subsidised by the company.

What do you think are the key things that make Skybound such a mentally healthy workplace?

Here at Skybound we encourage a proper work life balance. Whilst we encourage employees to be high flyers and top performers, we also know that it’s important to enjoy your personal life too. I think even just having this kind of mantra actually helps with productivity and ambition within a role. As they say, life is all about the balance.

We have also introduced courses that would create mental wellness awareness in the workplace and help people deal with the challenges of mental illness. The mental wellness initiative has created a culture in the organisation that is more accepting and supportive of mental health problems.

What types of things do you recommend other companies do to encourage conversations about stress and mental health?

I think it’s an employer’s responsibility and those in HR roles to actively seek to open up positive conversations around mental health in the workplace. You can do this by arranging regular webinars and seminars to create more awareness. We actually recently held an online training course which focused on mindset and the tactics around making lasting change with a fantastic mental health company which focuses on corporate wellness based in the UK. We had great feedback and employees found it really useful.  I think it’s also vital to create and have in place an employee assistance programme to manage wellbeing of employees.

And finally, what does this year’s mental health awareness week theme #ConnectWithNature mean to you?

Lack of time in the natural world, largely due to hours spent in front of TV or computer screens, has been associated with depression. Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, but it also contributes to your physical wellbeing keeping you active. Therefore, connection with nature plays an essential role in maintaining mental wellness.

Poor mental health can often go undetected and lead to tragic consequences. Since we spend a third of our lives at work, Skybound Wealth Management are dedicated to promoting wellbeing at work with the help of people in our organisation such as Maria and the rest of our Global HR Team. With the last 18 months being a difficult and unprecedented time for many, we will continue to strive for positive change to ensure our employees stay as happy and healthy as possible.

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