HLM Architects HLM Fest Sheffield 2019
Jill Fedyk World Mental Health First Aider HLM Architects

The current pandemic has forced us to behave in different ways and limited human connection has led to increased feelings of isolation, impacting the health and wellbeing of workforces up and down the country.

As World Mental Health Day approaches, our Group HR Coordinator and fully trained mental health first aider, Jill Fedyk, looks at some of the elements the practice has implemented across its studios to support our team during the pandemic, and looks forward to a positive future.

At HLM we’ve always championed a flexible, responsive approach to working, and this has been reflected in the infrastructure we have set up specifically to support the mental resilience and wellbeing of all our staff.

We were one of the first companies in the UK’s construction industry to have established the position of ‘mental health first aider’. Fully trained, I can deal with mental health situations and emergencies and have implemented policies and initiatives to mitigate the risk of such occurrences. The role has been so successful that we have plans to send more staff on the course with the view to eventually have qualified mental health first aiders across all studio teams.

Also, all of our Managers have been given stress management training and have an understanding of the early signs or trigger points related to stress so that they can do what is possible to manage or reduce any contributory factors. This culture has enabled us to proactively address and resolve situations as they occur, providing the team with the tools and support they need. In addition to cultivating an environment of openness and trust, it has also allowed our team and the business to thrive more confidently long term.

Although measures have been relaxed slightly, and some of our team have returned to the studios, the majority of our team is still working remotely. We’ve maintained virtual social engagement and each studio director holds regular calls with their studio team to check in, and also to discuss priorities, project news and staff updates.

HR are also continuing mindfulness sessions, centred on solution-focussed techniques and sharing an abundance of physical and mental health tips, including softer skills around managing teams, communicating and active listening. Advice for keeping up your mental fitness from home have included a step-by-step how-to on setting up a working station, staying fit and active both in and outdoors, and how to adapt your workstyle from a remote location.

Further, I’m hosting a presentation on World Mental Health Day in which I will be promoting the resources on the MIND charity website, as well as sending out copies of their Wellness Action Plan that is focussed on those working from home. It includes key questions for each participant to complete on a weekly basis, and can pick up on triggers and patterns of behaviour that reflect your overall mental wellness. There is also the option of sharing this with management in order to help them gain a sense of how everyone is coping and what we can change to help them.

We’ve also continued our commitment to our team’s training and learning initiatives with the HLM Academy, a personal and professional development framework. We’ve invested in Linked-in Learning, providing everyone with a licence to access over 10,000 online courses.

This was recently highly praised by the judges of the AJ100 Awards, where HLM was recognised as ‘Employer of the Year’ 2020. An award that recognises the best practice for employees, assessing issues such as staff satisfaction, workplace culture, benefits and staff turnover.

Agile working has long been championed by HLM to help our staff achieve a greater life-work balance. We introduced our nine-day fortnight, which involves staff working a little longer over a nine-day period and not working on the tenth day.

We have recognised that this situation is an opportunity for us to grow and improve, and we have the room to be more creative in terms of how we can empower our staff to be both happy and productive. Because of our processes we’ve been able to deliver projects virtually and adapt to work effectively wherever needed.

For more information on this weeks, World Mental Health Day, please visit www.mind.org.uk 

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