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How should businesses respond to record high levels of anxiety?


How should businesses respond to record high levels of anxiety?

We kicked off our first What’s Next live event to discuss one of the most pertinent challenges faced by employers today; record high levels of anxiety in the workplace. Many insights were shared by our three leaders on the frontline of retail and mental health, alongside the expert facilitation of Prospect Magazine‘s Alan Rusbridger. 



From our work supporting businesses across the globe, we recognise just how important it is for employers to create space for open and honest conversations around mental health in the workplace. Our latest “What’s Next?” event created a platform for this discussion, where we heard from Steve Rowe, former CEO of M&S, Mary Homer, CEO of The White Company, and Paul Farmer, co-author of Government review ‘Thriving at Work’ and CEO of Mind on what organisations can be doing now to support their people in light of the current mental health crisis.


“You’ve got to look at your culture and how that is cascaded through. You want it to be the best experience. If your culture is strong and where people want to work, that’s got to help the anxiety that’s going on either through a work perspective or externally.” Mary Homer, CEO at the White Company

You can listen to the webinar using the player above, alternatively, feel free to watch the full webinar here, you can also read our three key takeaways from this discussion below.

Talk about the hard stuff

Steve Rowe, previously the Director of Food at M&S for 35 years, explained the importance of having an open policy in the workplace so that colleagues feel comfortable to talk about any struggles they might be facing both at work and at home.

Speaking about the stressors employees are currently facing from the pandemic, as well as rising costs of living and job insecurity, he expressed that it does not come as a surprise that people are experiencing record-high levels of anxiety. This highlights the need for businesses to put measures in place and talk openly to ensure people expressed how they felt.

Cultivate an inclusive culture

Mary Homer, who recently celebrated her 5th Anniversary at The White Company, put emphasis on the business culture to improve anxiety levels.

She explained that in her experience if you are able to provide an inclusive, empowering, diverse workplace culture, people will enjoy coming to work. Furthermore, by implementing support such as mental health first-aiders, employees felt more supported.

Strike the right balance

Paul Farmer CEO of Mind, explained how the balance needs to be right across all levels of the business, to ensure all staff from junior members right up to the CEO, all get the support they need.

Paul highlighted that anxiety and mental health is a huge issue which needs to be prioritised, but that we can’t do it alone. Everyone needs to work collaboratively to help ease the rising levels of anxiety.

He explained that in recent years we have reached a crossroads, with the pandemic opening the doors for a more flexible, hybrid approach. This has offered a different way of viewing work and what businesses expect from employees, but Paul states there was still a way to go to ensure the shift is felt across all workforces.


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