‘Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength’ — mental health at work

Karolina Gruszczyk

 · 10/25/2022  · 10/25/2022

Mental health talks aren’t easy, especially in a workplace. But instead of suffering in silence, it’s important to have everything out in the open — to break the stigma and normalise seeking help. In this blog, Hannah Francis — Head of People Experience at Revolut — shares her thoughts, personal experiences, and best practices about mental wellness from an employee and management perspective.

You’re the Head of People Experience — what does this mean in practice? And what’s  it like to have such a role at Revolut?

People Experience covers a number of aspects — culture & engagement, diversity & inclusion, employee wellbeing, internal comms, and facilities management. As a team, our job is to create the best people experience for all our Revoluters, using engagement data and their feedback to build initiatives that drive positive engagement and make Revolut the best place to work.

It seems that over the last few years, awareness around mental health has grown a lot. Why do we talk about more these days?

Mental Health is hugely important. Just as we talk about physical health and make allowances for people who are injured or unwell, we need to do the same for mental health. We’re all unique individuals with our own unique experiences and challenges — all of which can impact our overall wellbeing and performance at work. As a business, acknowledging this, and creating an environment where conversations around mental health can happen, means we’re better able to support our people to feel their best and deliver their best.

How is mental health important from a business perspective?

Our people are our biggest asset, and as a business you have a duty of care to the people you hire and employ. If you want people to perform at their best, it’s essential to create an environment where they feel supported — and listening to their needs is key. As a business, we check in through our anonymised wellbeing engagement surveys sent out each month. We then use this data to implement wellbeing initiatives like the ones mentioned below.

Have you ever personally experienced a mental health breakdown caused by work? How did you manage to overcome it?

I feel that most people working in a high-paced, high-pressure environment will experience some form of burnout at some point in their career. We’re all human, and it’s natural that the impact of both work and personal life will sometimes catch up with us.

I think it’s important to be aware of the signs yourself, but also ensure managers are able to spot the signs in their employees, as burnout and mental health issues will naturally impact your performance. Denying yourself support only delays that happening, and extends the time you’ll need to recover.

As I mentioned above, we’re all unique individuals with unique experiences. At the beginning of last year, my 10-year relationship ended, and this had a huge impact on me and my mental health. As this affected my ability to deliver against my set objectives at the time, I acknowledged the need to take a step back to focus on myself. I had an open conversation with my manager, who fully supported me. They knew that giving me the time I needed to heal and refocus would help me in the long-term to bring my full self back to work. Having a supportive and understanding environment was essential for me to recover.

What should you do when experiencing anxiety or depression at work? And where can you seek help?

This is a tough one because I get imposter syndrome quite often, and this can impact my mental health and make me feel very anxious at times. It’s a triggering effect really — perhaps I made a mistake, or something doesn’t land how I wanted it to, and I tend to doubt my overall ability.

Having your support group is key — whether it’s a colleague, a family member, a partner, or someone you know will talk sense to you and recentre you. I tend to talk to a variety of people to get their views and ask their advice — that tends to follow a pattern from one conversation to another which provides a level of reassurance. I also ensure I get feedback from my manager regularly and note that down so if I ever need to refer back to it I can.

At Revolut, we have dedicated mental health first aiders who are all certified by Mental Health at Work, and act as a first point of contact for our employees to talk about their mental health whenever they need to. We also have a great HR team with dedicated HR business partners who are there to support. We’ve also developed a manager toolkit, providing actionable guidance to our employees should they be approached with a mental health concern.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. It seems really cliche to say that but it’s true — ultimately you’re going to do more damage to yourself by denying yourself the support you may need. Your mental health and wellbeing impacts you more than you can ever know. It impacts your cognitive ability, how you handle situations, and your relationships (be that professional or personal). Something as simple as an initial conversation can really help.

What’s Revolut strategy to improve mental wellbeing within the company? What initiatives does it take to support employees’ wellbeing?

We’ve taken a number of steps at Revolut to reduce the stigma around mental health and promote open and honest conversations so we can better support our people. This quarter, we delivered our #timetotalk campaign, where we released weekly videos from our leadership emphasising the importance of having open mental health discussions, and developing ways to support their teams’ wellbeing.

As mentioned above, we’ve also created our own in-house mental health first aider programme. This enables our people to reach out to fully certified peers in the first instance for support and guidance should they feel uncomfortable discussing this with HR or their line manager. We also have an extensive library of wellbeing resources and services provided by the government to support our employees.

We also offer our employees two additional paid wellbeing days a year — days they can book at short notice should they need to, to focus on activities that support their mental health, whether that’s a duvet day, or a day with friends or family.

Additionally, we release a monthly wellbeing newsletter and webinar on topics requested by our employees through our engagement survey, providing them with actionable advice to support their mental health.

And let’s not forget our managers, who have a toolkit to support them when having wellbeing conversations with their teams, as well as dedicated manager training.

What advice would you give to managers and people taking care of employee wellbeing? How can they create a safe space for their team?

Mental health and wellbeing shouldn’t be a taboo subject. Take the time to understand your people and build a relationship with them beyond their targets and deliverables. This begins the process of creating a safe space to have open conversations. Ensure your team are taking their annual leave, while keeping an eye on patterns of absence — remaining aware is a simple change you can make as a leader.

For me, creating an environment where my team knows I’m genuinely here for them is essential. It creates that space for us to have open conversations about how they’re feeling, and where they may need my support. It includes letting me know if and when they feel overwhelmed, or if something in their personal life impacts their professional life, etc. Creating that open, safe space for really honest dialogue helps to prevent burnout, and helps ensure all concerns are heard, meaning you’re more likely to be able to address them early on.