World Mental Health Day: helping employees thrive in the workplace

World Mental Health Day: helping employees thrive in the workplace

Here at the Martin James Network, the health and wellbeing of our employees is a key priority. Human beings are the lifeblood of any business and we believe that by connecting people to a purpose, supporting mental health and giving everyone a voice, we can all thrive in the workplace.

So, ahead of World Mental Health Day on this Saturday (10th October), we wanted to take a moment to recognise some of the incredible mental health projects and initiatives happening within the network at the moment.

Unlocking silos with the TalkOut app

Before lockdown, we had been developing and testing an app to help unlock silos, build communities, and keep employees across the globe connected. Lockdown amplified our People team’s existing belief that connecting digitally would boost employee engagement and mental health. We knew that the key to success was to breathe a fresh new approach through our people in the form of a digital solution – and that’s where the TalkOut app was born.

As well as being used to share internal news and company updates, the app allows colleagues to communicate in real time, in a way that is best suited to them. They can chat to groups, individuals, or whole communities all from the one platform.

Crucially, at the heart of the app, is a system that offers employee mental health support through useful resources and advice. And soon, the app will allow individuals to speak to a counsellor via a specialist chat function too.

Campaigning for better workplace mental health

Team members at our mental health organisation, TalkOut Group, have been busy campaigning and urging the government to prioritise employee mental health at this difficult time. According to TalkOut Group’s latest research, over half (56%) of UK workers haven’t received any mental health support or advice from their employer since March.

On top of that, over a third (35%) of employees said that their mental health is worse now compared to before the pandemic. And just over half (51%) of respondents said they have felt uncertain about the future of their job.

The TalkOut Group has been busy speaking to the media – including the BBC and Forbes – and explaining why mental health in the workplace can longer be ignored.

Sharing mental health stories

At a time when supporting employee mental health has been crucial, we’ve increased webinars and online training for managers and employees across the business. We’ve also been sharing mental health resources so people can find out more or get further help if they need it.

Our People team have launched a range of initiatives to boost morale and wellbeing, including Mindful Mondays, and Wellbeing Wednesdays where key people across the business are interviewed and talk openly about their own mental health experiences. To simulate the social aspects of office life as much as possible, we’ve also regularly held virtual hangouts, pub quizzes and birthday celebrations for our employees.

Keeping our teams fighting fit

When the pandemic first hit and we were advised to work from home, a network employee – also a qualified personal trainer – set up a home workout group on Facebook. Created to help keep employees motivated and mentally fit whilst being confined to their homes, the HIIT and cardio workouts were uploaded live each day.

The workouts are still being streamed to this day and people outside of the network are even joining in!

Supporting working parents

With so many working parents having to look after their children during lockdown, another network employee created a Facebook group featuring recommendations and activities to keep kids occupied, home-schooling tips and positive news stories to lift parents’ spirits.

The group, called Mini Tribe Adventures, now has over 4.7k members and the founding employee made it onto local TV talking about why she set up the group.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives matter. It’s a simple as that and I am not going to apologise for saying this or worry about offending people. If you agree with this statement, then I would urge you to become more active in the fight against injustice and inequality both inside and outside the workplace. To those who feel aggrieved by this statement, I am going to assume it’s because the sentiment is ‘why are we prioritising one community over others’, ‘we are all important’, ‘we all matter’. All lives do matter, that of course is true, however this statement implies there is a level playing field to begin with, which of course there isn’t. Until black people are free from the discrimination they face on a daily basis purely because of the colour of their skin, we cannot confidently say all lives matter, because clearly to some people they don’t ALL matter!

As a network we actively stand for positive mental health in the workplace. In addition to promoting positive working practices for everyone, we have services that focus on those individuals who are suffering the most with their mental health. Does this mean we don’t think everybody’s mental health isn’t important? Absolutely not! It just means there is a subset of the workforce that are more at risk and disadvantaged due to various factors, and we need focused attention on them to make sure they can access the same opportunities as everyone else. We are not going to stop actively supporting them just because we are afraid, we might offend everyone who has mental health (and we all have it!). We are going to name it and we are going to do something about it, because we stand for equality and inclusivity. This goes for our support for disadvantaged families and young people, ‘children in care’ matter, ‘families in need’ matter to us and no one would bat an eye lid if we used these strap lines. By having named campaigns, schemes and services targeted at these communities, does it mean that all other ‘families’ don’t matter? Of course it doesn’t, but we know we have to do more work to help certain groups of children and families whose outcomes in life would be significantly poorer if we didn’t! Equality is not about treating everyone the same, it is realising that we do not all have the same privileges and opportunities.

Watching the heart-breaking murder of George Floyd at the hands of a policeman, will have affected all of us. This man died purely and simply because of the colour of his skin, and there have been many others who have experienced a similar fate. If people do not call this out for what it is, if they don’t create movements to fight it and bring about the change that is so desperately needed, then they are also part of the problem. Staying silent is no longer an option. And before anyone thinks I am supporting the rioting and looting I am not, there have also been many peaceful demonstrations many of which haven’t been publicised but then they wouldn’t make a good news story! What I am saying is, by dismissing this by saying ‘it could have happened to anyone’, ‘all our lives matter’, ‘we are all suffering somehow’, or by focusing in on just the actions of the angry rioters, we are diminishing the harsh reality that many black people face fear and anxiety of negative judgement on a daily basis just because of the colour of their skin! They are even murdered because of it and we must start by raising our voices against this and redressing this imbalance if we have any hope of healing the whole of humanity.

I won’t apologise for making a stand against murder or anything else which supports the status quo of ongoing structural oppression, but I am well aware of the need to take people with us on this journey – no one likes to be made to feel guilty or responsible for bad things happening to ‘other’ people. So, we have to find practical ways to work together to be part of the solution. But the first step is to challenge our thinking, stop thinking well I have black friends so it’s OK, or there are plenty of successful black people so what’s the problem.

We should all google ethnocentrism because It doesn’t work like that. To help make it a bit easier, I want you to know I am guilty, I am guilty of not speaking out against my employers years ago when we were asked to follow black people around the fitting rooms and to ring a bell if they spent longer down there than anyone else, guilty of not challenging members of my own Asian community when they have used derogatory language, guilty of not doing enough to promote more inclusive recruitment policies and practices.

Again, I am not talking about tokenistic box ticking, I am talking about ensuring we are doing everything in our power to have a rich and diverse workforce with representation from all communities. We simply do not have enough from the black community. What are we doing about it?! Not enough. These are just a few examples. The point is there have been many opportunities for me to take a stand and yet I have been passive. Not good enough. I have been silent for far too long, silent for fear of judgement- look at her ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, ‘playing the race card’, ‘using her position to further her own agenda’ etc. All completely unfounded, but worries, nonetheless. But not anymore, I will not let my fears of being judged stop me talking out anymore. I have a voice and I am going to use it to do whatever I can to bring about more inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. Please join me in supporting this, every voice that can help challenge discrimination, and is active, visible, and vocal in its support to a community that has experienced far too much pain and injustice, will make a difference. TalkOut because Black Lives Matter.

Riding the wave of a new business landscape

Riding the wave of a new business landscape

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has caused immense disruption to businesses across the globe – and in some cases, irreparable damage. But for The Martin James Group, the clever use of data and digital platforms, alongside unwavering persistence, has meant we have been able to navigate the crisis and ride the bumpy wave.

From charities to leading technology brands, The Martin James Network consists of three groups of companies all with a shared vision of changing futures. Founded by Martin James Cockburn – or Jim, as he’s commonly known – the network ranges from start-ups to well-established brands that have been in business for over 15 years.

jim cockburn
Chair of the network – Jim Cockburn

Like all businesses, the Martin James Network hasn’t been able to completely avoid the impact and interruption felt by this unprecedented global pandemic. Yet, thanks to its existing innovations and the need for continued support from the markets it operates within, the network has been able to adapt and make the most of a potentially catastrophic situation.

Jim shares the network’s learnings and successes from the last four weeks of this new business landscape:

Accelerating innovation

Over the last 12 months, the Martin James Network has developed and implemented a digital communication and engagement app called JiffyJab, which allows organisations to share information within their own private network. Having already been successfully adopted by a number of businesses, we are now offering the app to the care, charity and health sectors free of charge during the coronavirus crisis.

One of our brands, FosterTalk – a not-for-profit support service for foster carers – has also been working with internal partners to implement a new communication tool. Due to launch soon, the app will allow FosterTalk members to access advice and support, as well as chat in real-time to other foster carers at what is an extremely stressful and challenging time for them.

Responding to market needs

Our brand leaders across the network have been using this crisis to shape new ways of working, whilst responding to market needs. Life sciences company, Okra, is working to offer COVID-19 insights using transformative predictive AI technology. Our workplace mental health organisation, TalkOut, is offering more webinars and online training at a time when managing employee mental health remotely is crucial. Business support and IT brand, Anster, has been busy developing a family support package to help Local Authorities across the UK support more vulnerable families. And Intellect – our foster carer tax advice service – is supporting carers to unpick and understand the massive volume of information regarding self-employment.

Offering a helping hand

Our charity, the Martin James Foundation, supports vulnerable young people around the world and has stepped up during this crisis to launch an emergency appeal. It is also working closely with partners in Birmingham to support more vulnerable families within communities that need it.

Internally, the network’s People team have launched a range of initiatives to boost morale and wellbeing, including wellbeing Wednesday, Sing-a-long Thursday, quiz nights on Friday, daily HIIT workouts on Facebook Live, and a Facebook group for employees needing to keep their kids entertained which has grown to nearly 4,000 members.

We are also hugely proud that we haven’t had to furlough too many staff and any that have been, have had 100% of their salaries covered.

Crisis builds collaboration

In what is an unsettling and stressful time, our people have really stepped up to get employees and themselves through the upheaval. Whilst information and updates were always previously shared between brands, our network leaders are now having weekly virtual meetings so we can share ideas and concerns, as well as identify new ways to collaborate and support each other.

Our staff continue to support each other through candid and authentic communications via our internal communications app, JiffyJab, as well as through Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack.

Jim comments: “It could be very easy to be knocked back by a crisis like this but through collaborative effort and the commitment of each brand within the network, we’ve managed to explore new ways of working and meet market demands.

“Our focus has become sharper during these testing times and our network’s mantra of ‘connecting minds and shaping futures to transform lives’ resonates now more than ever.

“We’ve learned that times of crisis and uncertainty can actually give us more courage and we believe that we will come out the end stronger and more resilient as a network.”

Find out more about the Martin James Network here.

OKRA launches COVID-19 Status for Field Teams

OKRA launches COVID-19 Status for Field Teams

OKRA Technologies, a leading provider of Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven analytics for global life sciences, which is part of the Martin James Network today announced they have introduced a COVID-19 status within their FieldFocus system to further support life sciences sales representatives. The status allows sales representatives to understand how the outbreak has affected access to individual Hospitals and GP practices and their preferred method of contact.

Key insights

  • HCPs are limiting their interactions with sales representatives from life sciences due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The new FieldFocus feature enables sales reps to communicate in real time the changing accessibility and preferred method of contact for Hospitals and GP practices across the country.
  • This new feature also allows sales representatives to feedback directly into the system, using a “traffic light” system providing a real-time understanding of the changing access environment caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The COVID-19 status function truly embraces the human-machine relationship. We are connecting user feedback to provide more accuracy in the predictions, suggestions and explanations for future actions.

“Our goal is to empower strategic and operational teams across life sciences to take action. The integrated COVID-19 solution will aim to support sales teams across the business to focus engagement decisions on areas where access is still available. Our primary objective is to provide AI solutions that place the user at the centre and enable individuals to execute their vision through explainable AI. This is another example of how we can evolve our FieldFocus solution at speed to meet the changing needs of the life science industry during these unprecedented times,” said Dr Loubna Bouarfa, Founder and CEO of OKRA Technologies.

Find out more about OKRA Technologies here.

Martin James Network continues partnership with FoodCycle during COVID19

Martin James Network continues partnership with FoodCycle during COVID19

A few weeks back, our Birmingham-based restaurant, Holy Moly – home of the ‘Proper Mac’, headed up by Paul Elliott teamed up with national charity, FoodCycle, to help support vulnerable people in the local community each week with hot meals.

FoodCycle combines surplus food, spare kitchen spaces and volunteers to create three-course meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation, whilst helping those who may not be able to afford to feed themselves or their children.

Holy Moly donated its first selection of its vegetarian cheesy ‘Proper Mac’ to the UK charity in January and has provided hot meals on a weekly basis since, until the restaurant was forced to close due to the COVID19 outbreak.

We’re pleased to announce, we will donate essential food on a weekly basis, during lockdown. Throughout this uncertain time, it is now more important than ever, that those who are most exposed are not left hungry or lonely, and we support the mission and determination of this incredible national charity, and ensure our community is fully nourished.

Different parts of the network have been involved in ensuring this goes ahead including –

Martin James Foundation who have provided the donation through their EPIC programme. Agility Group – kindly provided the van to transport the goods between wholesaler and FoodCycle. Martin James Group – some of our colleagues helped arrange collection and drop off and Tribera who continue to raise awareness of FoodCycle and promote the partnership.

Paul Elliott, Head of Business at Holy Moly which is part of the Martin James Network, added: “FoodCycle do some incredible work supporting the local community. The charity is made up of amazing volunteers who provide so much to those in need and being able to play a small part in helping, especially during this time, means a lot to us all here.”

You can find out more about FoodCycle by clicking here. Find out the latest news from Holy Moly by clicking here.