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Bhavik Shah built strong foundations for his company’s mental health policies but they still had to step up to cope with the mental health challenges of Covid
The power of role models, of sharing experiences is illustrated by Bhavik Shah. He works for consultancy firm Capco. He’s also the company’s mental health lead for the UK.
Key to his success has been a willingness to speak up. He wrote about his own experiences for an internal blog. From that flowed more opportunities to advance mental health as an issue.
He was approached by senior leaders to collaborate on a strategy for supporting other colleagues’ well being. That included creating a video with a senior manager who spoke about his mental health. When leaders talk about an issue it can give everyone in the company permission to do the same.
Bhavik also worked with HR and learning and development colleagues on drawing up training for line managers. Teaching them how they could increase awareness and destigmatise mental health issues.
The global management and technology consultancy already took mental health seriously. But managing the firm’s mental health response to Covid was a whole new challenge. Bhavik does the role alongside his day job as a consultant in the company, but says that now that the overall strategy is in place it is more about making sure that it is responsive to changing events. There’s been plenty of those in 2020.
Pre-Covid, Bhavik partnered with HR to secure a budget to train up 30 Mental Health First Aiders. An external psychologist/therapist was contracted to provide one to one sessions on bi-monthly basis to those who wanted support. Demand was high and he had to increase her sessions soon after launching them. She also does webinars on topics such as anxiety and sleep problems to reach people who might still be reluctant to come forward for counselling.
In January Capco negotiated a contract with Unmind to deliver their mental health app to the company’s UK staff for free. It includes self-help tools on time management, avoiding burnout, childcare and social activities to avoid isolation. Users can also track their mood changes. Bhavik describes it as a fit bit for the mind. “It helps you to understand what is happening and what you can do about it,” he says. The app is constantly updated so when Covid-19 struck it was able to include relevant information and advice. “We wanted to empower people to take control of their well being so they can better manage their own mental health,” says Bhavik.
When Covid-19 happened, Capco promoted the services of its Mental Health First Aiders who were spread across different areas of the business. They used anonymous data from the Unmind app to target the kind of support people needed most through webinars and other initiatives. The same applied to the difficult emotions and traumatic memories stirred for many by Black Lives Matter.
One of things the data revealed was that many people in financial services felt the need to contribute to the community during Covid. Capco partnered with charities so employees could get involved in hands-on community work.
The mental health support offered during Covid-19 has had to adapt quickly to a fast-changing situation. People are struggling with isolation, Zoom fatigue, bereavement, caring responsibilities, being cooped up with the same people, lack of space, lack of work-life balance and so forth. Advice ranges from practical tips on remote working, managing stress during this pandemic and coping with grief.
Bhavik’s work in the UK has been so successful that it is being extended to other global regions.
He is now working with colleagues to plan for the winter, particularly after the Christmas holidays. The company partnered with a coach in the summer to help people to stay positive and Bhavik thinks this positive psychology approach will be important in the months ahead. He says: “It’s hard to realise you can’t solve everything, but you can do the best you can. I am keen to let people know that I am here and very accessible. That message is consistent. Some things may be out of our control, but we have to focus on what we can control.”