Brands urged to end the stigma of mental health in the workplace

The Marketing Society launches Marketing for Change, a campaign to encourage brands to change how they approach mental health in the workplace.

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Marketers are used to using their influence to drive customer centricity within their organisation and their communications skills to nudge customers into changing their behaviour. Now they are being asked to use their talents to help achieve something of huge societal significance – removing the stigma of mental health in the workplace.

The Marketing Society has unveiled an initiative that places mental health at the heart of its agenda. The global network has partnered with the Time To Change campaign to launch Marketing for Change.

The broad aim is to open up discussion in the industry about mental health and empower marketers and brands to create a working environment that provides support for those affected.

The focus on mental health is part of The Marketing Society’s ‘Brave’ agenda, which in April saw the organisation host an event called ‘Being Bold Around Mental Health’ where people were encouraged to have frank conversation about the illness.

The Marketing Society has been working with Time To Change since then, culminating in the launch of Marketing for Change.

A working group has been set up led by The Marketing Society chief executive Gemma Greaves and Time To Change director Sue Baker OBE alongside marketing leaders including Mar UK’s vice-president of marketing Michele Oliver and Mediacom CEO Josh Krifchefski.

Practically, it will encourage corporate members to sign up to become one of Time To Change’s “Pledged Employers”, if they are not already.  More than 500 employers have already committed to changing how they think and act about mental health as well as providing support for those affected.

Elsewhere, Marketing for Change is calling for the creation of “safe spaces” in the workplace – a physical environment conducive to sharing experiences, a time and place to discuss issues with a colleague or just allowance for time out for employees.

Marketers have the skill sets to influence other stakeholders in their organisation so we see this as a real opportunity to really make a difference

Gemma Greaves, The Marketing Society

It also wants marketers to use their influence in their personal and professional networks, communication skills and creative ability to get employers and employees to open up about mental health.

Greaves says marketers have real opportunity to lead on improving the quality of mental wellbeing in organisations.

“Marketing is the voice of the customer. Marketers are leaders and influential in their business. They have the skill sets to influence other stakeholders in their organisation so we see this as a real opportunity to really make a difference,” she tells Marketing Week.

Mars’ Michele Oliver adds marketers have an opportunity “to help shift attitudes”. She says: “My experience is that of course you can bring this in through a HR lens, that’s an obvious place, but there is a positivity and creativity that marketing can bring and a connection to the general public. Rather than it being a very internal thing, it’s about people –  our consumers, us, everyone.”

High on the agenda

The issue of tackling mental health for the societal and economic good of the UK has been high on the agenda in 2017, and even more so than this week, which marked Word Mental Health Day (10 October).

Marketing Week ran several articles earlier this year that highlighted the work brands are doing to prioritise wellbeing in the workplace and to ensure employees are able to be the best they can be at work.

READ MORE: The benefits of integrating workplace wellbeing into performance management

Time To Change’s Baker says there is a “business and moral duty” for organisations to act. It’s not just to reduce absenteeism and associated bottom line cost but to reduce “presenteeism” – people not performing at their best because they do not feel able to speak out.

“It costs more to business by not having people perform at their best. There is a stereotype that those with mental health problems need loads of time off of work but there is huge cost of mental ill health at work,” she says.

“We want all those agencies and marketing teams to encourage people at the top of the organisation to think, right, we need to look after the mental health and wellbeing of all of our staff. We need to make sure that when they start to struggle they get help early and they are not ashamed to get help because of the stigma.

“Everywhere I have been over the last 20 years it takes one of us to talk openly about our own mental health issues and it unlocks all of these conversations around you. People who have kept silent all these years, people who are really struggling that haven’t told a soul. That leadership bit is not just about people at the top of the organisation, it’s part of the picture, but when people across the structure in various different marketing roles can talk openly it makes it easier for others to show support and for others to seek help.”

Greaves concludes: “Ultimately marketing is about people. We have an opportunity to appeal to our members as people, as humans but also within their roles. We’re not entirely sure what it all looks like but what we are going to make sure of and as the initiative names says – time for change – we’re going to make some changes.”

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