Parliament is leading the way in building a workplace culture that prioritises mental health
Parliament is more than a place of work; it is a community that represents the nation. That is why I put the health and wellbeing of its Members, staff and journalists top of the agenda when I became Speaker, to ensure the parliamentary community could be a leader on mental health.
At the heart of this community there must be respect.
Respect that means everyone feels they can be their true self at work because it is only when we can do so that we achieve diverse and inclusive workplaces where people’s mental health can thrive. If we feel free to bring our whole self to work, we do not waste energy hiding parts of our lives we fear others may judge and so we can better connect and work together.
Every one of us has some experience of mental health issues – either personally or because we know someone who is struggling. We all have good days and bad days – but what is important is we talk about them.
Our ability to support others is predicated on looking after ourselves first
For me, this means being honest about my diabetes and how I manage it successfully. It is also about sharing things that bring me joy with colleagues - from my love of my hometown of Chorley, to my pride in supporting Warrington Wolves, to the rewards of looking after my pets – Maggie the tortoise, Boris the parrot and Attlee, the Maine Coon kitten.
Parliament, as one of the biggest workplaces in the country, is leading by example when it comes to building a culture where everyone feels seen, valued and heard at work. For example, we are tackling the taboo around menopause head-on and recently signed a pledge to introduce measures including well-ventilated rooms, breathable uniforms, and flexible working. Investing in training and support is also vital – and alongside our health and wellbeing champions and mental health first aider network, there is always emotional and practical help available through the employee assistance programme, or drop-in nurse clinic and GP.
We all need to make time for our own mental health too. Our ability to support others is predicated on looking after ourselves first. How you do it is different for everyone, from mindfulness to practicing hobbies or connecting with others.
Moving more and getting outside can also help and I am proud to say that staff in my office regularly run together at lunchtimes, which is a great midday mood booster.
In Parliament, and as a nation, we have already made strides on smashing the stigma around mental health, but we must continue the conversation to drive real change.
That is why, alongside business leaders and mental health campaigners, I am supporting My Whole Self – the movement for workplace culture change from social enterprise Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England. The campaign calls for all workplaces to ensure everyone has the safety and freedom to choose which parts of their identity they share, without fear of judgement, as it is better for wellbeing and for business.
In these challenging times, every employer across the country has a role to play. We must act now. Let us reach out to our colleagues so we can better understand and support one another at work, and beyond.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, MP for Chorley and Speaker of the House of Commons.
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