Quick note on looking after mental health

Why are we focusing on mental health?

Parking the obvious impact that all of 2020 has had on us, not least the mental health impacts, both of us have an interest in mental health, from different perspectives.

Caroline is a specialist in vulnerability, and that of course can include mental health issues, that impact a person’s life either on a permanent or transient basic.

Sarah is a qualified counsellor and works in private practice and in the charity sector, supporting people with their mental health. So, yeah you could say we’re completely committed to mental health and it’s importance.   

But why for complaints handling?

In terms of complaints we know from experience that the mental health of not just customers but also staff is important. It’s not just looking after your staff in a culture that supports all facets of their health, not just physical health, but also their wellbeing. And that means being more holistic in terms of how you view your staff.

Complaints handling also requires an incredible amount of resilience from your staff members, to be able to bracket off their stuff, when a customer’s circumstances chime with their own experience. Can you imagine dealing with hundreds of customers each week, that need you to be able to offer a consistent service to those customers, without becoming worn down by the process? No? Well that’s what your front line staff are doing all week, every week.

You can't fill from an empty cup - empathy fatigue, the first sign of burnout

There’s no denying that front line staff nowadays are having more asked of them. It’s not enough to just take a complaint, they need to have soft skills, including listening, empathy and being able to do that consistently is hard work. That’s why they need proper, practical support and opportunities to learn what it takes to keep themselves topped up.   

The fact is, if a member of staff is mentally exhausted, then you could be looking at the first stage of mental burnout, and time off sick to recuperate. A mentally exhausted member of staff is also likely to be unable to use empathy or emotional intelligence, which means that they could very well suffer empathy fatigue. Never a good thing where a struggling customer is concerned, which means the likelihood of a complaint increases.  

What can I do to help them?

There are some simple things you can do, which includes checking in on our staff regularly and looking for issues in their work. Something simple, but making sure 121s aren’t just a  tick box, but are actually interested in them and what they are struggling with. It’s also about having a culture where a member of staff can admit and ask for help with their mental health.

It’s also about ensuring that staff are able to ask for that help proactively, because this isn’t all on your managers and senior leaders to look for this. Something simple like a conversation in a team environment about how your team is feeling, can often see people admitting as a group that they’re struggling. It means people are given the green light to admit they are knackered or battling empathy fatigue. That a red light and is something that needs to be looked at.

If your staff also see you acting on this information it will encourage an on-going conversation about how they are feeling. It’s important that this is seen as a one-off conversation, and that anything that is raised as an issue will be acted on.

Wanting more?

Then it's time to book on to our positive culture workshop

During our workshop we cover everything you need to know about supporting your staff’s mental health

  • What resilience is
  • How you can encourage a positive culture around mental health in your complaints handling function
  • What does a crisis look like in a staff member
  • Overcoming empathy fatigue and burn out