In conversation with: Caleb Rooke, HR Advisor and Wellbeing Champion
In conversation with Unite Students’ Wellbeing Champion Caleb Rooke.
On World Mental Health Day, Caleb spoke to us about his role as a Wellbeing Champion at Unite Students and why it is important for the business to offer support to employees.
Q: Caleb, can you tell us about your role as mental health champion and what made you want to take it on?
My role is to identify, promote and signpost people within Unite Students to local and national resources for health and wellbeing.
One of the core responsibilities of being a Wellbeing Champion is opening communication channels between employees and senior management; allowing employees to feel empowered to drive not only cultural change from the bottom up but to feel encouraged to engage in difficult conversations surrounding their wellbeing and find support.
I have taken on this role as I have a passion for wellbeing and believe everyone deserves to feel supported and healthy within their working life.
I wanted to give people the chance to feel heard, understood, and supported through their difficulties. Most importantly, to know that they are not alone in their mental health journey.
Q: Why is it important for a company to have a mental health champion?
For me, they are the eyes and ears of the business. Having a Wellbeing Champion provides that personal and singular point of contact for supporting people at all levels. There is never a one-size fits all blueprint to fit everyone’s needs and sometimes having that ability to be flexible with the support we can provide benefits employees. I act as part of that commitment to employees that the company takes their wellbeing seriously. I’ve already seen the knock-on effect it creates as employees possess and encourage a deeper knowledge of the needs and feelings of others. Champions can aid in the development of a more compassionate workforce and having that empathy can start to remove the stigma’s surrounding mental health and the detrimental effects it can have on the individual, their teams and the wider business.
Q: What support is provided by Unite Students to help employees suffering with mental health issues?
Unite Students has several avenues of support for those struggling with their mental health. Other than my role, we have an Employee Assistant Programme (EAP) provided by Lifeworks. With the help of our LifeWorks EAP, staff have simple access to mental health assistance and direction from trained counsellors over the phone, online, through video, and in person.
We support those who may need that additional help or support during difficult times and also provide alternative points of contact, outside of the Wellbeing Champion to discuss their mental health. Our HR team also have experts such as our Belonging, Equity and Engagement team, headed by Senior Belonging, Equity & Engagement Manager Sam Kingsley, who can provide support and signpost to organisations to provide our employees with the best care for their mental health.
Our employee voice committee has reps across Unite Students. They are ready to listen to staff and provide support or raise a problem to the committee for discussion, to offer solutions. There is always someone on hand to talk to at Unite Students.
Q: How can employees look after their mental health?
We encourage employees to look after their mental health through practicing self-care. Self-care involves individuals making time to do things that enhance their quality of life and their physical and mental well-being. Self-care may improve their energy levels, reduce their risk of sickness, and help them manage stress when it comes to their mental health. The impact of even modest daily self-care actions can have a massive impact.
I stress the importance of regular exercise to employees who are struggling with their mental health. This doesn’t mean joining a sport or even going to the gym to throw weights around. Just taking a walk for 20-30 minutes a day is enough for you to take stock and clear your head.
Q: Mental health can often carry a stigma, what is being done at Unite Students to help address this for employees?
We understand that 1 in 4 of our employees will suffer from mental health difficulties at some point.
We have a top-down approach regarding wellbeing. Our CEO, Executive team and Directors, all understand the need to lead from the front in terms of wellbeing. Whether this is being open and honest about their own struggles, being more empathetic to staff needs and implementing new initiatives, or just generally listening to us; their support is felt and needed to remove any stigma.
We’re giving employees and students the support they need to grow and succeed. To do their best work, discover their passions and be their best selves. Find out more about our wellbeing programmes.