The call for kindness because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about has gained significant traction throughout the pandemic. Yet for Betsy Darlington, HR Manager at telecoms service provider Daisy Communications, it was back in 2015 that a suicidal colleague brought that fact directly into her office. Thinking on her feet brought a successful resolution to the situation but Betsy acknowledges that at the time, she was ill equipped to really know how to help.
It prompted some sweeping changes at Daisy, one of the UK’s largest independent telecommunications providers. HR colleagues were trained as mental health first aiders and Betsy enlisted the help of the Able Futures mental health support service in 2019, after meeting Employer Account Manager Angela Han at a wellbeing event.
Able Futures, led by Ingeus UK, delivers the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service, which is fully funded by the Government so that participants and employers do not pay anything to receive advice and guidance on how to support mental health at work. Able Futures offers fast access to nine months’ mental health support for anyone who is working in England, Scotland or Wales but struggling with something that is playing on their mind which means they struggle to stay happy and productive at work.
“Everyone has something going on in the background,” says Betsy, who is part of the team overseeing Daisy’s 900-strong workforce. “It may not be anything directly to do with work, but it will impact some more than others depending on the severity of the issue and the support networks people have around them. People are human and if there’s something negative they feel they can’t control then we understand that will come into work with them. Add to that the pressures of any customer service-led business like ours and we identified a real need for effective, medium-to-long-term support for people that we couldn’t cater for in-house.”
Able Futures provides support from qualified mental health experts called Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants, and there is typically no waiting list, so people will start receiving guidance and have made a personalised mental health support plan with their VRC within 30 days of applying. Able Futures VRCs will work with each individual person to understand what is playing on their mind and how it is affecting them at work, often recommending actions that can help people dealing with anxiety, stress, low moods or difficulty finding their confidence or motivation. People can confidentially refer themselves, and tell their family and friends if the service might be relevant to them, at no cost.
The Able Futures programme was launched to Daisy’s UK-wide business with synchronised events across in June 2019, with Angela presenting its services at its head office in Burnley.
It subsequently proved a vital tool for the HR team to signpost staff to during the tough times of Covid furlough and remains a stalwart of Daisy Communications’ staff support services.
“We’re four years on now and yet the Able Futures team never tire of providing us with prompts and collateral to promote the service internally. They proactively send posters, campaigns around awareness days, and information to send out to staff that saves the team so much time and effort."
“Being able to offer quick access to a significant length of support is amazing. Often that nine months is enough to get people through a tough time, without them turning to medical support or sick leave. If our staff are perhaps struggling to support someone else in their lives with their mental health, it’s also a tool for them to suggest.
“We want our people to be better every day and having Able Futures support, all for free, is helping us to work towards that.”
The strategy certainly seems to be paying dividends. In early 2023, Daisy Communications was named the Number One Telecoms Company to Work For in the Best Companies league, following the results of a company-wide employee survey. It was also in the top 30 of Best Large Companies to Work For across the UK.
“It’s hugely well deserved,” says Able Future’s Angela Han. “Betsy and the team are so proactive with all things mental health related and have truly built Able Futures into the foundations of their wellbeing strategy. It’s a long-term partnership which is positively impacting the makeup of their busy, high achieving teams. I’m not surprised people love working there.”