We do our best to make La Fosse a great place to work, and we believe we’re on the right track. Nonetheless, we recognise that it can be tough admitting to certain things that affect your work.

Take Julia*. Outwardly, Julia seemed to have it all. She had a high-powered job in La Fosse, a boyfriend and a busy social life. In fact, she was struggling. She wasn’t getting on with her boyfriend. Her father had dementia and, after a significant time in recruitment, she was starting to feel “stagnant. I was sleeping for about three hours a night. I didn’t see my life going forward.”

It was at that moment that an email was sent round all La Fosse workers about a meeting being given by Sanctus, an organisation offering mental health coaching in the workplace. So, says Julia, “I just went along.”

Talking about mental health can be hard at any time. Talking about mental health at work can, we know, feel almost impossible. Yet according to WHO figures most people spend a third of their adult lives at work. If you can’t talk honestly about the way you are feeling at work, that is a long time to pretend. That is why La Fosse has teamed up with Sanctus, who aim to “open up the conversation” about mental health in the workplace.

Speak out

Because, just because admitting to mental health difficulties at work can be hard, doesn’t mean that people don’t experience such difficulties. As Vic Lloyd, the Head of Operations of Sanctus puts it, “You can be a manager or a head of whatever but you’re also a human. Life doesn’t stop when you get to the doors of the office.”

Nevertheless, for many years there was – and in some places still is – a culture that said that it should. As Professor Dame Carol Black, principal of Newnham College of the University of Cambridge, who has advised the government on work and mental health, knows well. “Employers used to argue with me and say that all this belongs at home,” says Professor Black. “Of course, some struggles will indeed originate at home but, for sure they influence your ability to work.”

It’s good to talk

Being unhappy at work is not only bad for the employee in question – it is also bad for employers too. As Professor Black explains, “if you’re not in a place where you feel good and have a sense of wellbeing you won’t be productive. I think mental health, engagement and productivity are absolutely related.” Which means that promoting good mental health is not only the right thing to do for workers – it’s also good for their company.

For La Fosse – given that our whole mission has been based on treating people with care and respect – helping those in our company is not just the right thing to do, it’s a part of our mission statement. We hope to ensure that our employees can talk openly, work through challenges together, and share our successes and struggles alike.

A safe place to speak

Sanctus coaches come into offices, which means you can find, here at La Fosse, a “non-judgemental, open and safe space where you can bring your full self”. Professor Black thinks that being able to talk freely at your workplace is crucial. “If you have a good employer who you can talk to… then of course it will influence your mental health.”

It’s not just about getting employees to talk, either. Employers matter too. La Fosse’s Sanctus partnership was launched by two senior La Fosse leaders who shared their own mental health challenges. It was a personal and emotional meeting – and a powerful one. “Stigma is very much reduced if there is someone in the company who can talk openly about their own mental health,” says Professor Black. “It can make a huge difference.”

What is Sanctus coaching?

Sanctus coaches will discuss whatever you want – anything from relationship breakups to problems at work – but chiefly what they do is listen. As Vic puts it, “they are not there to give advice. They will ask a lot of powerful questions; be your compass and be your sounding board.”

This is exactly what Julia found. Looking back, she remembers that her coach didn’t say too much at their appointments. She would, “just sit there and listen to me talking.” Yet it worked. “I don’t know how she did it,” Julia says, “but at the end of the session I felt really positive.” After the first session, Julia decided to tackle her difficulties one at a time, beginning with work. Within three months “I’d tripled my salary.”

It wasn’t just Julia’s work that got better. She then started to address other areas of her life. Her coach asked her to visualise where she wanted to be in six months time. “I said lying on a beach, with a boyfriend….” And, with coaching “I made it come true.” Julia did indeed find herself lying on a beach, with a new boyfriend in under six months. Through the coaching she had focus, clarity and was happy with her job again. Now, she and her boyfriend are buying a house together.

Ask Julia whether Sanctus made a difference and she is in no doubt. The answer is a resounding yes. “I actually think it helped me change my life. I can’t speak highly enough about it.”

* Julia’s name has been changed

La Fosse is committed to supporting the mental wellbeing of our team.

We are publishing this simply because want to contribute to the wider conversation about mental health at work.

So we have included more material here: a link to Sanctus; and contact details for our CEO, if you are a business who wants to talk about what went well (and not so well) along the way.

Sanctus is a mental health organisation that works with businesses across the UK, and beyond, to give people the permission to talk about mental health and a safe space with a coach to have the conversation.