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Mental health at Marshmallow

December 7, 2021
3 mins
Robyn Smith
People Partner

We wanted to share some of the work we’ve been doing here at Marshmallow to open up conversations around mental health and to support the wellbeing of our people 💚

When the pandemic hit last March we were a company of 35, and in the space of 6 months we more than doubled our headcount whilst all working from home. Whether it was remote onboarding, virtual team building, or trying to figure out how we maintain our culture with no human contact, rapid scaling during the pandemic gave us a lot to think about. Thankfully for us, adding 50 new brains to our team meant that were never short of ideas! 🧠

We see every new joiner starting as an opportunity for us to gain a fresh perspective; we want to know what they would improve, what we’re missing and how they think we can change it 💡

With that in mind, last October one of our new Engineering Managers asked: ‘What are we currently doing to open up the conversation around mental health at Marshmallow?’. And the honest answer was; nothing. We have an open, honest and supportive culture, but at that point it hadn’t translated into deliberate conversations around mental health on a company-wide level.

That simple question from one of our new joiners made all the difference; it helped us to recognise that having an open culture wasn’t enough. We needed to think about actively encouraging open conversations around mental health and how they would feed into a broader strategy around employee wellbeing, especially as we continued to grow as a company 🌱

So in the spirit of living our values, we moved fast and got straight work 💪

A place to talk

First and foremost, our new joiner created a public slack channel centred around mental health, inviting people to share articles, resources, life experiences, day-to-day feelings and everything in between. By creating a space to talk openly and share experiences, it’s helped to normalise talking about mental health on a regular basis, and is a reminder that we are not alone in our experiences and are there to support each other 💚

Mental health first aid training

At the same time, we reached out to MHFA England to organise mental health first aid training, and offered it to anyone in the company who wanted to take part. In February this year, 14 of us chose to invest 10 hours of our time to participate in the training over the course of 2 weeks, and are now qualified mental health first aiders 🎉

The role of a first aider is to provide immediate support and reassurance for someone in distress through calm, non-judgemental conversations. First aiders can provide a safe space for someone to talk about their mental health, share resources, and help the person to reach professional help, whether that be a GP, a therapist or a different form of support.

By investing in training, we now have a core group of people at the company who are passionate about furthering the mental health agenda, and they have done some amazing work so far…

Our teams at work

Namely in Customer Operations (COps)! Seven people from the COps team completed the mental health first aid training, and immediately took ownership of championing mental health initiatives for the people around them. From running workshops to talk about work life balance, to designing an onboarding presentation for new joiners to talk about mental health in their first few weeks, the COps team picked up the torch and ran with it, and are now spearheading ideas that we hope to roll out more widely across the company. Thank you COps! 🙌

Therapy for everyone

Although mental health first aid training provides valuable knowledge to help you act as a first point of call to someone in distress, mental health first aiders are not trained therapists; a first aider can direct a person towards professional help, but cannot provide it themselves.

Barriers to entry for therapy are typically incredibly high. Whether it be long NHS waiting lists or the cost of private sessions, therapy can be near impossible to access for many people. That being the case, we realised that even if we signpost someone towards professional help, there might be no way of them getting it. Therefore, we understood that in order to fully support our people, we had to commit to something more. So, with that in mind…

We are now proud to partner with Self Space to offer 10 free therapy sessions to every employee, every year 💚

Self Space believe that everyday mental maintenance is essential not just for surviving, but thriving, and want to revolutionise the culture around accessing regular mental health support, encouraging us to treat it the same way as we would our physical health. There are no long waiting lists or having a therapist allocated to you; you are empowered to choose which therapist best suits your needs and when you want to speak to them, aligning strongly with our value of taking ownership 🌟

Championing change

The mental health initiatives we’ve introduced at Marshmallow are a prime example of how a small group of people can champion big change. By asking one question in October, one of our new joiners started a chain reaction that has resulted in free therapy for all of our people.

We recently introduced a new value, ‘We Pioneer’, encouraging everyone at Marshmallow to challenge the way we do things and innovate to help drive us forwards. By championing change, our people are continually driving growth and improvement, helping us to disrupt the insurance industry one step at a time.

If you think you’ve got something to bring to the table, head over to our jobs page to see how you could help us meet our mission — all ideas welcome 🥳

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