New East Anglian company makes the business case for mental health

Bamboo Mental Health founder Tom Oxley, left, with consultants, from left, Anne Francis, Debbi Chris

Bamboo Mental Health founder Tom Oxley, left, with consultants, from left, Anne Francis, Debbi Christophers and Sue Buck. Picture: DEBBY BESFORD. - Credit: Archant

A new service for employers to support staff mental health has been launched in East Anglia – the first commercial service of its kind.

The launch of Bamboo Mental Health comes as Theresa May called for a 'step-change' in the provision of mental health support, including workplaces.

Set up by Norwich-based consultant Tom Oxley, but working all over the country – including with Transport for London – Bamboo provides evidence-based action plans for employers, so that they can better support their staff and maintain a healthy workforce.

'Stress and other common mental health problems are the chief reason for employee absence in most workplaces, but many don't know where to start. Responsible employers need to support employees, keep efficient and protect their reputation,' said Mr Oxley.

'The business case is strong: the cost of supporting your employees on mental health is a fraction of what it costs when they are unwell, performing poorly and end up feeling forced to leave an organisation. It's an entirely manageable risk, and it's the right thing to do.

'That's where Bamboo comes in, working with owners, HR professionals and occupational health teams to conduct interviews, surveys and policy reviews. From this evidence we create an action plan – using local trainers and HR experts to make meaningful changes.'

Mr Oxley has previously worked with government departments, transport and utility companies as well as a host of East Anglian SMEs through his work with mental health charities. He has also run research with national charities Time to Change and Mind, and co-authored a research paper, Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces, which covered 46 organisations and 15,000 participants.

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He said employers had a responsibility to their greatest asset – their people.

'Behind every one of your employees is a family. If your employee is unwell, that affects many others,' he said. 'So it's time we started doing something about it and supporting people's mental health at work. But it's also a business decision that reduces costs and helps make you an employer of choice.'

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Tom Oxley was rising through the ranks of a local communications agency when he was derailed by depression, stress and anxiety.

'My illness came out of a pressured but successful time. I was winning awards and enjoying life,' he said.

But he became unable to concentrate, sleep or eat. 'I'd read a piece of paper, put it down and couldn't remember a single sentence written on it.'

His managing director encouraged Mr Oxley to see a doctor, who diagnosed him, and he began therapy.

His company supported him as he recovered, but had no established process for doing so.

'When I returned, within a week I started helping two other people who had experienced something similar.

'That was 10 years ago and the subject is more open now. One in four of us experience a mental health problem in any one year, and good employers tackle the stigma. They get to keep talented staff and avoid short-term problems becoming long-term absence.

'If people were machines and had a problem, we'd be turning them off and fixing them straight away. Why don't we do that for people?'