14th-20th May marked Mental Health Awareness Week, a cause close to my heart – and to the heart of my business, MiddletonMurray. I think it is so important to encourage a culture where we speak openly about our wellbeing all year-round.

In my opinion, physical and mental wellbeing starts with mindset. Once you’re clear on what you’re trying to achieve, having strategies in place to reach these goals is just a small part of the story.

I am so proud of everything we have done at MiddletonMurray to create an open culture both in our nationwide offices and in our work with apprentices and trainees. Everything is a work in progress, I have outlined the steps I introduced to support overall wellbeing in the workplace, at all levels.

Purpose, problem-solving and progress

It’s important to stay focused on purpose and motivation. MiddletonMurray has worked with over 10,000 young people and I have encouraged every single person to check in on their purpose and ask themselves, “why am I doing this?”

When it comes to our new joiners, I find that talking about purpose helps them see the bigger picture of what an apprenticeship or traineeship can allow them to achieve: making a parent proud, supporting a new lifestyle, reaching a milestone.

Part of my work on mindset and wellbeing is helping to build problem-solving skills. I try to encourage people at MiddletonMurray to approach problems with “how do I resolve that?” which is certainly easier said than done, but it’s a case of taking the time to evaluate where to go next.

This problem-solving work involves taking a step back and realising the importance of the progress you make with every working day. This progress isn’t something that stops at the end of an apprenticeship or work with an employer, it’s something we can all learn from.

Meditation

In the same way you must train your body physically to build muscle and keep your physical health, you have to train your mind to support your mental wellbeing. A great way of doing that is through meditation.

You don’t have to chant and sit cross-legged. It can be as simple as putting some music on and thinking about your goals and your mindset.

On a personal level, I transformed my brain and body by following an intensive weight-lifting programme and incorporating small changes into my (already health-conscious) lifestyle. As part of my physical overhaul, I started walking to meetings, and this helped me shift my mindset towards work: I found the exercise helped me stay fit mentally, gave me the headspace I needed and boosted my energy levels.

MiddletonMurray: employee wellbeing

I am passionate about the importance of meditation and mental wellbeing in the workplace and think we should talk about mental health in an open, supportive environment. I gently introduced meditation and mindfulness to the office so that my team could test it for themselves.

This started with the concept of ‘steps’: I set my staff a target of 10,000 steps per day to be taken at a time of their choosing. We all know that once you start moving your body, you start thinking differently, and headspace is essential in the fast-moving, exciting industry we work in.

The next thing I introduced was podcasts, such as TED Talks and Desert Island Discs, for brain-training purposes. I find podcast resources invaluable – in fact, this inspired my decision to launch the UK’s first free careers advice podcast, iwant2ba – but also helps boost your overall sense of purpose, understanding and wellbeing.

Once my team started listening to the podcasts, I introduced the concept of meditation. I brought meditation lamps into the office and meditation corners to encourage people to get into the habit of meditating in groups and to encourage a very supportive culture towards overall wellbeing.

Crucially, this process took place over several months, as I wanted to slowly but surely introduce these wellbeing measures into the workplace. I never want to force a lifestyle on someone, but I did want to get my team thinking about their overall wellbeing and how they were feeling – and show that there are measures available for support if they want to choose to use them.

This methodical approach should hopefully continue to benefit staff and leaners forever, as it has equipped them with a toolkit for meditation and mindfulness.

What next?

Since I introduced these measures in summer 2017, there’s been a dramatic shift in company culture and conversations about wellbeing at MiddletonMurray. You can see some hard, physical examples of people who have embraced each measure so fully that they are physically transforming before your eyes.

People have also started to speak a different language now: that of mental wellbeing. When I’m in a meeting, people will talk about self-awareness, visualisation and meditation – and it has become second nature to our team.

This is so important because we are fostering the next generation of workers in the UK through our apprenticeship and traineeship schemes.

Mental Health Awareness Week is essential for shedding light into the importance of wellbeing, but companies must make sure they are introducing this supportive culture year-round.

The benefits are manifold – MiddletonMurray is a living, breathing example of how small changes can have a huge impact.

Angela Middleton, Chairman and Founder of MiddletonMurray

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