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Jack Mellor Of Personnel Checks On 5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees

An Interview With David Liu

Employee Assistance Helpline. Everybody in the Personnel Checks family has access to our Employee Assistance Helpline. This is a confidential helpline that provides support and practical advice on issues that might be impacting someone’s wellbeing and health. This is there for people who don’t feel comfortable discussing things with a colleague or manager at work.

As a part of my series about the “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Mellor.

Jack is the Managing Director of Personnel Checks, the highest-rated pre-employment screening company in the UK, he is also the sitting Vice-Chair of the UK Criminal Records Trade Body (CRTB). In an increasingly digital world, Jack and the team at Personnel Checks are working hard to deliver the next generation of pre-employment and compliance solutions that can make the world of work safer. A firm believer in leading by example, Jack takes the time to learn every role in the business to ensure inclusive business decisions are made.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My name is Jack Mellor and I am the Managing Director of Personnel Checks — a nationwide pre-employment screening company. I started my career in Paris, managing international accounts for a global software development company. I am a self-professed Francophile and I regularly return to France when time allows. My colleagues love to tease me about my obsession for things across the Channel but it’s all good fun.

Around 5 years ago I left my role in Paris to return home and carry out our family business succession plan. My parents set up the business in 1990 and today I find myself as a 2nd generation family business owner. Since I joined the business, Personnel Checks has evolved into 3 distinct brands, Personnel Checks, TaxiPlus and MyCheck. I’m fortunate enough to now lead an incredible team of 30, all working towards our vision of making the working world safer for everyone.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I recently completed the prestigious Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business UK (GS10K). Run in conjunction with the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, the programme brings together small business leaders from across the UK to help them scale their business and create new employment opportunities.

I was part of the 15th cohort of the programme, and it was definitely a shock to the system being a student again after running the business for the past few years! The objective of the course is to develop a business growth plan using the support of world-class business experts. The practical education, networking opportunities and support are going to be a real benefit. The GS10K is run annually, and I would strongly recommend any small business owner in the UK applies for the opportunity.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

I would break down my advice to thrive and avoid burnout into 3 main sections:

  1. Say “NO” to notifications.
  2. I am a firm believer in planning time in my day to communicate with people when I am ready to do so. I refuse to be notified when someone wants my attention, but believe strongly in asynchronous communication i.e. I will respond to WhatsApp’s, emails, Teams messages when it is the right time in my day, week, month.
  3. My staff know the ways they can contact me in an emergency.
  4. Exercise!
  5. Someone once said to me “how do you expect to be able to look after your staff if you can’t look after yourself?” And the phrase stuck. For me lucking after myself means:
  6. Going to the gym, running, breaking a sweat in some form. It helps me think and acts as a true form of catharsis.
  7. I build time into my week to make this happen.
  8. Surround yourself with great people and give them your trust from day 1.
  9. In order to have the confidence to turn off my notifications and build exercise time into my week it is not practically possible for me to be ‘on call’ 24/7. Therefore, by empowering my team with trust they will always find the right solution themselves.
  10. By having a great team around me I can share the load of what is on my mind with them, discuss, challenge, plan and decide on the course of action. I’d hate to have to carry that around on my own.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

For me, culture is about clear communication from myself to the rest of the business. If anyone is sat there wondering what is going on then there’s something wrong.

It is about being as authentic as possible at work and allowing everyone else to be their true authentic selves. For example, we have removed our formal dress code and I love seeing everyone’s tattoos and hearing the story’s behind them!

It is about being honest with people when they have done a good job, when they have done a bad job. It is about being kind.

I believe the working world has changed so much in my time in it. It is no longer the case that “nice guys finish last”, I would go as far to say they will probably end up finishing first. That’s at least the case here at Personnel Checks. We encourage a culture of wellbeing, support and flexibility to make sure the business is not just making a profit but profiting the people that work with us as well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

As I mentioned, I’m a Francophile. I studied French at University so it’s probably no surprise that quote that comes to mind is from a French poet. The life lesson quote that has certainly stuck with me is from the Poet Baudelaire in “Le Voyage”:

« Allons au fond de l’inconnu pour trouver du nouveau. »

“Let’s dive into the depths of the unknown to find something new.”

I just love the simple bravery that comes with this message, and it reminds me to push myself out of my comfort zone. Moving to Paris originally and the decision to then take on the family business were all examples of when I had this quote in my head! I think in today’s speak you’d say, “fuck it”.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Wellbeing champions:

Our Wellbeing Champions are volunteers in the business that run events and provide support and information on how to encourage positive wellbeing. Everyone in the business knows who the Wellbeing Champions are and know they are available to talk to either about personal issues or about initiatives that they want the business to introduce.

2. “Happy Hour” Coaching

Every Personnel Checks employee has access confidential mentoring and counselling sessions. These sessions aim to create a safe space where our team can discuss and personal or professional challenges they might be facing. An action plan on how to tackle these challenges is put together and monitored to help them succeed.

3. Re-enforcing the safeguarding culture

Personnel Checks began as a safeguarding business and the safeguarding ideology still permeates every decision we make as a business. Our staff are people first and employees second. Protecting them from harm is the first questions we ask when considering any process or decision in the business. Before any significant changes are made, we consult extensively with our teams to make sure they are supported and any changes are beneficial to everyone.

4. Mental health awareness events

Our Wellbeing Champions regularly run events to remind our teams of the support available to them internally but also externally if needed. Awareness is a big part of the battle when it comes to mental health and encouraging people to be open about it can go a long way in supporting people who are having problems.

5. Employee Assistance Helpline

Everybody in the Personnel Checks family has access to our Employee Assistance Helpline. This is a confidential helpline that provides support and practical advice on issues that might be impacting someone’s wellbeing and health. This is there for people who don’t feel comfortable discussing things with a colleague or manager at work.

These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

Every business has a responsibility to ensure their employees, contractors, freelancers or even suppliers are doing okay. If you as a leader asked everyone in the business 2 questions, I’m sure you would uncover a lot:

  • How are you?
  • How are you really?

Sometimes asking someone how they are is not enough. ‘How are you?’ is used as a greeting far more than it is used as a genuine question. People usually reply with a generic ‘Good’ or ‘Fine’, even if that’s not the case. Following up with a ‘How are you really?’ lets them know that you genuinely want to know how they are. It helps open a dialogue about their emotions and any problems someone might be having.

Having candid conversations with you team members can teach you a lot about who you work with, what they’re dealing with and what you can do as a business leader to help support them. I would suggest that every business leader spends time asking these two questions. They will soon learn just how important it is to support the mental wellness of employees.

From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious or having other mental health issues ? Can you explain?

We are a pre-employment screening company and the important thing we preach to our clients is all about safeguarding being at the top of the agenda. Safeguarding people, children, business, assets, anyone or anything that could be considered vulnerable. People suffering with ill mental health are definitely a vulnerable group who need support.

We all have an innate sense when something is not quite right. If your friend or colleague is acting differently or appears disconnected it could well be because of their mental health. In those situations, we should try and encourage them to speak to someone but also be prepared to listen. You should never try and force help on someone, that can make things work. But making someone aware that you are there to support them can be a great reassurance to someone with ill mental health.

My belief is that people need to not only be taught the signs of mental illness but be taught to act when they think something is wrong.

This might seem intuitive to you, but it will be helpful to spell it out. Can you help articulate a few ways how workplaces will benefit when they pay attention to an employee’s mental health?

People in your business will only start raising concerns and talking about their mental wellbeing if they feel safe and comfortable to do so! For me this brings us back to the earlier question of culture.

By encouraging authenticity at work a person is going to be much closer to their truer self. By encouraging everyone to be authentic — there is going to be an overwhelming sense of authenticity running through the business. A judgement free zone if you will. This will breed more discussions around how people are really feeling and these discussions will breed more authenticity. It creates a wonderful virtuous circle whereby everyone feels safe to speak their mind.

The other important thing here is for the leader to show their won vulnerabilities too. I often tell my staff about stuff that is going on in my life and what I am struggling with. Getting personal on them in a 1–2–1 level will unearth some amazing discussion. Try it!

Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?

Honestly, no. I am just the type of person who’s mind calms through exercising and blowing off steam. I am currently trying to improve my sleep, but I am struggling! I have tried some meditation and breathing in this regard, but I can’t say it has worked for me yet.

I work in the communications industry, so I’m particularly interested in this question. As you know, there are a variety of communication tools such as video conferencing, phone, text, and push-to-talk. What changes or improvements would you suggest for these technologies to help foster better mental health?

For me the biggest thing here is encouraging a culture of asynchronous communication throughout the whole business.

Ask a question sure… but don’t expect and immediate response as you may be interrupting someone from their work.

Don’t be offended if someone says “you know you can find the answer to that question on our company wiki”

Don’t be offended if someone says “now is not really a convenient time for me so can I come back to you on this?”

By improving the culture, you can turn off notifications and work through your communication systematically. I.e. I’m going to spend 30 mins responding to and writing emails. I will do 2 stints of responding to chat messages throughout the day. That email can wait for a few days.

It is your time. Use it well!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Say NO to Notifications!

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

A lot of what I do goes into the company so follow us on Linked In.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/personnel-checks

Follow me directly on LinkedIn and feel free to reach out to me on there. I tend to respond to people who don’t lead with a sales pitch.

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/jackmellor

I’d be grateful if you could please link to the business website where possible: https://www.personnelchecks.co.uk/

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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