Prioritizing Mental Health: Firstsource Interview on Wellbeing

We sat down with Antony Smeaton, UK Senior Manager – Talent Development at Firstsource, to talk about the company’s approach to mental health and wellbeing and their experience working with Red Umbrella.

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“Red Umbrella are there 24 hours 365 days a year to support us. They understand our business and are extremely flexible to our needs. They provide tailored sessions that really go above and beyond to support us.”

Firstsource is a business process solutions company providing services to more than 100 global businesses in sectors such as banking and financial services, media and technology, communications, and healthcare. They operate in India, US, UK, and the Philippines. They have over 26,000 employees globally, with almost 6,000 based in the UK.

Please describe Firstsource’s attitude towards mental health and wellbeing

At Firstsource, we have initiated a movement to positively improve the health and wellbeing of every Firstsourcer. We created FitSource, an organisation-wide initiative to promote a happier, healthier and balanced workplace environment.

Could you tell us more about FitSource?

FitSource is a holistic approach towards employee wellness supporting Firstsources across the globe. It includes regular support, training and programmes on mental health, physical health, social health, financial health, emotional health, and environmental health.

FitSource is not about an individual or a team, it’s a collective responsibility and one that we aim to adopt as our way of life. We believe that mental health shouldn’t be something that employees have to face alone. It is only when “I” is replaced by “We” that Illness can become Wellness.

What are some of UK Firstsource's goals in relation to mental health and wellbeing?

One of our main goals was to have a mental health first aider (MHFA) to every 50 Firstsources.  When we first started out the ratio of MHFAs to employees was 1 to 123 and now it’s 1 to 45.

At first, it was challenging to implement MHFA in the workplace. Not many people wanted to talk about mental health openly with an MHFA. However, as we started training MHFAs, we were able to create an environment where employees were able to access confidential mental health support to aid their personal and mental growth.

As a company, we really value our people. Without them, we wouldn’t exist and we recognise it’s important to safeguard them. MHFAs are important to help us support this aim.

What’s the best thing about being an MHFA?

For me, it’s when you get that phone call or text from someone you supported telling you that they are on the right road and that they feel more in control of their mental health and wellbeing.

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What drew you to Red Umbrella?

We have worked with Red Umbrella for over 3 years. One of the things that attracted us to Red Umbrella was the aftercare support offered which is included in the training costs.

If our MHFAs are unsure of how to proceed when supporting a colleague or require personal support themselves, they are able to access confidential counselling service. This helps us to promote self-care for our MHFAs.

Red Umbrella also delivers regular webinars which are useful to refresh our MHFAs’ training. The training allows us to share best practice with other companies. This is beneficial as it gives MHFAs the space to network and exchange ideas with others.

What are some of the benefits of working with Red Umbrella?

Red Umbrella has helped Firstsource to highlight the importance of MHFAs in the workplace, not just in the UK, but globally in our other operations. While FitSource is a global initiative, we only had MHFAs in the UK.

During the pandemic, we introduced a number of activities dedicated to mental health and wellbeing for employees globally. Red Umbrella conducted a number of webinars to support our activities. Off the back of this, we now have 9 MHFAs in the Philippines, 7 in the US and plans to bring the training to our colleagues in India.

Red Umbrella are there 24 hours 365 days a year to support us. They understand our business and are extremely flexible to our needs. They provide tailored sessions that really go above and beyond to support us. Their knowledge of mental health, the support via their webinars, and monthly catch-ups are absolutely fantastic. They really are the best company to partner with.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for your company regarding mental health?

Now that we are training MHFAs globally, our biggest challenge is operating in different contexts globally. There is still a lot of stigma around mental health so we have to address this to support our colleagues. We still have a long way to go in the UK and in some countries, we have even further to go.

We often collect feedback from all our global colleagues. We share this with Red Umbrella so they can take it on board before running the sessions. Red Umbrella has worked in most parts of the globe where our operations are based and so they know how to tailor training and support for different local contexts.

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The pandemic has forced us all to be more connected through platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft teams. How do you see this impacting mental health training?

At the start of the pandemic, mental health training moved online. At first, I thought the content would only be best-delivered face to face. I was wrong! Virtual mental health training allowed us to meet with colleagues from all parts of the UK as well as the Philippines and US. 

This has been a major win for us as our MHFAs get to understand our business more, interact with colleagues they would never have worked with before and experience mental health insights from different cultural perspectives. The training was also easy to digest as it was broken into 4 half days to avoid virtual fatigue.

What are the next steps for Firstsource?

We are planning to increase the number of MHFAs in our operations worldwide over the next few months. Red Umbrella will deliver and support the aftercare for the next 3 years.

We are excited to grow our MHFAs with the support of Red Umbrella and are looking forward to extending all the benefits that they have already brought to the UK to our colleagues across the globe.

If you would like to know more about how Red Umbrella can help your business, drop us a line here.

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