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Mental Health: a business strategy and an employee benefit

Sustainability / Interview

January 16, 2023

Mental Health: a business strategy and an employee benefit

The COVID pandemic revealed mental health as the Nr.1 challenge in business. LKQ Europe takes a holistic approach to supporting employee mental health improving business, talent, and innovation outcomes. In our interview with Sophie Bond, Head of HR Business Partnering at LKQ Europe, it becomes clear why it is time to look at mental health and well-being as a business strategy and not only an employee benefit. 


When do you believe mental health and wellbeing became so important at LKQ Europe?

Back when the COVID19 pandemic started, we started to get a lot of feedback from our colleagues struggling with mental health and well-being for a variety of reasons. The remote working scenario, being cut off from the world in a way that they've never had before, feeling very isolated and alone. And we also had a number of people coming to us to say that they were struggling with the uncertainty of the world around them. So we needed to step it up a gear.


So, did COVID ignite this?

It's been an important topic for many years before, but the pandemic gave people more of a reason to be able to confidently talk about it openly. 


Kind of like a Pandora box that has been opened.

Yes, I think so, as beforehand a lot of people would just struggle on their own because they’d think, they’d just get through it at their own capacity. We always had an employee assistance program where we looked at individual cases and supported people if they were going through a hard time. But when the pandemic started, there was less of a taboo around holding your hand up to say I need some support.


How do you see the role of it now?

There is a very clear and obvious connection between our colleagues’ mental health and how well they perform, and our job is to make sure we're giving them every opportunity that we possibly can to thrive. Creating the right mindset and the right culture around this topic will naturally benefit our productivity and performance, because people will hopefully feel more secure in their own being that they'll be getting help if they need it. 


What is LKQ Europe as a company doing in this space?

Last year we launched our well-being charter to the European organization to represent our commitments towards everything that contains or surrounds mental health and well-being. It's not only a guideline, but it's also a positioning statement on where we are as a business on this journey and how we expect our colleagues to conduct themselves day-to-day when it comes to well-being and mental health.

We also have a set of support documents for our line managers, that give them high level structure, framework and advice when it comes to conducting a conversation with a colleague who is struggling mentally, regardless of whether it’s the warehouse or the office-based person. We’ve created a set of guidelines that the line managers can use in those situations, so that they are protecting themselves and the colleague to make sure that they're getting the right direction and the right reference point to move forward and get the appropriate support. We're not trying to teach them to be psychologists or counsellors - we're just giving them that framework so that they know exactly how to handle these situations as they arise in their teams.


There are also trained colleagues to be able to do the same.

Well-being Champions Training, that we've just started to implement across the European organization last year, is indeed another point of call. This year, we are planning to train colleagues in each of the regions to have that mental health first aid available in every local language and to cover all cultural backgrounds and differences. We also want to look at the well-being and mental health journeys across all our countries, at implementing the Wellbeing Charter appropriately and translating it into each of our regions and ensuring, that all the other resources we have are given to the regional HR teams and health and safety teams.


So the ultimate goal for our well-being strategy would be…

…to have an employee assistance program that is available to every single colleague within our European organization. So, everyone’s got a list of resources and signposts to where they can go if they're struggling in various different ways and our well-being champions network is grown to ensure we have that first point of contact for every single person in our company. We won’t be able to fix the problem of people struggling with mental health, but what we can do is make sure that we've got an appropriate resource and a safe space to reach out to if they need. Of course, not everybody's going to want to pick up the phone to a colleague. There might be people who would much rather just have the correct sign posting and list of resources so that they can go outside of the organization to speak to somebody. So we need to provide as many options as we possibly can.


And is that something that could also help attract the new generation of employees to our company?

It's an enormous topic. Looking at it purely from a well-being perspective, a huge part of this is company culture and values. For us, the heart of our culture with “Inspired to Thrive” message should really be embedded into the minds of all the colleagues. This isn't just about thriving at work, it is about thriving in everything you do in your life. And this is exactly what new generation of employees is looking at. They’re not just looking for salary, training and development. They are expecting a lot more from a company when it comes to a holistic approach with their working lives. They want to know that they're going to be treated as an individual, a human being, not just a number.


It's almost like they're looking at a workplace as an experience.

Yes, it's a blended life, and ultimately we should be measured by our output, not the amount of hours or the office time. And I'm not saying that we all only work one hour a day, because that wouldn't work either. But it's about being able to choose how to balance that on an individual basis. In this regard besides "Inspired to Thrive", our colleague engagement survey "Your Voice Matters" provides us invaluable input to shape the way we move forward as a company.

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