Mental Health First Aid - ‘Can you have the conversation?’

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The Mental Health Foundation's 2017 report found that more than four in ten people say they have experienced depression; and that 85% of people out of work have experienced a mental health problem, compared to two thirds of those in work.

In 2015, the Office of National Statistics found that suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 20-34 years in the UK and it is considerably higher in men, with three times as many men dying as a result of suicide compared to women.

With 62% Britons reporting that their workplace environment has an effect on their mental wellbeing, what we can do as employers – who are continually looking to attract and retain talent – to build a mentally healthy community? 

Here at Interact, we want to make sure all our core staff, creative associates and participants have access to the right kind of support. Two of our senior associates recently attended Mental Health First Aid England’s training, a formal programme that builds peoples skills in: 

  • Identifying signs or potential triggers for individuals

  • Using appropriate language to have an effective conversation

  • Identifying and providing the next steps for that individual’s well being 

“I'm really proud that Interact is looking into ways to protect us from these risks at work, to raise awareness of them, encouraging us all to have better conversations with no stigma attached. What I've taken from the training I've done so far is get to know yourself, your own resilience, where your mental health is. It's something we can all benefit from thinking and talking about.”

Tomos James, Creative Associate

This eye-opening training has given our business an insight into the skills required to identify and have conversations with individuals in need.  

Having an understanding of how to do this effectively is pivotal in achieving tangible outcomes. As always, we believe that the practice of this how is fundamental to equipping staff adequately. Watch this space as we develop this area of our work. 

Lucy Kent

Join us for our Taster Day

Experience practice-based training for yourself

Interact’s Taster Days are opportunities for learning and development professionals to come and see first-hand what we do. Our Taster Days are highly interactive, as our work is best understood by experiencing it.

In February, we held one of our largest ever Taster Days. Participants came from a wide range of industries and sectors, each bringing thoughts about their companies’ current L&D needs and challenges.

Topics that were covered included:

·       People management in complex organisations

·       Leadership style and influence

·       Self-awareness as a core element of effective line management

·       Personal communication styles and their impact

Delivered by our senior partner with a team of facilitators and actors, the day put those attending in the shoes of the participant, whilst also giving them the chance to network with their counterparts at other organisations.

If you’d like to attend one of our Taster Days, our next one is running on the 8th June. Click the banner at the top of our website to sign up.

Participants rated the day as ‘Excellent’, ‘Extremely relevant’ and ‘would recommend’. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“Interesting, informative, fascinating, fun”

“Excellent showcasing of what Interact do, and the quality and robustness of your work”

“Interact has a particular style which would be hard to replicate”

Lucy Kent     

Mental Health Awareness Week

Part One

This week was Mental Health Awareness Week, set up and run by the Mental Health Foundation. This week forms part of the foundation’s campaign to encourage the UK to further understand mental health, the impact it can have on us all, and what we can do to educate ourselves to be able to help others.

This blog is the first in a series in which I explore what’s happening in the corporate world with regards to mental health in the workplace. It’s becoming ever more apparent that organisations need to take a holistic standpoint on the wellbeing of their staff.

The Mental Health Foundation’s 2017 report found that 66% of people in work describe themselves as having a mental health problem. In November 2016, the foundation estimated that UK workers with mental health problems contributed to £226 billion to UK GDP last year.

“A clear distinction is often made between ‘mind' and 'body'. But when considering mental health and physical health, the two should not be thought of as separate.” Mental Health Foundation - Physical Health and Mental Health

Building a resilient team

Here at Interact, our people are our most important asset. With an approach to training that takes a forensic look at human interaction, it is only right that we explore the impact this work has on us.

To continue to build a more holistic support system, Interact has engaged a third-party organisation to deliver resilience training for a group of our associates exploring:

-    What wellbeing is and why it matters

-    How natural resilience is affected by personality

-    Spotting signs and symptoms of excessive pressure

-    Current pressures and wellbeing

-    Managing your own energy

-    Building resilience strategies

The day was insightful and engaging and provided our associates with an opportunity to take a step back and explore different techniques for building their resilience.

Keep an eye out for the second blog in this series: looking at the ways in which Mental Health First Aid can be of benefit to business.

Lucy Kent

A workspace we love

At the end of 2016, after eight years of 'living' in our Southwark Bridge Road office, we decided the space was in much need of a revamp.

While our office was perfect in size - a large open plan office for our 12 full time staff, a bespoke workshop complete with breakout rooms, kitchen, bathrooms and even shower rooms for those of us who chose to cycle/run into work, the decor looked and felt tired and certainly didn’t reflect us as a company. We wanted a modern and inviting space that would welcome our clients and associates and inspire and motivate us as a team. It also needed to reflect how we work and what we do on a daily basis.

Together with CBS we worked to come up with a design to refurbish the whole office, all the while remaining open for business – it was no small feat! As you can see from the before, during and after pictures, it’s very different and we couldn’t be happier with the end result.

We now have dedicated areas to help cast programmes and track projects, an open plan kitchen, bike storage and a very comfy sofa area. You may also notice that we have decided to give our branding and website a face-lift – naturally the colours used coordinate with our new office perfectly. Take some time to look around our new website, and if ever you’re in the area drop in and say hello!

Sarah Shabajee-Parker

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A week in Chicago

One of the first projects I was involved with when I joined Interact in 2014 was a simulation for 150 employees from one of the world’s largest online search engines. The participants were selected as the ‘up and comers’ within the business and are certainly put through their paces. Since Interact first delivered this event, it has been so well received that the demand to take part has increased year on year.

I’ve enjoyed organising the logistics for each of the events in Dublin and New York, so when given the chance to Stage Manage the event in Chicago this year I jumped at the opportunity. Seeing a bespoke event run live and working with the actors is a treat for an Account Manager and I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

On the day the participants work through five very different ‘experiences’, guided through the learning by an Interact Facilitator and actor. In total 21 associates work on this event - two facilitators were from our team in London, a handful of actors were flown in from New York that we had worked with the year before, and the rest were actors based in Chicago.

As an Account Manager one of my core responsibilities is to cast actors on to jobs. Finding actors that have the skills are right for the roles can be a daunting task – especially when having to do so with actors that you can’t meet in real life, but phone and video calls have helped me get over these hurdles when events are happening overseas.

To get a bit of competition going between the teams, scores from each experience are uploaded onto a central score sheet. My favourite experience, and one that always goes down well and really requires participants to get creative is ‘Selling on QVC’. Participants meet an actor who plays an inventor of a unique product and they have a little time to learn about the product which they will pitch to ‘sell’ on QVC. Each team works with a fun flamboyant presenter and the participants always enjoy watching what each other comes up with.

The whole day went incredibly well and exploring Chicago after the event was a real treat!

Sarah Shabajee-Parker

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Award winning training

Interact is entering its fourth year of working with Transport for London (TfL). We’ve designed and delivered 13 skills development programmes for London Underground staff during this time, and helped the organisation towards its goal of offering world-class customer service.  

As well as focusing on the needs of passengers, programme topics have included leadership, management, coaching, negotiation, influencing, personal impact, and equality and diversity.

The success of all 13 programmes is a testament to the strength of the partnership that Interact has developed with TfL. The icing on the cake has been jointly winning the following awards together:

Training Journal Awards     

Best Customer Service Programme (Gold)   
Best Change Management Programme (Gold)  
Best use of Technology in Learning (Silver)

Princess Royal Training Awards     

Excellence in Training

Learning Technologies Awards      

Best Learning Game (Gold)

CIPD People Management Awards     

Best Change Management Initiative (Silver)

Personnel Today     

Excellence in the use of HR Technology (Gold)

E-Learning Awards     

Best use of Blended Learning (Gold)     
Best eLearning Project – Public Sector (Bronze)

Click here to find out more about our work with TfL .

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Getting people on-board with co-production

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Recently, Interact was at Gloucestershire County Council HQ for a day of conversation, problem-solving and planning.  Under discussion: how can the council go about “Building Better Lives” for people with a disability? 

Gloucestershire is embarking on a challenging but exciting journey to improve the way that people with disabilities access support.  It is introducing a co-production model that focuses on shaping services with the people who are accessing them. The participants on the day represented service-users, carers, and council employees; and they brought with them a complex mix of scepticism, uncertainty, and optimism.  

We at Interact are very familiar with the journey stakeholders typically go through in the face of transformation; starting with trepidation, progressing to denial and resistance, before developing into acceptance and adoption.  The key to a successful transition from resistance to adoption is a combination of transparency and dialogue: the more those affected feel that their concerns are heard, the more likely they are to embrace new ways of working.  

And how better than to do so than by employing theatre-based experiential learning, a medium that is in essence collective and democratic?  With our unique approach to analytical, practice-based learning, Interact was able to systematically support stakeholders to unpick the range of opinions and anxieties surrounding this significant cultural change for all involved.  Our experience of exploring how beliefs and attitudes can both help and hinder progress enabled us to help participants understand –  and take responsibility for – their own role in the changing services.

In Gloucestershire we saw a clear commitment to transparency and candid debate.  The characters Interact were asked to portray in Forum theatre scenes represented the challenges facing both service-users and providers, and allowed the council to acknowledge some of the flaws in their own system.  This level of frankness gained the trust of the participants, and therefore brought about more fruitful discussions. While no organisation will experience change in the same way, in order to innovate in any setting we need to emphasise the agency of all our stakeholders, and work together to negotiate change. 

Lorna McGinty

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All the Jung dudes: Insights Discovery and behavioural diversity

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Increasingly Interact’s clients are keen for staff to have a common reference point for talking about communication and behaviours. A popular one is the Insights Discovery model. Recently seven of Interact’s facilitators became accredited in Insights and one of them, Guy Fearon, introduces us to it below.

Insights Discovery is a model which, like many others we come across in the world of learning and development, is based on the theories of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Jung was a prominent supporter of Sigmund Freud, but eventually fell out with him over a disagreement about how people are motivated. Deeply distressed by the separation, Jung turned his attention to studying why people differ, and how it is that two people can see the world in ways that are equally valid, but entirely different. For example, why is it that one person sees the glass as half full, and the other as half empty?

One example of his many ideas on the subject is the notion that some people are inherently more sociable than others, some more emotional; some more interested in the physical world and some more so in abstract concepts. The fact that this is now simply considered common sense is a mark of the deep influence Jung has had on our culture; psychological terms he coined such as ‘extroversion’ and ‘introversion’ have passed into everyday use and are widely understood.

Insights Discovery is a way of looking at individual differences through this lens, and it does so in a very user-friendly way. Using the system on several of our programmes, we have found that participants quickly and easily grasp the fundamentals of the different preferences Jung identified. This can have huge implications for how they resolve issues in the workplace and how they approach conversations. This kind of system raises people’s awareness of diversity in a way they possibly haven’t considered closely before. By that I mean the psychological diversity of how people ‘tick’, what is important to them, how they communicate, and most importantly how they like to be communicated with. 

Often we find people having ‘lightbulb’ moments in workshops, when aspects of their leadership challenges or team relationships suddenly come into focus in a new way. They realise that there are other ways of achieving their objectives, of presenting themselves to others, and that things aren’t quite as ‘stuck’ as they had thought. The thrust of what we do at Interact is, in my opinion, making sure that people leave our courses with more options than they had when they arrived, and Insights is a simple and powerful addition to the many methods we use to achieve this.

Guy Fearon

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Online learning for London Underground

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Interact has been commissioned to design and deliver an extensive programme with London Underground. We are working with 1700 Station Supervisors to develop customer service and to increase confidence and skills around people management. 

There is a significant online component that goes before and after our face-to-face experiential training. For the pre-course work we have made 130 short film clips that introduce the programme and provide key information about forthcoming changes at London Underground. 

Two characters, Stark and Cortez guide participants through their online learning journey. This film is the first time we meet them… 

Naomi Ludlam

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Interact Scholarships for Rose Bruford College students

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We are delighted to announce that we will be sponsoring two undergraduate acting and performance students at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance from September this year. 

With theatre skills such a fundamental component of the methodology we've developed, we wanted to give back something to the drama school community from which many of us  have originated. 

We selected Rose Bruford for the quality of education provided and its commitment to nurturing students' innovation and enterprise skills as well as their creativity as performers. We also have a number of Rose Bruford graduates working for us whose creative flare, enthusiasm and commitment are outstanding. 

Please see the press release for further information.

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