Leyton Orient FC and Moore Kingston Smith team up to tackle workplace wellbeing

6 September 2021 / Insight posted in Article

Leyton Orient, London’s second oldest football club, has learned some lessons from back-of-shirt sponsors and firm of chartered accountants Moore Kingston Smith. While their fields of expertise are worlds apart, the organisations share common goals; commitment to inclusivity, local community and promoting the mental health agenda – both hold charity partnerships with Mind. Following a Moore Kingston Smith webinar addressing mental health challenges in today’s working environment, the club chose to emulate the firm’s initiatives, after hearing the benefits of introducing a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) scheme.

Mental health hasn’t always been a priority for businesses, which is at odds with the statistics; in England, one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year* and one in six report experiencing a common mental health problem in any given week**. Moore Kingston Smith recognises that mental health can affect all members of the firm and that we all face challenges in life, such as grief, divorce, and trauma.

Therefore, providing people with a safe, healthy and supportive environment at work is key, and Moore Kingston Smith is committed to nurturing an inclusive workplace culture, where healthy lifestyle choices are encouraged. Four years ago, after first partnering with Mind, the firm identified the need to develop a wellbeing policy and trained team members in Mental Health First Aid.

Mental Health First Aiders raise awareness, consequently reducing the stigma surrounding the subject. Enhancing knowledge and confidence in dealing with issues promotes early intervention – a significant first step. Moore Kingston Smith has found the impact of having the scheme in place has led to increased use of the Employee Assistance Programme, reduced sickness rates, speedier return to work rates, and people feeling increasingly comfortable speaking candidly about the state of their mental health.

Having developed a wellbeing strategy over time meant that when the pandemic hit, the firm had a structure in place, allowing it to intensify its efforts based on that foundation. Moore Kingston Smith now has 15 trained Mental Health First Aiders across six offices. “We know the impact has been positive,” says Managing Partner, Maureen Penfold. “We’ve seen an increase in mental health being cited as reasons for sickness, but our cases haven’t gone up. This demonstrates that we’re making progress with the awareness, and we see our people are more comfortable to open up and speak honestly about how they’re feeling.”

Hosting a webinar was a natural extension of the firm’s wellbeing strategy, discussing the topic, sharing knowledge and encouraging other organisations to take ownership of mental health and wellbeing within their own workplaces. In attendance was another Mind partner – Leyton Orient Football Club.

Leyton Orient is experienced in mental health awareness. The club’s Director of Football Martin Ling is a Mind ambassador and regular speaker on the subject, and his passion, understanding, and empathy come from his own struggles. Meanwhile, Mind’s Football League campaign clearly highlights that mental health remains a taboo subject within the male-dominated football industry.

Therefore, when details of Moore Kingston Smith’s webinar landed, it caught the attention of Josh Stephens, Head of Commercial. Not only did the club see the strength in imitating such an initiative, but how far reaching the benefits of being aware are. While the club was keen to go ahead, it was essential to know what was needed to do this successfully and Danny Macklin, the club’s CEO, requested a meeting to understand more. Moore Kingston Smith Partner Karen Wardell shared her personal experiences of being one of the firm’s Mental Health First Aiders, the benefits of training Mental Health First Aiders and what is required to realistically implement such an initiative, given that a familiar challenge for businesses is resource.

Leyton Orient now has four Mental Health First Aiders, with plans to expand this number over the next couple of years, eventually extending the service to the players’ families and equally into the ladies’ team, which Moore Kingston Smith also sponsors. The club has now set up more social opportunities, giving visibility to the benefits of the scheme.

According to research from Benenden Health, more than half of people surveyed either don’t have a workplace mental health policy (27.9%) or don’t know if they have one (26.1%)***. Managing Partner Maureen Penfold recognises that “without one, it’s difficult to even begin to talk about it and communication is essential for reducing the stigma surrounding the topic.” The firm hopes that by having these conversations, they can encourage other organisations to take ownership of mental health in the workplace and empower others to bring about positive change.

Josh Stephens said, “The club wouldn’t be where it is now in terms of mental health without being exposed to Moore Kingston’s Smith’s seminar. We’re really thankful that we engaged, and it made us realise that there’s a lot more we could do to support our colleagues and players.”