Lauren Adams, would you like to introduce yourself and share a little about your background?
I’m Lauren Adams. In my day job I’m an HR Director at the CBI, responsible for all things ‘people’. This includes everything from recruitment, to payroll and benefits, employee relations, performance and development, training, diversity and inclusion, wellbeing… when it comes to people, the list is endless!
My job is essentially making sure we attract, retain and develop great people and that our organisation supports people to thrive at work. My previous roles have all been very similar but more targeted towards learning and organisational development, making sure people have the skills and opportunities they need to grow their careers.
Outside of work, I’m recently married and spend my weekends with friends and family and exploring all of the UK’s National Trusts!
One of the things you’re passionate about is encouraging an open culture of discussing mental and physical wellbeing in the workplace. Why do you, Lauren, believe this is so important and how could Astriid help to make this more mainstream?
In the UK, one in three people of working age have a long-term health condition and as many as one in four people might suffer from mental ill-health. As an HR Director, I know that such a huge proportion of your talent pool being at risk means there is definite potential for loss of talent.
As a business, you are uniquely placed to have a positive impact on your staff’s wellbeing and as employers, there are lots of things we can all do – small or large – that can make a difference to how our employees feel at work, or if they even want to come to work for you at all! Astriid is very well placed to be able to support organisations with accessing this hidden talent pool and form those connections where currently they are missing.
For me as an individual, I suffer from mental ill-health; I know first-hand how challenging it can be to remain in work and manage your wellbeing. I am lucky to work for an organisation that supports my wellbeing and offers great benefits such as flexible working, private medical care, access to mental health first aiders, training and more, all of which really contribute to helping me recover or stay well.
Astriid has a huge opportunity to link individuals in with organisations who are equally well placed to offer such roles – and I can’t wait to help them get started! They also help break the stigma around ill health and working – showing that ill health doesn’t necessarily have to be a barrier to a great and fulfilling career.
For many chronically ill people, finding and sustaining employment suitable for their needs can be challenging – not just physically, but mentally too. Do you have any tips for Astriid candidates on looking after their mental health in the workplace?
Mental health is an ever-changing spectrum and very individual, so your wellbeing plan may well look different to mine, but I encourage everyone to spend some time thinking about what works for them. A period of being unwell and off work this summer reminded me how very hard being unwell (physically or mentally) at work really is. After this, I had a few reflections I shared with our business and so will again now. They aren’t the normal ‘HR’ advice, but they’re what have worked for me:
- Put your own oxygen mask on first – as much as you can love what you do, you can’t do it if you don’t take care of yourself
- It’s good to talk: my team and my manager knowing what I could/can and couldn’t handle has helped us all balance priorities, put in place realistic boundaries as I returned, and made everything feel much more manageable to me
- Use the benefits your organisation has on offer. If you don’t know what they are, then ask: accessing CBT through our private medical insurance has been a real lifeline to me over the years, as has our free employee assistance programme telephone line
- Leave the office, or wherever you work, get off your emails and have your evenings and weekends (it turns out only having 1-2 hours on an evening to wind down isn’t conducive to sleep… who knew?!)
- The office won’t close down if you aren’t there. A big thing for me has been the ability to phase my return and work flexibly. If you are off then yes, the work guilt may be real, but you’ll be so much more productive if you come back when you are ready
- There are a lot of resources out there you can look at – the mental health at work gateway is a great starting place, bringing together resources, toolkits, blogs and case studies all into one place.
Lauren, as a Trustee for the charity, what are you most looking forward to within Astriid?
For me, this is such an exciting time as I can see the huge potential Astriid has. It is such a unique charity and I can’t wait to get stuck in and help make a difference, to assist people in accessing roles and organisations they would love and be an asset to.
For me, the goal has to be the placements and turning all the names who have signed up either as potential employees or as businesses into connections. So, my overall goal for the year is to help support those fantastic organisations that have signed up to start making job offers and placements.
And the most important question of all: we’ve heard that you’re a Harry Potter enthusiast – tell us, what Hogwarts House do you belong to?
I am indeed; even my guinea pigs are named after Harry Potter characters. I’m a bookworm at heart and love to learn so I’m probably a Ravenclaw. Although, I’m pretty sure my husband and family would attest I certainly have the odd bit of Slytherin from time to time!