Mental Wellbeing At Work

An article written by Nigel Gilkes

As part of Impromptu’s vision to make a positive contribution to creating a safe and just world for all, we recently piloted a workshop on effective conversations about mental wellbeing at work.

During 2021/22 Impromptu associates Lisa Reeves, Simon Anderson and Gergo Danka have been in conversation with me about the increasing incidence of mental wellbeing issues in society generally and the workplace specifically.

Lisa and Simon, both trained mental health first aiders felt that their training really helped their awareness of the range of manifestations of mental ill health, the stigma surrounding the issue and how to signpost individuals to further help and support.  They also felt that more attention is needed on creating an environment where people feel able to talk about their mental wellbeing and the skills needed to initiate and sustain such conversations.  What to do if you notice a member of your team or a colleague who seems to be struggling with their mental well being?  What if someone approaches you, how do you have the conversation with them?

These questions go to the core of what Impromptu has extensive experience of – effective conversations, listening, empathising, asking great questions, summarising….could we build an offering that helps with these conversations?

So, the idea was born and working closely with the Ambassador Theatre Group’s Head of Technical Operations and Learning and Development Manager, we created a workshop that would use our expertise in creating engaging learning experiences to give participants:

  • Increased skill and confidence in using authentic connection and listening skills to help create a safe environment for dialogue around mental well-being
  • A greater awareness of the internal barriers people face, in both asking for help and proactively helping others
  • Greater confidence that they can make a positive contribution to creating a culture of openness regarding mental well-being

Our work was hugely informed by research carried out by Mig Walsh Burgess, Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Surrey into mental health in the backstage industry and the 2020 Beneden Mental Wellbeing Report.  Key findings of this research included:

  • A significant decrease in employee’s willingness to tackle such (mental health) discussions from 46% in 2017 to 28% in 2020.
  • Almost 40% of people working in the backstage industry identify with having a mental health condition
  • 60% of people in the backstage industry feel they can’t talk to their employers about mental health.

On 25th April, Nigel, Simon and Lisa ran the pilot with a group of technical, production and backstage managers at the Lyceum Theatre in London and it was a hugely positive experience with participants demonstrating courage, humility and skill in relation to what can be difficult conversations.  We ensured the workshop was engaging, light touch and varied in activities.  Pre and post workshop surveys with participants indicated significant gains for them in the following areas:

  • Their ability to notice a potential wellbeing concern in a member of their team
  • Their confidence to raise that concern with a team member
  • Their skill at managing a conversation about mental wellbeing

Their feedback shows they really valued:

  • The clear facilitation and non-judgemental approach
  • The opportunity to observe and actively intervene in conversations
  • The openness of the group

We’re now in conversation with ATG with how to take the pilot forwards.

If you would like a conversation about how we might help your organisation with effective mental wellbeing conversations, please contact