Case study

Helping a social enterprise prioritise mental health

Nottingham-based social enterprise, White Rose Recycled Fashion, has been receiving support through our Mental Health and Productivity Pilot. The overall aim is to improve the mental wellbeing of its 90 employees and 105 volunteers, whose work has been significantly affected by the pandemic.

About White Rose

White Rose Recycled Fashion is a social enterprise that sells high-quality, hand-picked recycled fashion via its website and 13 stores in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Sheffield. It donates its profits to the Aegis Trust, a charity that works with communities at risk of, or rebuilding from, genocide and mass atrocities.

About the Pilot

The Mental Health and Productivity Pilot (MHPP) is a three-year programme funded by Midlands Engine, until June 2022. It's a partnership project involving ten organisations and it aims to help integrate effective mental health provision within the working environment. Our University is a partner and is currently working with businesses in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire (D2N2), Herefordshire, Shropshire (The Marches) and Staffordshire.

The story so far

HR Manager for White Rose, Amy Zibek, explains why they wanted to become involved in this pilot: “I initially enquired in late March 2021, just as we were emerging from the third national lockdown. As a non-essential retailer, we’d had to close our doors several times — in total, for about 7-8 months. Many of our employees had of course been on furlough, so it had been a very difficult year.

“We were thinking about the impact this had had on the team and wanting to support them, but we didn’t have the capacity or resources to put together a mental health strategy on our own. Then I saw a post on LinkedIn about the MHPP and it seemed like exactly the support we needed and at no cost to us, which was perfect given the circumstances and impact from the pandemic on our organisation. So I signed us up straight away!”

— Amy Zibek, HR Manager for White Rose

Workers at White Rose Recycled Fashion sort clothes
Person giving presentation about mental health
Person working on a fashion retail website

Support received

Over the last seven months, Kate Wood, MHPP Project Manager at the University has been supporting White Rose to improve mental health awareness and support within the organisation. This has included providing advice and guidance, information, and access to subsidised training.  

All store managers and team leaders within White Rose have now completed Mental Health Awareness training to help them recognise when colleagues are struggling. This training will soon be rolled out to everyone in the business. The HR team and senior leaders have also completed Mental Health First Aid training, which equips them to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental distress. Amy said:

“Before, we had no mental health awareness training in place, and no-one qualified to help people with mental health matters. Now we do and it’s making a real difference. Some of our store managers and our HR team have already used what they learned on the training to support people.”

The next steps are for White Rose to finalise its Mental Health Strategy and ensure it is embedded into the business strategy so that it’s a clear priority for the organisation. A mental health check will soon become a mandatory part of all staff appraisals and they will be establishing mental health ‘champions’ throughout the business, who will be tasked with removing the stigma, supporting the team and advocating for positive mental health in the organisation for all staff and volunteers.

Amy explained: “There is still a stigma in society around mental health. People often don’t want to discuss mental health problems with their employer because they are worried it might negatively affect their career or relations with others at work. We want to break down this stigma in our organisation and have properly trained people that employees and volunteers can reach out to for the right support at the time they need it.” 

White Rose’s longer-term plan is to work towards the Thrive at Work accreditation, which also forms part of the MHPP offer.

Key benefits

Although she acknowledges there is much more work to be done, Amy explains how White Rose has benefitted from the Pilot so far:

“It’s been invaluable and continues to be. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve half of what we have done, without the support of the MHPP. Being able to get the training at reduced rates has been a huge benefit, as we are a charity, but more importantly we’ve gained access to expertise and resources that we didn’t have before." 

“Our contact, Kate, will regularly send relevant information through — such as about awareness days or training, as well as information we can pass to the team — and she checks in every month to see how we are getting on. Kate has access to so many resources that we know are credible; it has saved us so much time. It’s been like having an additional, free resource in our HR team!”

“In the longer-term, we expect to be able to measure benefits around increased staff wellbeing, reduced absenteeism and sickness absence, as well as improved retention. But for now, we know we are supporting our people better and putting mental health high on the agenda — and the momentum of this is wholly down to the support of Kate and this pilot scheme."