England’s dealerships are set to reopen on April 12, but one organisation is urging businesses to not just focus on the sales – but employees’ mental health too.
Speaking on Car Dealer Live, sponsored by CG Professional, Menable founder Steve Whitton said that with the excitement of getting back to some kind of normal, there’s the risk mental health could be overlooked in the rush to drive sales.
He said how those working in the motor trade are susceptible to ‘putting a lid on things’ and to suffer from the ‘overt confidence’ that’s often needed to get the job done.
The past year has seen a melting pot of existing issues and new concerns surrounding the pandemic and job security worries.
‘The past 12 months have created a huge amount of uncertainty, and as a species we like stability,’ Whitton said on the show – which you can watch at the top of this story.
It’s a case of remembering why you do this job and I would ask and urge all businesses to ask why are they in business?
‘Mental health isn’t new – it’s been here forever; if you walk into a company and you’ve got a broken arm, people will ask what’s happened, while mental health has always been kept private.
‘The last 12 months have allowed people to reconsider and revaluate and perhaps come to view that the normal they had is not the normal they now want – that can even be as daft as slipping on a pair of shoes after three months.
‘There’s the anxiety of whether you or a member of your family is going to get coronavirus – you put all of this together and that’s a huge melting pot of anxiety and uncertainty.’
He explained how mental health needs to be considered for all employees in the run-up to April 12 and beyond, and conversations between colleagues need to be promoted rather than target setting.
‘The reality is there’s a very positive side to mental health and in many cases it’s our mental health that drives us,’ Whitton said.
‘It’s a case of remembering why you do this job and I would ask and urge all businesses to ask why are they in business? What is it they’re trying to achieve? Let’s get everybody back in on [April 12] with the same purpose.’
Whitton said there are some simple things that can be done to make people feel comfortable.
‘It’s all about communication and support,’ he said, ‘because once you get those things right and start opening up and talking to people you realise there isn’t a massive amount to do to get people’s mindsets just right.
‘We need to accept the fact that people coming back to work are all different – some have enjoyed watching Netflix for three months while others can’t wait to get back and have hated home schooling.
‘The key is for leaders and managers to set the right cultural temperature – and the key to that is communication and not bashing people over the head about targets. It’s also accepting the mental health picture is going to look different for every single person.
‘Make it fun, make it interactive and give people a purpose.’
The M stands for mental health across the sector. It’s not just men of a certain age but men and women of all ages
Whitton, along with a number of friends, coaches and councillors set up Menable last summer with the aim of raising awareness and creating proactive steps across the motor trade and car industry to tackle the issue of mental health.
‘I’ve been around in the motor industry for 35 years, and I felt I couldn’t be the only guy of a certain age who’s had issues and put a bit of a lid on them,’ he said.
‘When we went out there with Menable we were inundated with with responses – and with the pandemic everything has risen to the forefront.
‘Originally it was intended to be a support network for men because the industry is male-dominated and we wanted to enable them to talk openly about mental health.
‘We men are very good at keeping a lid on stuff and we came up with the branding of Menable, but since then things have moved on and the M stands for mental health across the sector. It’s not just men of a certain age but men and women of all ages.’
In the interview, Whitton explains his personal struggles, why as an industry the motor trade is good at not communicating mental health issues, and much more. Click the video to watch the full interview.
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