To mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re thrilled to be able to bring you this guest blog from Tim Moss CBE, Chief Executive and Comptroller General of the UK Intellectual Property Office. Tim, pictured below signing the Time to Change Pledge, tells us why mental health is one of the IPO’s key priorities and what the Office has been doing to demonstrate its commitment to the issue. There are some great ideas here, which organisations throughout the IP sector could use to help their employees and create more inclusive and supportive places to work.
I am delighted to have been asked to write a blog for Mental Health Awareness Week for IP Inclusive as mental health is such an important issue that we need to talk about more. I know from my own family experience that mental health issues can affect anyone at any time and being able to talk openly about it and learn from each other is vital.
At the IPO one of the central strands of our strategy is making the IPO a brilliant place to work. For many years the focus of our well-being work was on physical health but in recent years we have increased our understanding of how important mental health is for individuals and for the organisation as a whole. We now have a specific mental health strategy which outlines our commitment to good mental health and the practical support we provide. There are a variety of resources to help our people, including a manager’s toolkit, mental health advocates, staff counsellors and training. We’ve also run a number of lunchtime seminars where people from across the IPO have spoken about their own experiences which have really helped to de-stigmatise mental health issues. As a result of these a number of groups specifically aimed at peer to peer support have been started. However, there is still much we are learning in this area and to be a brilliant place to work we need to improve.
In order to underpin the importance we place on this work, and to help us improve our provision on mental health, we made mental health one of key priorities in our Corporate Plan for 2018-2019 by having a Ministerial Target to externally validate and benchmark our provision for the mental health of our people. To do this we used Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index. This meant we had a completely independent audit of our policies and practice on mental health by the mental health charity Mind. This involved our staff being asked to complete an anonymous survey about mental health and their experience in the IPO. I’m really grateful that so many of our staff took the time to do this as that information is key for us to understand the impact of our current mental health provisions and what we need to do next. We were absolutely delighted a couple of weeks ago to be one of only 15 organisations in the UK to get a Gold Award. That said, we are keen not to stand still and the report gives us many ideas of what we can do to improve.
Our Corporate Plan for 2019-2020 continues to provide a clear focus on mental health and in it we have committed to driving forward mental health targets including implementing a stress and resilience action plan. We think that there’s more we could and should do and we are keen to continue to learn from IP Inclusive and other organisations. It’s through our work with IP Inclusive that we became aware of the great work which LawCare has been doing on mental health in the legal profession. As a result of this LawCare recently came to the IPO and presented to over 100 of our staff and we are continuing to look at what we can learn from LawCare in terms of best practice for mental health.
We’re really pleased to be able to work with IP Inclusive on a number of initiatives, including holding joint webinars on mental health. So, please do sign up to come to the IPO in Newport on 13th June to talk about “how the character traits of legal professionals undermine their mental wellbeing”. We look forward to hosting both patent examiners and attorneys to discuss this important issue.
Tim Moss, Chief Executive and Comptroller General, Intellectual Property Office