Retailers join together to launch Mental Health Support for Retail Workers

In a UK industry-first, seven leading retailers have joined together in an effort to improve the mental wellbeing of staff, with the help of Samaritans.

On World Mental Health Day, a group of retailers have joined together to launch a new online training guide designed to help the mental health and wellbeing of retail workers.

Funded by the John Lewis Partnership, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASOS, the Co-op, M&S and Next and developed with the expertise of Samaritans, Wellbeing in Retail aims to aid the 2.9 million people that work in retail. The online guide will help workers look after their own mental health, give advice on how to support others who may be struggling and signposts where to go for extra help.

Retail is the largest private sector employer in the UK and the development of this online guide was inspired by joint research from the John Lewis Partnership, Marks & Spencer, the Co-op and Next, which revealed that over 50% of the 2,000 retail workers questioned, could not recognise the signs of someone needing emotional support and around 25% would not feel confident approaching an upset colleague.

The Wellbeing in Retail online guide features practical information and suggestions, activities and resources that can be accessed whenever and however workers need it and is accessible via desktop, phone or tablet. Tools such as breathing techniques, the Samaritans listening wheel, mood barometer, films from mental health experts and case studies are available. Workers can use the guide as often as they like to help them to build their own emotional resilience and to give them the courage and confidence to support someone else when they are struggling.

Sir Cary Cooper CBE who specialises in organisational psychology and health and is supporting the guide’s launch said: “We spend a third of our lives at work, so it’s inevitable that it can impact our overall health and wellbeing. In my opinion you can never provide enough mental health support at work so I welcome the launch of this guide as it could benefit so many retail workers.”

Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Mental health issues can affect us all – and stigmas and barriers that once prevented people talking about the issues are starting to erode. The world of work and retail in particular, is fast paced and constantly changing, and we want employees to feel supported. I hope this guide is a stepping stone to creating further conversations on mental health and gives workers the confidence to use it when they may need it.”

Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive of the Samaritans said: “It’s so encouraging to see retailers come together like this for the first time in the interest of improving their staff’s mental health. Over recent years, we have seen a real step change in the attitudes and behaviours of employers as they actively seek to address how they can improve wellbeing in the workplace and we are proud to be part of making this transition happen.”

The launch of the Wellbeing in Retail tool complements Samaritans’ Wellbeing in the Workplace online learning programme which was launched in 2018 initially for City workers with the help of The Lord Mayor’s Appeal and has been successfully rolled out to over 800 organisations. The programme brought Samaritans’ listening and wellbeing expertise into the workplace to equip employees with the skills to look after their emotional health and look out for others.