Leading by Example – Nando’s commitment to mental wellbeing
Alison Thorogood is Learning & Development Manager for Nando’s, home to the legendary flame-grilled peri peri chicken. She has extensive experience in the hospitality and retail sectors having worked in a variety of roles across operations and HR. Alison has been fundamental in raising the profile of mental wellbeing within Nando’s by working with Mental Health at Work to introduce a programme to help managers understand, manage and promote mental health.
Tell us a bit about what your organisation is doing in this area?
We have a saying in Nando’s “It’s the people that make the chicken” and we do everything we can to help all of our Nandocas (the name for people who work at Nando’s) be the best they can be. Mental health is of particular importance to us given our young, diverse teams and all the additional elements that come with working in hospitality. We’ve partnered with Mental Health at Work (MHAW.uk.com) to roll out workshops to help managers understand, manage and promote mental health. It’s early days for us, we wanted to act quickly, and as our culture already lends itself to our managers taking great care of their teams it felt like the right place to start.
What benefits have you seen so far?
The biggest one that springs to mind is the positive feedback from managers following the workshops. Prior to roll out managers were telling us that they were experiencing an ever-growing number of Nandocas coming to them with concerns about their mental health. As is in their nature as head of the family in their restaurant, they were really trying to offer help and support but weren’t sure how to manage the conversations and where to refer people to for further help and advice. The overriding feedback has been that ‘a weight has been lifted from their shoulders’. They are now clear on the parameters of their role, Nando’s expectations of them and how they can best support their teams by having genuine caring conversations and, where necessary, signposting them to experts who can help.
What have been the biggest hurdles?
No real hurdles, this was much needed and supported throughout the business. My advice to others would be; don’t underestimate the number of calls and conversations that will arise following any intervention around mental health. Once people feel it is ok to talk, from my experience you’ll be inundated with requests for further support. It’s important that those who people will turn to feel equipped and ready for these conversations and that they are confident signposting people to where they can seek expert advice and support.
What do you do personally to manage your own positive mental health?
I’ve been adding to my toolkit over the years to include; eating and sleeping well, taking time out for myself and not feeling guilty about doing so (that’s the trickiest one) regular mindfulness practice and meditation, yoga, walking and also a tricky but important one is to say ‘no’ sometimes to friends and family. I find myself being pulled in all directions and as I love to give to others, both inside and outside of work, I can sometimes exhaust myself if I don’t get enough of all of the above. I’m still learning, a recent lesson is that I need to invest time and energy regularly into looking after my own mental health like I do my physical health. We all give ourselves a hard time about getting to the gym to keep our body fit, do we bring the same level of attention to the fitness of our mind?
Who has had the most positive influence on your career or on your approach to work, and what did they teach you?
I’m not sure I can name one person, I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing and inspirational people who have all influenced different things. One thing that springs to mind is ‘follow your gut’. By that I mean that if something is niggling you and you’re feeling it somewhere in your body, tune into it as there will likely be an emotion attached to it. By focussing on that feeling, as opposed to dismissing it, you will eventually work out what it’s telling you.
If you’d know then, what you know now… is there anything that you’d want to go back and change?
Looking after and being kind to yourself is just as important, if not more so than looking out for others. How can you be a great leader if you’re not personally feeling physically and mentally strong yourself?
In 5 years, what would you like to see being approached differently about mental health in the workplace?
I would like it to be common nature that we are talking about and resourcing mental health the same way as we do physical health. In fact, we won’t be separating the two, when we talk about ‘health’ everyone will instinctively know that we are incorporating both.
Alison Thorogood is Learning & Development Manager at Nando’s. She can be reached at email@example.com.