Experiential Training


Looking after you – what individuals, teams and organisations can do

Hello! Right, before we start, make yourself a nice brew (and maybe grab a choccy biccy whilst you’re at it).

This is your chance to have some ‘me-time’. Ten minutes, to sit, relax, watch a short film and read about one of the most important topics – looking after you.

Not sure you can do this at work? You’re wrong. It’s in a company’s best interests to look after its employees. Why? Because a happy, healthy employee is a productive employee.

So, go. Pop the kettle on. Make that cuppa!



. . . Right, are you back? Brew in hand? Excellent.

Let’s begin.

So, what did you think? Did you recognise any behaviours? Whilst this montage is a comedic look at the challenges of remote working, it does touch on serious issues. So with that in mind, I want to ask:

How are you? No, seriously. How are you? I want to know.

If you’re a bit all over the place, that’s okay. You are not alone. 2020 is a year we’ll all remember. I don’t even need to say the words . . .  [Covid-19.] [Pandemic.]

We are living through an unparalleled time, which is testing everyone in uniquely different ways. Even within my own circle of friends and family, it’s evident that people are having dissimilar experiences: Professionally, some people have returned to the workplace, key workers never left, and others remain working remotely. Some people can see friends and family (from a distance), whereas others can’t because of local restrictions.

Spring proved to be a beacon of light for many earlier in the year. ‘Those with access to balconies, gardens . . . have been benefiting from them during weeks of lockdown, while others have been trapped inside.’ – BBC News: What outdoor space tells us about inequality. Winter, with its biting chill, short days and long, dark nights is certainly going to be an interesting time.

Then looming above everything is health. Maybe we or our loved ones have chronic health conditions. Maybe we’re a carer. Maybe we’ve lost someone. Or maybe we’re struggling mentally with all of this. And who would blame us?!

It’s been a stressful time(!) and we’re unfortunately not through it yet. Millions of people have experienced ‘local lockdowns’, some for months on end and with the new three tiered system of governmental restrictions and with cases rising, millions more will face increased restrictions. We clearly have a long and difficult winter ahead of us.

With all of these vastly different experiences and challenges comes a significant impact on our mental health, resilience and well-being.

In the first six weeks after 23rd March 2020 (UK national lockdown), 57% of people reported symptoms of anxiety and 64% symptoms of depression (study of 3000+ adults), Kings College London and University of Nottingham found. Kavita Vedhara, Professor of Health Psychology said: “This is far in excess of levels usually seen in the UK.” – The Guardian: Stress, anxiety and depression levels soar under UK Covid-19 restrictions.

I’m not ashamed to say my feelings and behaviours have been up, down and all around of late. I’m having to check in with myself and make an effort to top up my resilience regularly. Sometimes I’m okay and other times I’m not. I’m adjusting to this new normal. All whilst the landscape continues to change around me.

What can play a considerable part in how you feel, is how well your organisation, your colleagues and you look after your resilience and well-being. And you absolutely have the right to ask for support in this area. An organisation’s staff are its greatest resource and companies should be investing in and making their staff a priority.

If you’re an employer, when was your last staff satisfaction survey? Have you evaluated staff wellbeing recently? Are you allocating more time and giving staff more frequent 1:1s to see how you can support them? Do you have an employee assistance programme where staff can choose to access counselling? Are staff receiving enough praise? Do staff have realistic goals?

Perhaps you’re reading this thinking, “Yes we have policies and support mechanisms, such as mental health first aiders within our company,” but have you checked your processes are actually working lately? Are they fit-for-purpose? Fit for this unprecedented challenge?!

. . . Or has it been pedal to the metal? All hands on deck (minus those furloughed – which has been a difficult transition for many). Staff performing tasks outside their role descriptions? Regular reviews forgotten?

Don’t worry if you’ve been in survival mode! We’ve all been there and we’re all doing what we can for our businesses, livelihoods and families.

Living in stress is not sustainable long-term though. It takes a toll on mental health, resilience and well-being. At some point an organisation must prevail with a plan and a framework which provides people with structure and support.

Now is the time to reflect on how organisations, teams and individuals can best look out for one another. At Enact Solutions we run workshops on Resilience and Wellbeing in the Workplace, both virtually and face-to-face. It’s a topic I’m super passionate about and is vital training for all staff, especially during these trying times.

Within society, there’s a common misconception that people either have resilience and good mental health or they don’t. This is categorically wrong! In our drama-based experiential workshop delegates:

  • discover what fills and depletes their ‘resilience jars’ (it’s different for everyone).
  • use live anonymous polling to explore their feelings – something they’re often nervous to discuss with employers.
  • are provided with a safe space where they can talk openly about work-life challenges.
  • learn clear definitions to increase mental health and resilience understanding.
  • witness first-hand the dangers of unhelpful ‘coping’ strategies.
  • practise supporting others with effective empathy.
  • examine what positive, tangible changes organisations can make.

Resilience is about being able to recover from setbacks, even in times of stress. To apply new approaches to problem-solving and adapt to change. If there’s one time we particularly need to have and understand resilience, it’s now!

Organisational Psychologist, John Amaechi sums up the difficulties of working through a pandemic perfectly: “Nobody is working from home. What we are is, by law, locked in our houses for most of the time to avoid dying from a virus or spreading a virus to somebody else who is going to be more susceptible, and therefore die . . . And in that backdrop . . . we have been attempting to perform at work.” (1min19 – 2min16)

Amaechi’s description really highlights the stark reality of what we’re living and trying to work through. As Imperial College London (ICL) explains: “Feeling positive in the workplace has an important part to play, contributing to many of the essential elements of our wellbeing.” With that in mind, how can we not invest in it?

I adore ICL’s writing on the topic of ‘flourishing’ and want to leave that with you now: ‘Flourishing means a lot more than the absence of stress, or mental ill-health. It is about having energy, passion, self-esteem, improved physical health, supportive relationships and being successful in our endeavours.’

So let’s learn how to look after ourselves, our colleagues and our employees. It’s time to flourish.

Jemma Houghton


Jemma Houghton is one of our Associates at Enact Solutions. She’s been blogging for us on a number of topics recently and is really passionate about raising awareness and having conversations on mental health, resilience and well-being.


‘It Was Truly…. Awful’: Witnessing Workplace Bullying

Bullying, Harassment & IncivilityI recently wrote about the difficult conversations we are having of late and how to turn these into more productive communication. One such topic, which can be very difficult to talk about, is bullying, harassment, and incivility in the workplace. As with anything, the more we talk about it, the easier it becomes to discuss. So with that in mind…

…Let’s look at and discuss the data first. HR Magazine wrote a bullying and harassment article in 2015 referencing research conducted by Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). ‘Acas estimates that workplace bullying costs the UK economy almost £18 billion per year in absence, staff turnover and lost productivity.’ – Seeking better solutions: tackling bullying and ill-treatment in Britain’s workplaces.

This is a shocking amount of money, especially given the state of the economy at the moment: “The UK economy suffered its biggest slump on record between April and June [2020] as coronavirus lockdown measures pushed the country officially into recession.” – BBC News article. 

Whilst workplace bullying and harassment carries a hefty price-tag, it’s nothing compared to the human cost, as Acas explains: ‘Research has found that people bullied at work can experience a range of psychological and physical health problems, often affecting their relationships with family and friends, and for some, resulting in post-traumatic stress disorders.’

Witnessing bullying behaviours also carries a cost. Acas’ research indicates that, ‘those who witness bullying and its impacts may be equally affected.’

What’s most upsetting though, is the severity workplace bullying can cause: ‘In more extreme cases, helpline advisers reported that callers had related how workplace bullying led to them self-harming or contemplating suicide.’

And frighteningly, research suggests that the numbers are rising.

So how many people are experiencing it? Well the Trade Union Congress (TUC) conducted some research in this area in 2015. A poll carried out by YouGov for the TUC revealed ‘nearly a third of people (29%) have been bullied at work‘. It’s important to note that the sample size was relatively small at 1,738 adults, so more research is needed to see if this is representative across the UK workforce. Whatever the number though, we can all agree it’s too many and the price too high. 

Whilst the majority of organisations have dozens of policies, including on the topic of bullying and harassment, the problem with these documents is that they’re not often revisited. That’s why it’s important to have regular training, so that we can identify problematic behaviours when they occur, have a practised response for dealing with them and nip them in the bud.

I remember the first time I witnessed bullying in the workplace environment. Years ago, a manager started shouting at a staff-member, in the middle of an open plan office. The manager wanted to see a piece of work, but her employee had prioritised a separate report, for valid reasons. Regardless of the context, how the manager behaved was totally inappropriate. It was reminiscent of a parent losing their temper and full on screaming at their daughter.

It. Was. Truly…. Awful. I exchanged looks with nearby colleagues. I looked to older colleagues (I was in my twenties at the time), begging them silently to do something – to challenge the manager’s behaviour. However everyone just looked shocked and equally unsure what to do.

I considered interrupting the exchange, but wasn’t sure if this would make it worse? I was worried about the volatility of the manager… that she would find my interrupting her, unprofessional (!) and perhaps turn on me. Her anger was frightening. In moments like this, your thoughts race and it’s hard to know what to do in the moment.

The staff member looked deeply upset and uncomfortable during the rant. Embarrassment and shame flooded her face and you could see her willing the tirade to be over; much like we all were. Her chagrin (unjust at that) was awful to witness. As soon as the manager walked away, I emailed my colleague and asked how they were, stating how inappropriate the manager had been. She was grateful for my email. She said the relationship had been deteriorating, but she didn’t know why. She seemed resigned to that type of ‘communication’ from her boss and that she’d have to suffer through it. She felt her only other option was to perhaps look for another job. 

We spoke again, in person, the next day. A few colleagues had emailed her, which was nice, but it seemed no-one had spoken to the manager or reported it. I was shocked. Evidently the bystander effect was at play. The University of Portsmouth Research Portal explains that ‘diffusion of responsibility; audience inhibition and social influence’, are key factors which play into bystander reticence.

I’m a fairly passionate person; motivated strongly by ethics and I can’t bear injustice or unkindness. The incident kept replaying in my mind and I felt frustrated at the outcome. I was deeply upset for my colleague, so finally made an appointment with the department head to speak about the matter. 

It was a deeply uncomfortable conversation! I was nervous. I felt ‘inappropriate’, almost ‘wrong’ commenting on the behaviour of a more senior member of staff. I thought, ‘who am I, a more junior member of staff, to say a manager had behaved unacceptably?

You expect your managers to be professional, more knowledgeable, and to be ‘right’. So it was hard to stand up and say that something was amiss. That someone had been verbally abused. Bullied. These words carry weight. I had moments of doubt. Did I perceive it wrongly? Would the manager get in ‘too’ much trouble: a disciplinary note on their file? Thoughts whizzed through my head, right up to and during the meeting. 

Whilst the organisation was a great place to work – professional and liberal, I also worried that reporting it might affect my job; that I might be seen as someone ‘making waves’ and my fixed term contract not extended. 

The polarity of my thoughts was ridiculous. It’s because it was a new, uncomfortable and stressful experience for me. And one I had no experience in, so didn’t know how to navigate. 

I am so thankful that I stood up and said something. We’ve all had moments where we haven’t spoken up and regret it later. It can haunt you. It was the right thing to do for my colleague and they were grateful when I told them afterwards.

Experiencing bullying makes you vulnerable. It can leave indelible scars, if forced to face it alone. Active support and empathy from colleagues can increase a person’s self-efficacy and result in positive change within an organisation.

It was also a key learning moment for me. Whilst uncomfortable at the time, I feel that if I saw inappropriate behaviour like this again, I would address and challenge it more quickly; with less insecurity and more confidence.  

That’s why bullying and harassment policies aren’t enough. Organisations need to have regular and experiential training on these issues. You need to: 

  • practise establishing what constitutes bullying, harassment & incivility behaviour.
  • practise understanding the grey line between banter and bullying.
  • practise inner reflection, making sure you’re aware of your own behaviours and how they might be perceived.
  • practise challenging bullying, harassment or incivility, as this can be difficult to do.

In Enact Solutions’ Bullying, Harassment and Incivility Workshop, participants get to experience these inappropriate behaviours through fictional characters, in a realistic but safe environment. They see the impact bullying, harassment or incivility has on characters, through filmed and live interactive content. Crucially they get to practise working together to challenge the negative behaviours. 

In essence it’s about changing the culture to create a more collaborative and supportive environment, which in turn makes a healthier, happier and more productive workplace environment. And who doesn’t want that?

Thanks for reading.

Jemma Houghton


Jemma Houghton is one of our Associates at Enact Solutions. She works in a range of areas including research, writing, filming and workshop consultancy.