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Bringing mental fitness to the workplace

08 February 2019


Here at Octopus, we consider mental health to be equally important as physical health. Which is why we’ve launched a partnership with Sanctus, to offer free coaching sessions to all Octopus employees. We asked George Bell, Development Partner at Sanctus, to explain what they do, and why mental health coaching is so important.

Sanctus is a start-up that is on a mission to change the perceptions of mental health and to get people working on their mental health just as they do their physical health.

Much of the language at the moment focuses on the “one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue”, which is an incredibly important statistic, but the reality is that four in four of us have mental health.

Every single person has it, we’re just at different points on the spectrum.

Understanding mental fitness

Everyone understands the importance of physical health and fitness, but we’re asking why people don’t see mental health and fitness in the same way. Looking after your mental health and fitness should be just as acceptable as your physical health and fitness.

That’s where Sanctus comes in.

A start-up formed by life experience

Sanctus was founded by two best mates, George Bettany and James Routledge, who together established Sanctus off the back of their own bad experiences with previous workplaces and subsequent mental health issues.

They were previously running a sports tech start-up, and having convinced themselves that they couldn’t show any sign of weakness or vulnerability in the business world, they were never their authentic selves.

George Bell
Changing perceptions of mental health – George Bell, Development Partner at Sanctus.

Behind the bravado

George and James always talked about how they were “smashing it” or “killing it”, but never about the fact that they were actually struggling with stress, burnout, anxiety, management and targets.

Eventually, they had to shut the business down and let their team go, and this process, as well as the fact they’d been ignoring how they felt for so long, resulted in mental health issues for both of them.

The road to wellness

After going through a bit of a journey of self-discovery, and coming out the other side, they began to ask why mental health was such a scary topic, hidden in the shadows, and why people weren’t working on their mental health just like they do their physical health.

After starting to write honestly on the topic, more and more founders, leaders, CEOs, managers and employees began to contact them to share their own stories.

And that’s what led to Sanctus.

The Sanctus vision

Our long-term ambition is to build the world’s first mental health gyms on the high street, but right now, we’re building a version of the gym within the workplace.

This takes the form of 1:1 mental health coaching, where all individuals within a business are given access to a completely safe, confidential and impartial coaching space to bring whatever is on their mind.

Whether it’s good or bad, big or small, personal or professional, we’ve had people bring everything from issues and arguments through to promotions and relationships to the space.

There is nothing too whacky, weird or wonderful that you can talk about – we always say that if it’s on your mind, then you can talk about it.

While it’s not always the space to work on absolutely everything, it is a space where anything can be brought, and the coach can help signpost extra support if it’s needed.

A productive partnership

Our relationship with Octopus is a particularly special one. Octopus is our largest partner in terms of coaching days per month – having 10 days of coaching each month.

This means that there are 80 slots available every single month for people to work on their mental health, and 960 slots a year.

It’s an incredible commitment for a business to make, and the hard work that Kirstie Hawton and Sian Cattaneo have put in behind the scenes to make it happen has made the relationship that extra special.

It was also the first time that we’ve hosted two launch events for the same business. We got to see over 400 Octopus employees, and were given the chance to not only explain the thinking behind Sanctus, but also to discuss our views on mental health too.

That was a truly special day for us – seeing our largest ever turnout for a launch event and seeing so many people taking an interest in mental health.

Sanctus launch at Octopus
Simon Rogerson introduces the Sanctus team at the Octopus All-Company meeting.

Plans for the future

While Sanctus is still quite young as a start-up, we have ambitious plans to grow and to become the only mental health partner that a business needs, offering a holistic range of services that covers all parts of the mental health spectrum.

For now, we stay committed to giving all Octopus employees a completely confidential space where they can bring their full selves, speak what’s on their minds, and work on their mental health and fitness.

And, we’ll continue working closely with Octopus to help create a culture where mental health is at the forefront of everything they do.

For more information, take a look at the Sanctus website.