IFS is one of the major sponsors at the 1333Bikethon 2021 in Sri Lanka. The aim of the 1333Bikeathon “Out of the Shadows” campaign is to create national awareness of the 1333 toll free and confidential phone number and raise funds to sustain and expand its operations.
Following the success of the inaugural 1333Bikeathon in 2014, the campaign has become an annual event. The Bikeathon is a cycle ride over 1333 kilometers around Sri Lanka.
The ride will start on the 30th November from Independence Square in Colombo and conclude on 5th December at the Independence square followed by an event to welcome the riders. The duration of the ride is for six days where riders will complete an average of over 100 kilometers each day.
The IFS relationship with Sri Lanka
IFS has a 23 year relationship with Sri Lanka. Our roots run deep. Over 1/3 of our global workforce is based there, and we rely on our team in Colombo every day for R&D, global support and so much more. As the 2nd largest IT employer in Sri Lanka we are always looking for ways to give something back to this community. Examples include our sponsorship of more than 100 students through university and of course the IFS Foundation. LetsTALK is an extension of that principle of giving back.
Funds raised go towards CCCLine. CCCline is a free Telephone Counselling service in Sri Lanka that provides emotional support and guidance for people facing difficulties or for those that simply want to talk to someone about their problems. By dialing CCCline’s 1333 number, callers will speak to trained telephone counsellors who are willing to listen and assist – we think this type of support is invaluable, so we jumped at the chance to support it.
The importance of mental health in the workplace
We ran the Let’sTALK program across our APJ ME&A region. The course content grew out of the work CCCLine does in Sri Lanka, they are sister organizations run by the same founder, so there is a definite talk track linking our support of the Bikeathon and our commitment to promote mental health in the workplace.
Mental health is a taboo issue in many parts of APJ ME&A There is an element of shame or fear of being labelled or judged, and that can make it hard for people to talk openly about their mental wellbeing.
Early 2020, we recognized that the pandemic, and associated lockdowns in many parts of the region, were creating a sense of isolation from day to day social interaction in the workplace, and that this would likely lead to increased stress and the risk of mental illness. We identified two opportunities to address this concern:
- Equipping individuals with skills to check in with their peers and make sure they were ok.
- Embedding mental health as a topic to be discussed, appropriately and sensitively, during team meetings as well as 1:1 sessions (in person or remote), creating the confidence to openly discuss mental health and wellbeing.
Recognizing mental health as an integral pillar of the wellbeing of our employees, including their engagement and work performance, the regional leadership team came together to talk about the importance of empathy during these difficult times, how to be more mindful, and the need to check in with each other as well as the wider organization as a whole.
We acknowledge that many people are simply unaware when someone is in trouble, do not have the confidence to approach them, have not got the skills to listen or do not know what they can do to help. This is not intentional but due to a lack of education and social awareness. We saw that new skills were needed to equip individuals with the means to help each other, and also to help families and friends beyond the workplace. So, we decided to build a strategy that would create a sense of psychological safety in the workplace and improve communication no matter who you are in the organization.
We identified the LetsTALK program as a method to teach individuals how to use simple language skills to engage in a structured conversation that puts the focus on caring about the person affected. This approach would help to reduce the stigma and provide a psychologically safe environment for the person affected to speak openly and safely.
We coupled this with proactive sharing of articles and materials on the topic, while also tackling the subject of mental health and wellbeing in regular town hall meetings. The Let’sTALK Program focuses on building support networks that provide long term and sustainable outcomes whether at home, school or work. It focuses on teaching skills, like how to tell if someone is in distress, even when working remotely, and helping others to open up in terms of their concerns or anxieties.
The program was introduced to staff and recruited a pool of volunteers to be Let’sTALK mentors. Let’sTALK mentors play a vital role and are equipped with skills and confidence to initiate and have a conversation with someone who has a concern. Over time, Let’sTALK mentors recruit, train and mentor other mentors to eventually shift behaviors and cultures to be more caring, collaborative and connected.
Let’sTALK mentors range from Regional Leaders, to Individual Contributors across all business units and teams, all coming together as one with a goal of providing colleagues with appropriate support. To date, we have a pool of 30+ Let’sTALK mentors spreading across the APJ ME&A region (10% of the workforce). These mentors have used the learnings to engage with colleagues in IFS.
We look out for people who don’t seem themselves and encourage them to seek help, whether that is talking or guiding them toward professional help, e.g. employee assistance programs, using the following principles:
- Tell a mentor when something might be going on
- Acknowledge any concerns
- Listen with intent
- Keep in touch with ongoing support
Let’sTALK Program has helped us to promote empathy in the workplace and provided staff with a concern an avenue to go to the Let’sTALK mentors whenever they need a listening ears or help, which is crucial especially during this difficult time.
A noticeable outcome from Let’sTALK Program is that each week more and more people are happy to open up and talk and share experiences. We have since instigated informal “walk and talk” meetings where lockdown restrictions allow, to promote social interaction and physical wellbeing.
This combined approach of formal training and greater openness to discuss mental health at all levels has led to the following improvements:
- +0.4 improvement in our employee engagement survey (to 8.1 / 10), on the topic of management support (caring and openness),
- +0.2 (to 7.3 / 10) on the topic of friendship in the workplace, and
- +1 (to 6.8 / 10) on the topic of support for mental health
Let’sTALK Program provides a structured approach to open communication based on support and empowerment. Coupled with greater openness from all levels of management, and the provision of learning materials, we have created a climate of psychological safety that lets people talk safely, knowing that a simple conversation can often make a huge difference. While we believe we can do more and strive to do better, this is a good start.
Since its inception in December 2009, 1333 has been steadily moving forward towards its goal of being a credible, accessible and most utilized crisis support service in Sri Lanka. 1333 is a 24/7 service providing confidential and free crisis support for people facing problems whether they be personal, relationship or family issues, schools or work worries, mental illness or suicide thoughts. The 1333 toll free number is accessible to all people of Sri Lanka and currently averages over 2,500 calls each month.
We hope you’ll join us in support of the 1333 Bikeathon sponsorship. We’ll certainly be cheering the riders on!
Do you have questions or comments?
We’d love to hear them so please leave us a message below.