Supporting mental health in our stores: A commitment to wellbeing

Earlier this year, we took a significant step towards supporting the mental health of our colleagues by implementing comprehensive training for Retail Managers across the UK.

At Marks & Spencer, we recognise that the wellbeing of our colleagues is paramount to a thriving workplace. In response to feedback from both our colleagues and line managers, we have rolled out an initiative to provide mental health training for all 4959 retail managers across our stores in the UK.

Levina, tell us more about the catalyst for the launch of this training.

In 2023, we conducted a wellbeing survey for colleagues across our business to better understand their needs. The results immediately highlighted the need for dedicated mental health support for our colleagues in store and more assistance from line managers during times of personal struggle. Similarly, our managers expressed a desire for additional guidance in supporting colleagues with poor mental health. This, coupled with concerning statistics on time and productivity lost due to mental health-related absences which average more than 30 days per case, it was clear that we needed to move quickly.

What were the considerations in delivering this kind of training to colleagues nationwide?

Delivering training across the UK posed logistical challenges, including the breadth of locations and the time required away from the shopfloor. We also wanted to make sure that this course covered exactly what our managers would benefit most from, given that the subject matter is so vast. To address these obstacles, we trialled the course extensively with different groups of line managers to make sure it was delivering exactly what they needed. Through a rigorous 'train the trainer' programme, we utilised our fantastic colleagues to roll out the course content to every single manager we have across our stores.

How was The Retail Trust involved?

We already partner with the Retail Trust as a charity who provide resources for those working in the retail industry. We explored a number of different providers who offer mental health training for managers. The training from The Retail Trust was not only well certified but delivered by experts.  They agreed to work with us to finetune the content to what we needed for our colleagues and helped us to upskill our esteemed trainers to deliver the course more widely.

Why is this kind of training important for M&S?

At M&S, those taking time off for mental health problems are taking, on average, more than 30 days away from work. We want to do all that we can to mitigate that risk by providing the tools and resources to support and building resilience within our teams. Our commitment to our colleagues’ health and wellbeing is always a priority for us. We listen to feedback from our teams and take action based on what they need. Equipping our line managers with these skills is not only good for our colleagues but also good for us a business, meaning that we can continue to deliver the very best service to our customers.

We spoke to Eloise Alder, Store Manager, who took part in the training to find out how it is helping her and her team in Swindon.

“This training was hugely valuable to me as it gave me really practical tips on how to support all colleagues struggling with their mental health. This is something, as line managers, we face on a daily basis and with such a sensitive and challenging subject, it gives us great practical examples of how to support our teams.

I put the training into practice as soon as I returned to my store, sharing what I’d learned with my team straight away. It’s had a hugely positive impact on me as a leader and in the way I show up for my colleagues.”

By empowering our managers with the knowledge and skills to support mental health in the workplace, we are fostering a culture of compassion and resilience where everyone feels supported and valued.

Join a team that cares about your wellbeing. Search for roles in your area here.

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