A new Irish start-up called Pause aims to help employers implement good mental wellbeing practices in the workplace following a tough couple of years for workers.
The company is led by Báirbre Meehan, who has been in senior leadership roles for 25 years and is a trained executive coach with a master’s in business and executive coaching.
Meehan realised that there was a gap in the market when it came to managing employee mental wellbeing, which was only widened by the stresses of the pandemic.
She undertook a research project into mental wellbeing after seeing first-hand the impact that mental health issues were having on employee performance. For five years, she worked with GPs, psychotherapists and word-of-mouth referrals to support and monitor mental wellbeing improvements in more than 100 people.
Her research found that short-term coaching intervention led to a 70pc improvement in collective employee mental wellbeing, with positive mental wellbeing maintained at six-month and two-year review stages.
Meehan used what she found out to develop Pause. She is now launching the company at a pivotal time for employer-employee relations, as workplaces continue reopening and companies negotiate hybrid and remote work policies with staff.
Pause offers coaching, audit, supervision and training services in a bid to deliver measurable mental wellbeing improvements for organisations.
Recent Pause research, carried out in 2021, revealed that senior HR leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to support employee mental wellbeing due to the distance involved in hybrid and remote working arrangements.
New ways of working have made identifying employees struggling with their mental wellbeing challenging, and it is also difficult to convince employees to seek support, according to the findings.
‘People are finding it difficult to cope’
Meehan acknowledged that the pandemic had a “significant impact on people’s stress levels, which were already high before the pandemic, but are now at an all-time high”.
“The pace of life and working life has escalated to such an extent that people are finding it difficult to cope. The phased return to the workplace is causing a large amount of anxiety for varying reasons,” she said.
She added that people are finding it hard to draw boundaries between work and home, pointing to the introduction of the right to disconnect in Ireland last year to help people switch off and achieve a better work-life balance.
“In addition, the global pandemic caused people to re-evaluate their attitudes to work-life balance,” Meehan said.
“This makes employee retention and attraction a critical issue for organisations, and one they are struggling to manage. This is a really complex area, but Pause has developed a provable and measurable system of improving employee mental wellbeing, which has a clear positive impact on business results and employee retention.”
Meehan was the 2021 winner of the Empower Start pitching competition for women entrepreneurs based on her work with Pause. This was a Dragon’s Den-style competition delivered through the innovation hubs at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT, which recently amalgamated to form Atlantic Technological University (ATU).
Pause is based at ATU Sligo’s innovation centre. The team currently includes Meehan and two other coaches, one of whom is a psychotherapist based in the UK.
Meehan plans to employ and train more coaches in the Pause method over the coming years.
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