Pause for thought: The Irish start-up tackling employee mental well-being

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A new Irish start-up called Pause aims to help employers implement good mental well-being practices in the workplace following the tough couple of years workers have had to contend with.

The company is led by Báirbre Meehan, who has been in senior leadership 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 well-being, which was only widened by the stresses of the pandemic.

She undertook a research project into mental well-being 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 well-being improvements in more than 100 people with low mental well-being.

Her research found that short-term coaching intervention led to a 70pc improvement in collective employee mental well-being, with the positive mental well-being maintained at the six-month and two-year review stages.

Meehan used what she found out over her few years of practical research to develop the Pause method. She is launching the company at a pivotal time for employer-employee relations, as workplaces continue reopening and negotiating hybrid and remote work policies with staff.

Pause offers coaching, audit, supervision and training services that deliver measurable mental well-being improvements for organisations.

Recent Pause research, carried out in 2021, revealed that senior HR leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to support employee mental well-being due to the distance involved in hybrid and remote working arrangements.

New ways of working have made identifying employees struggling with their mental well-being very 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 and it is believed that one third of people are struggling to some degree. A lot of people are finding it hard to draw boundaries between work and home. The ‘Right to Disconnect’ from work was introduced as a direct result of the impact this inability to ‘switch off’ is having on people’s mental health.

“In addition, the global pandemic caused people to re-evaluate their attitudes to work-life balance. 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 female entrepreneurs based on her work with Pause. Empower START is a Dragon’s Den style competition delivered through the Innovation Hubs at GMIT, IT Sligo an Letterkenny IT.

The three ITs were recently amalgamated to form one Atlantic Technological University (ATU). Pause is based at ATU Sligo’s Innovation Centre at ATU Sligo. Meehan plans to employ and train more coaches in the Pause method over the coming years.

The company’s team currently includes Meehan and two other coaches, one of whom is a psychotherapist based in the UK.

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