Following a successful commercial career in medical device sales and marketing and gaining insight on the unique pressures within the industry, Luke Evans, Managing Director of Heddway, has made it his mission to make mental health and mental fitness a priority in business.
Luke has become a mental health advocate, earning qualifications as a mental health first aider with Mental Health England and as a meditation teacher with the British School of Meditation. He has developed and spearheaded successful mental fitness programs that have been rolled out nationally across large organisations. Now, Luke runs Heddway; a company aiming to help businesses and professionals think about mental health differently.
Partnering with george james ltd., Luke is offering a training course which give professionals tools to enhance their health, happiness, and overall wellbeing. In this interview, we delve into Luke's passion for mental fitness, the importance of prioritising employee wellbeing in business, and strategies for fostering a culture of positive mental fitness in the workplace.
Q. I know you’re extremely passionate about mental health, mental fitness and wellbeing. Where did this passion come from?
A. I grew up in South Wales. I was one of three boys and growing up, I was a very sensitive person. I still am a very sensitive man. I felt and feel everything. Unfortunately, I grew up in an environment where you weren’t encouraged to speak about your feelings. In fact, you’d get ridiculed for showing any sign of emotion or sensitivity.
Long story short, I bottled everything up which led to serious anger issues. I was very insecure and anxious and any emotional expression turned into anger. It culminated in a fight where I ended up with an infected hand and underwent two operations. This was a turning point for me.
I spent the majority of my 20’s working through my anger issues alone, before going to therapy for the first time at the age of 30. Meeting my wife helped me realise that although I had made huge progress with my anger issues, I had problems with anxiety and depression. My wife’s Dad sadly took his own life when she was 17. When I found this out, I couldn’t help but think - where would I be if I hadn’t learned to speak about my feelings? Where would I be if I hadn’t reached out for help?
Alongside therapy, I have done a lot of research, taken numerous courses and learned a lot about mental health and mental fitness. Now, I want to take those learnings and help other people. If I had help earlier, I could have saved myself a decade of pain.
Q. So how did your own journey with mental health evolve into Heddway?
A. I was in a training role at Johnson & Johnson and then we went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. During lockdown, I developed a mental fitness course and delivered it to my team. It went down phenomenally and they asked me to roll it out across the entire organisation – on an national level. So I went division by division throughout lockdown, supporting the organisation by delivering these talks.
The response I got was overwhelming. People were reaching out to me and sharing their experiences as well as how the course and the tools I had shared had a positive outcome on both a personal and professional level.
Seeing the difference these courses made was the match that lit the fire that is now Heddway. I wanted to take the positive outcomes I was seeing at Johnson & Johnson and make them available to more people.
Q. Why the name Heddway?
A. If you were to make headway towards something that means making progress. So making headway is something that's positive. You can make headway towards your professional goals, or headway on your mental fitness journey, for example.
You might have noticed that Heddway is spelt differently. That’s because in Welsh, the word Hedd means peace. I hope that Heddway brings people a sense of peace and calm – as well as positive progress in their lives.
Q. You’ve spoken about mental fitness. What’s the difference between mental fitness and mental health?
A.There are some nuanced differences if you look the terms up online but ultimately, they’re the same thing. However, I think the term mental fitness is far more accessible. People feel very comfortable talking about physical fitness and I want people to start thinking about their mental fitness in the same way.
When I deliver training, I often ask people what is the first word that comes to mind when they think about physical fitness. Positive words are mostly thrown out there – like personal bests, strength and endurance. On the flipside, if you ask people the same question when it comes to mental health, the words usually have negative connotations – like depression, anxiety and stress.
Isn’t that interesting? So the reason I say mental fitness is because I want people to start thinking about mental health in a positive light.
Q. Why do you think it’s so important for organisations to think about mental fitness?
A.The bottom line is that burnout, exhaustion, and overall poor mental fitness has a huge impact on the quality of life of individuals. But there is also an economic cost to organisations. When people are suffering, they aren’t as adaptable, resourceful, innovative or dependable.
Building a happier, healthier, more resilient workforce is key to overall organisation success. Having connections with colleagues that are really meaningful, leads to better teamwork and ultimately, leads to more productivity. Plus, people who feel safer and happier are more likely to stick around!
Q. How can organisations’ begin to help employee’s with their mental fitness?
A. It’s a great question. I think surveying the company to see how people are currently feeling about work life is important. There’s so many questions you could ask: How motivated are you? How honest are you with your manager and colleagues? Do you feel that you can bring your authentic self to work? Do you feel the intensity of your workload and personal wellbeing is considered by your manager? Do you feel you can ask for help when you are struggling? It will give poignant insight into how well the organisation is looking after employees’ mental fitness and provide a springboard for improvement.
Secondly, reducing stigma is super powerful. Simply opening up the conversation in the workplace can drive radical positive change. Leaders need to role model good behaviour around mental fitness. And I’m not talking about doing anything revolutionary. The simple act of letting your team know you’re feeling under pressure, are particularly stressed, or have some things going on at home can allow others the space to open up. So role modelling behaviours from the top down is something organisations can think about.
Heddway has partnered with george james ltd. to offer mental fitness courses in the workplace. Could you tell us a little bit about the courses you’re offering?
At the moment, I’m leading with a one-day course that everyone could benefit from. We’ll talk about concepts like building self-awareness, resilience, managing stress in the workplace and harnessing stress into a force of productivity. But the course isn’t just about discussion, it’s about providing people with practical tools to use in their day-to-day lives.
I have a chemistry background and so naturally, I’m curious about the science and psychology behind mental fitness and well-being. Therefore, the concepts and tools I present are evidence-based as I think it’s really important to consider the scientific grounding of mental fitness techniques.
Further courses are in development and will be offered later down the line, such as specific mental fitness courses for managers and teams, as well as mindfulness meditation programs. So watch this space! This is just the beginning.
If you’d like to know more on our upcoming mental fitness programs, then give us a follow on LinkedIn for the latest updates. Alternatively, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!
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