Management consultant Ngozi Weller and psychologist and stress management coach Obehi Alofoje are co-founders of mental health consultancy Aurora Wellness, a company providing businesses with the tools and resources to maintain productivity through management mental health training programmes and workshops.
Ngozi has experienced first-hand how challenging the corporate world can be. After a poor mental health experience in the workplace Ngozi set up the practice to support people like herself and to fight back against the modern epidemic of common mental health disorders.
Between them, Ngozi and Obehi have a combined experience of over 25 years in business management and helping people overcome mental health issues; they are uniquely placed to support businesses particularly because of insights gained through personal experiences.
Ngozi’s journey to setting up the consultancy was not an easy one, she had spent the previous 17 years working for an oil and gas company, having joined from the milk round as a graduate trainee. While working in what she describes as, a highly pressured environment, often working away from her young family, eventually business pressure and the nature of the work environment took their toll and Ngozi suffered deterioration to her mental health to the point where she incurred work-related depression and anxiety, followed by a complete breakdown.
Ngozi describes her mission since her path to wellness and setting up her own consultancy: “I wanted to be that person who could have helped me”. She and her business partner, psychologist Obehi Alofoje, set up Aurora to “normalise’ the conversation around workplace mental health and to provide strategic wellbeing support designed to support businesses strengthen employees’ mental resilience and improve workplace productivity.”
When asked what the business she worked for could have done differently, Ngozi is clear: “Not only do companies need to make ‘behavioural health’ as they have termed it, a transparent priority, but leaders should be accountable for making progress in those areas.”
She argues that the light touch to mental health in the business arena: wellness days, on-site massage, pool tables and free lunch cannot take the place of robust and crucially measurable mental health strategies and outcomes in the workplace.
She continues: “Leadership is perhaps the first cornerstone we need to understand in attempting to modify our approach to employee wellbeing. skills that have hitherto been underrated – the so-called ‘soft skills’ of empathy, care, kindness, openness, and vulnerability – to create a workplace environment that values employees’ wellbeing and ultimately strengthens the workforce.”
Ngozi explains that businesses ultimately risk losing money if they continue to pay lip service to mental health issues, she says: “The financial well-being of your business depends largely on having a robust mental health policy in place.” She points to new research by the London School of Economics which illustrates mental health problems cost the UK economy a staggering £118 billion a year, equivalent to approx. 5% of the UK’s GDP.
Management consultant Ngozi goes on to says: “While many employers provide well-being days, on-site massage, mindfulness or resilience sessions and an array of other health incentives, unless a company approaches mental health as a business metric, setting targets, performance indicators and allocating set budget, they are doing no more than paying lip service to the needs of their workforce; this comes with a hefty price tag. Business’ must take ownership of the mental health of their workforce, in office based and remote or home-working environments.”
Aurora make the case for stewardship, asserting that staff need to be able to understand in concrete terms, precisely what support is available to them, where they can go for help and to whom, regardless of whether they have an office based or home working environment, arguing that the case for early intervention support is both moral and economic.