Starting the conversation: advocating for mental wellbeing in our industry


Ricoh UK Sales Director Tanya Howe is a passionate advocate for wellbeing in the print industry, and a great ambassador for the Printing Charity’s work.

Here, she explains her motivation for sharing information about the charity’s work with Ricoh’s wider network, and her hopes for workplace wellbeing in our sector in the future.

Raising awareness of Printing Charity support industry-wide

I’ve been aware of the Printing Charity for some time and was delighted when Neil Lovell, the CEO, accepted our invitation to be the guest on Ricoh’s Anything in Print podcast. It was through recording this conversation that I got to learn about the charity’s work in greater detail. Hearing some of the personal stories and experiences has really opened my eyes to the realities of our industry. Professional print is worth around £14bln to the UK economy and supports countless other sectors that rely on print in their operations. And yet, many current and former print workers are facing hardships that were shocking for me to learn about. I was inspired to do what I can to help.

We have started working on a plan to help raise awareness of the Printing Charity’s work and get the message out to as many people and organisations as we can. On a personal level, I will do my utmost to ensure that everyone in my network knows that they can come to me if they face hardships or feel like things are getting out of control. It may sound simple, but that first step is often the most difficult. To this end, I’m delighted that Ricoh offers mental health awareness training for all managers to help spot the early signs of poor mental health and have proactive conversations with their teams.

Ricoh’s commitment to mental wellbeing support, in their business and beyond

Mental health has always been part of Ricoh’s wellbeing strategy, but it’s important to recognise that mental health can be affected by other factors – if you worry about paying your bills, your mental and emotional wellbeing will suffer. Organisations need to be aware of this and I’m proud that Ricoh takes a holistic view of what it means to be ‘well’. This approach is built into our employee benefit structure through offering tools like the employee assistance programme or a free app to help employees manage their finances. We run a successful programme called the ‘wellbeing champions’ who have been trained to be the first point of contact for colleagues who are struggling or needing support, and we have several initiatives to drive inclusion across all levels of our business. We were quick to react to the cost-of-living crisis, providing short- and long-term support to people who needed it the most. Of course, this approach is not always feasible to take, especially for smaller organisations.

Whilst many people across all industries have been suffering from the harsh economic conditions, I believe this has been exacerbated in the print sector. With digitisation and declining print volumes, our industry had been shrinking even before the pandemic. Covid hit us very hard, with workers suffering the most, and the effects are still being felt.

What always amazes me about our industry, however, is the ability to reinvent itself and keep going. What we’re seeing now is a huge diversification in requirements and delivery from the rise of eCommerce to personalisation. This is accompanied by major mergers, acquisitions and, sadly, businesses going into administration. The face and the nature of our industry is changing, and organisations need to evolve to survive and prosper.

Our job is to educate the market on how to approach these challenges – not only through the technology that we provide, but most importantly, by making sure that we don’t leave people behind and take them on that journey with us. Every organisation’s most important asset is its people, and that’s why we need a motivated, engaged, resilient workforce to deliver this transition and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.

Our industry’s evolving approach to mental wellbeing

Overall, I feel that general awareness of mental health has improved. But there is clearly so much more to do. Mental health doesn’t exist in isolation, and as with any other health issue, we need to do better when it comes to prevention.

We know from BPIF data that in print sector, operations tend to be dominated by older, male staff and the admin divisions are more likely to have women filling those positions. From my experience, the workplace culture in many print businesses, especially across operations, can be what I’d call ‘traditional’ – people have an immense sense of pride in their work but can often find it difficult to ask for help if they’re struggling. This is where having access to someone from outside their organisations who people can speak to in confidence, can be very helpful – even life-changing. The Printing Charity provides this support, and our job is to spread the message and help people take that first step. Of course, I don’t want to generalise and there are many businesses out there that are making good progress on this front.

Why talking to your network about the Printing Charity’s services matters at the moment

The print industry has been around for more than 500 years, but right now we’re facing a real challenges because we’re not attracting young, diverse talent. If we don’t start addressing some of these issues soon, we won’t have enough people with the right skills entering the workforce. Improving the workplace culture to be more open and inclusive for people with diverse needs should be a part of the solution. To this end, I’m really excited about the Printing Charity’s Rising Stars programme that tells this story very well through celebrating emerging talent in print.  But it’s not just about the young – today’s workforce is truly multi-generational, and we need to think about the needs and challenges of our people at different life stages.

We spend more time at work than we do anywhere else, and to have an environment where we feel safe, happy and supported is vital. You can’t run a business without people, and it is down to us as leaders, owners, and managers to enable our people to find the right balance for themselves in the way that also adds value to the organisation. I always advocate for the importance of work-life balance and have full trust in my team to manage their diaries in a way that enables them to achieve this. I encourage them to take the time they need for their wellbeing, whatever that means to an individual. By doing this, I know that they will be engaged and motivated, and ultimately deliver high-quality work. This level of trust benefits everyone, and if we want to attract and retain the best people, this is absolutely something that we must continue to build on.

Mental wellbeing: hopes for the future.

To illustrate my hopes, I’d like to share a personal story.

I worked with one customer for several years. We had a close working relationship with the business owner, who was always positive in every conversation I had with him, until I learnt that his business went into administration. I was in shock, because we hadn’t been aware of any difficulties. One day, it seemed like ‘business as usual’; the next day the business ceased to exist. It makes me sad that this customer didn’t feel like he could have opened up to us about his problems – if I’d known, I would have done everything in my power to help.

We can’t help people if we don’t know that they’re facing difficulties. My hope for the future is that one day everyone will know that it’s OK to ask for help. I’m really looking forward to working with the Printing Charity to keep communicating this message in the industry that we all love.

If anyone would like to contact me to have a chat about any of the information above, please connect with me via LinkedIn.

It starts with a conversation. The helpline pages on our website provide more information about the helpline for your business, and for you to start a conversation about the charity’s support with your network.

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If you, or someone you know needs support, or you’d like to know more about our free, confidential helpline, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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