As the new intern at Hestia, I had the opportunity to attend the Insurance Diversity Forum on 11 Feb 2019 with Melissa Morbeck, the Executive Director of the Corporate Alliance and Lead Partner on Everyone’s Business.
I observed the business men and women throughout the room while Melissa gave a presentation on domestic abuse and how a company can support their employees. Though their suits and somewhat high-brow attitude intimidated me, I reminded myself that they were people, just like me. Melissa began sharing statistics and general facts about domestic abuse that not only took myself by surprise but the others as well.
As soon as she began to share what felt like personal information, I noticed that all eyes were looking forward and you could hear a pin drop in the room. Melissa shared information such as the fact that the repercussions of this issue have cost the UK over £1.9B due to lost productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover. Many people have left their jobs instead of telling their employers about their situation.
Melissa explained there were many factors for this, including shame, fear of judgement and perhaps not realising the extent of abuse. I realised that because of the stigma which society has created with regard to abuse, this has become a silent epidemic – one that will continue to grow unless people recognise the importance of creating empathic, safe and judgement-free environments.
The employer’s eyes widened as Melissa gave real life examples demonstrating how abuse can happen to anyone. Regardless of one’s gender, nationality, sexual orientation, level of income, etc, it can impact any person’s life. No one is more vulnerable than the other. And to anyone who thinks that even the most ‘subtle’ forms abuse do not affect their performance at work, you are very wrong. Because its effects have the ability to destroy a person’s mind, body, and soul, it’s safe to assume that their level of productivity and devotion to their work is not optimised if they are being abused at home.
Towards the end of the presentation, based on their facial expressions and mannerisms, it was apparent that the people in the room gained a strong understanding of the issue at hand. I was glad to see the high level of engagement when she opened up the room for questions. One made it clear that she was not quite convinced that the authorities were not already aware of the issue. Melissa responded by saying that the authorities will likely be the last people to get on board.
Power comes in numbers so it is imperative that we create social change first, in whatever we wish to accomplish before we expect to see anything change on paper.
Overall, I learned that through the programme Everyone’s Business, companies have an opportunity to make their work environment feel like the safest space possible for their workers which will ultimately lead to an increase in safety, being a team and employee satisfaction.
To improve employee engagement and overall productivity, it is imperative for companies to have the resources they need to help identify who needs help. I feel as though it is critical that companies know that addressing their employees’ personal issues will not hurt business, rather it will likely have the opposite effect as it will help bolster their bottom line by protecting employee productivity and reduce turnover.
The programme includes a series of free services such as access to work with HR and DA experts to create a strategy that aligns with the work in place to support employees, assess to accredited domestic abuse training, counselling sessions, and more. I felt it was beneficial for me, how to engage with business professionals, as well as the real impact of domestic abuse and how we all can be part of creating positive change.
I hadn’t realised how often I actually come across people who may endure abuse. Now I know there are options available.
Let’s take the next step in the right direction towards ending the silent epidemic of domestic abuse by turning our empathy into action.
To find out more, please contact Everyones.Business@hestia.org.