“Am I ready? Am I in the right place to go back to work?”
This is one of the most frequently asked questions by participants in the Work to Recover scheme, run by London-based recruiter Sidekicks. Work to Recover provides practical support to help people get back to work after recovering from mental illness.
Sidekicks – the support and private staff recruitment agency – set up Work to Recover shortly after its launch in 2015. Managing Director of Sidekicks Jessica Williams explains: “The launch of Work to Recover was an incredibly proud moment for everyone in the Sidekicks team. Anyone who has a break from work – for whatever reason – understands how daunting the prospect of looking for a job and returning to the stresses of work can be.
“One of my closest friends was utterly devastated by bulimia and I saw how hard she struggled to find work. It was heart-breaking to see such a brilliant, brave, capable woman – who had devoted so much to her recovery – left unable to find work.”
The programme quickly came to the attention of recovery coach and wellness specialist, Gemma Rose Thomas, who contacted Williams to work on the Work to Recover programme. Having suffered from an eating disorder herself, Thomas understood completely the challenge of going from recovery back into ‘normal’ life. “When you are in recovery, everything is done for you: you are told when to eat, when to sleep – all the responsibilities of ‘normal’ life are taken away to give you the space to concentrate on healing and getting well again.
“The thought of returning to work is exciting for some – work makes up a huge part of who we are and can be enormously positive for self-esteem – but it can be a big source of stress and pressure.
“One of the main things that attracted me to the programme was the satisfaction of nurturing people back into a job and on with their lives beyond recovery. For me, it’s about helping people get their lives together post-treatment, where there isn’t as much support available,” Thomas added.
The programme offers practical support with career coaching, personalised interview training, career change advice and support, CV workshops, cover letter workshops and building confidence and self-esteem among other things. It also often includes a work placement.
“Work to Recover allows us to help people in a genuinely practical way. Often re-entering the world of work is often the final, crucial step in the process of regaining independence,” Managing Director, Williams continued.
Williams personally works with many of the Work to Recover programme participants, the majority of whom are referred to the programme by charity Free Me, including 26-year-old Michaela from Hertfordshire, who recently returned to full-time work after graduating from the programme.
At the point of her referral to Work to Recover, Michaela had left her full-time job as a gym instructor due to her depression and eating disorder. “I just felt really lost,” she explained, “I had lost my direction and my passion. I couldn’t see a clear way forward.”
Michaela had weekly, structured mentoring sessions across a four-month period in conjunction with ongoing, frequent phone-based support from Williams, after participating in group sessions as part of the programme.
“When I first met Michaela, she just shone with talent,” said Williams. “She had been through so much and had endured such a rough ride, but her spirit was amazing and she was just desperate to regain her self-confidence and passion for work again.”
Following her graduation from the programme, Michaela has been offered a job as a Corporate Fitness Coach for an international law firm and is now back at work full-time.
“I’m intensely proud of her” says Williams. “She is an amazing woman who just needed a little bit of support. I have no doubt that she is going to go on to achieve amazing things.”
For more information about Work to Recover, or how your company could get involved in the scheme, visit http://sidekicks.london/charity-and-fundraising/ for more details.