Tom Oxley is a TEDx speaker who runs bamboo mental health, a consultancy that advises some big names, he reviews employers providing evidence-based strategies and training. And he believes any employer can support any employee on mental health, they just need to be shown how – This episode between the two of us who both work in this field is full of absolute gems!


I didn’t always know it was such a big reboot. But one was when I went through a redundancy process, at the place where I worked. So global financial services company, the axe in such places, swings every so often, and people, hundreds of people lose or leave their jobs. And I’d survived this particular swing of the axe, and I went back to my desk. And you can imagine, sort of dirty grey Formica desk, because all kinds of bits and bobs on it, and the same old computer that took me ages to log on to every morning. And I was shaking. And I thought to myself, have I just had a very near miss, and I’m having a bit of a kind of adrenaline rush at the end edge of that. Is this the kind of feeling of cortisol running around my system? And then I thought to myself, no, it’s not that I’ve just missed something. It’s just that what if this grubby grey desk is it? What if I’m pushing PowerPoint presentations around for a living? What if that is it for my career? That was terrifying. And in that moment of terror, I said to myself, right? If that axe is wielded, again, that redundancy, opportunity comes around again. I’m taking it. “


“So the exploring bit before you actually jump, yeah, is really positive. And then the jumping back is terrifying again. But I found my feet. And I started working with time to change, started reviewing employers on how they support people on mental health. And it was a charity rate, but it was very fulfilling work and helped me understand that I could get my esteem back.”


“There was a bit of noise around mental health, but not a lot outside of the charity sector, in the workplace. And so I thought to myself, while I might be sitting on a business idea. , so to wind it all the way back, my slowly traumatic moment turned into a reboot that has shaped my career for which I am now very, very grateful.”



“I try and imagine myself going through the HR procedures, typically absence, grievance, disciplinary, flex, health and safety, occupational health type stuff. So I know my way around that policy set. And then perhaps the most significant thing I do is I interview people who’ve been unwell, with stress, anxiety, depression, probably mild to moderate, whilst working for that organisation. And that is where the gold lives. Because somebody who’s been through a period of poor mental health will be able to tell you what the manager’s reaction was. How was the information? Did the training they’ve done make any difference to them? What they liked from the HR policies and procedures. Was the occupational health team any good? Did the employee assistance programme stack up? They can give you a real cross-section of that lived employee experience, and that’s a huge value.”



“At the end of it, we’ve got stakeholder view. And we’ve got the stories from people, you’ve got the statistics of how many people this affects and we’ve got a review of the HR stuff. And that data is quite a powerful recipe, to playback to an organisation and go, this is where I think you are, this is where I think you could be, this is what you need to do.”



“There are lots of things in what you just said there. So if you’re in a situation where life is giving you a bit of kicking, because it’s not all about work, in fact, far from it, it just shows up for work commonly. Life has given you a bit of a kicking. And it’s difficult to talk to your manager, it’s difficult to run the HR process, it’s difficult to have an adjustment. And then from a company point of view, it’s difficult to approve things because they’ve got this arbitrary policy that you can only apply once in a year. And it just makes life difficult. You’ve just described a situation and maybe three or four people signing off an adjustment for somebody just to help them do their job. I mean that that’s crazy. Flipping that, you have good managers, you can talk easily. It’s an easy policy. It’s an easy process, and they go yes, do you know what?  We see you, we hear you, we value you. We’re going to back you up, and you will never, you will never forget that. And not only do you have less time off, because it’s not a kind of problem to come back. You actually add to the loyalty. You create allies in the organisation you show everybody. You’re not just tell them that wellbeing is important. You show them at the points when it matters most.”


“People that I’ve interviewed have said things like my manager was so critical and so difficult with me. I went home and I started to contemplate suicide.  They also said My manager was so good with me and backed me up, that I went home and I stopped contemplating suicide, it really can make that much difference.”



“If you are a manager, and you put your human hat on, the difference you can make to someone and the difference in terms of costs, you can save a business, because you’re not having to re-recruit someone, and you know, to refill those shoes, and then get them up to speed and productive in that role. It might be that someone’s not productive for three months, for example, because they’re having personal issues, or they’re not able to work full time. But actually, when you kind of look at it from a different perspective, how long would it take for them to leave, advertise a job, recruit the person, find the right person, bring them in, train them, and get them to productivity, you’re probably talking nine to twelve months.”



if you start to extrapolate that onto the salary of the person, then you know, you, you start to see the numbers add up, make no mistake, there is a legal case for getting this right. There is a moral case for getting this right. And there is a business financial case for getting this right. And they all lead to the same destination. If you support your people on mental health, it will cost you less full stop.”



“The Health and Safety Executive have been doing this and actually asking organisations to do some of this for years. Yeah, every organisation of more than five people needs to have some kind of consultation, or stress risk assessment to help understand the hotspots and the problems in the company. And the cold spots where it’s going well, and understand how to manage those across different departments and things like that”


“If people aren’t thinking about that, and having conversations about it, and just simply asking their people what it’s like, then they’re missing out on a lot of fantastic information about culture, performance, and indeed, operational changes that could make it more efficient.  A better place or a better product, that kind of thing. This idea of psychological safety is not just about protecting your assets from people screwing up, it’s about getting the good stuff out of people who’ve got brilliant ideas as well. And that is a very positive and inclusive and, and hopeful way to look at all this.”



“Out of difficult traumatic times, comes new learning and growth and ideas of how we can do things differently.”  



“One of the symptoms of stress is that we work harder, and we actually increase our energy towards the situation. And as a result of that energy increase, we sometimes notice less about ourselves and our own behaviour. So this is a bit clumsy, but one of the symptoms of stress is that you don’t recognise your own stress.”


“If I were to run an open training session in an organisation, I’d probably find 80 to 90% of the attendees would be female. But if mandatory sessions, you do get a good response from the fellas, and they do correspond with it in a really good way. In factory environments, they actually quite like it. But they’re not, they’re not going to step across the threshold easily. So we’ve got to communicate it, we’ve got to communicate it in the right way. And we’ve also got to start repeatedly communicating it without over-shoving it down people’s throats.” 


“it’s not just about some trainer coming in, and they can deliver the best session in the world, then if their managers never spoke about it? Or if the manager starts going cuckoo or something like that?”  



“I’m the CEO, and I don’t really take a break away from my office, I don’t go for a walk, I don’t step away from my desk. It’s almost like we’re creating sometimes as leaders, very subtle pressures that we don’t necessarily want to have within our organisation. But by leading in that way and doing those things. We create unhealthy pressures for other people and unhealthy expectations because that’s what they think they have to do to be successful.”



“Silly example, I was an interim director, and during my time there I noticed that they’d run out of peppermint tea in that staff kitchen so I said “Can I order some more peppermint tea back this chap said no, they were only there for wellbeing week”



“It takes multiple roles at multiple levels to get this right. It includes the CEO turning up for his or her staff, includes HR bringing essential expertise, managers, knowing the signs to look for and how to have a safe conversation”.


Unknown Speaker  47:48  

I think that leadership is the driver of, you know, the emotional, cultural response to people. And it’s huge. That really guides our decisions.”


“And I can read about mental health statistics, or I could read about David Hockney painting in Normandy. And that allows me to go into the introverted version of myself because I have one of those as well as the presenter. Yeah, version of myself. And that downtime, that timeout from the performance. I can literally feel my adrenaline, my cortisol, and my diaphragm, and my just stuff just kind of sinking. Yeah, but that’s really important.”



“Good for you for recognising that because actually, the super stimulated brain is not in a space where it’s ready for logical learning type information. Because by its nature, we’re super stimulated, we’re probably somewhere in the kind of limbic emotional response to something or supercharged that we’ve got other priorities, the brain, and the body have other priorities at that time. I like the fact that you now access this and you brought it in and you recognise it and there’s space for your this kind of time and activity”



I’ll give you a little sneaky share. You’re better off without booze. You asked for a mantra that was mine. When I stopped drinking, I can’t even remember four years ago, something like that. And my life is better in every single way. I’m less anxious, and less agitated, I’ve got more money, everything works in the body in like a really lovely way. And I have to say that was the best decision I ever made.”



“I think that’s the huge power of coaching. And letting that into your life when you’re ready is a very, is a wonderful thing. And as with all sorts of successful kinds of therapeutic treatment, saying that, the importance of kind of your desire to change, and believing in the possibility of change, and having hope that you can”



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Lost Connections by Johan Hari

Losing our minds -What mental illness really is and what it isn’t by Lucy Foulkes



Tom Oxley is a TEDx speaker and runs Bamboo Mental Health – a bijou consultancy that advises some big names.

He reviews employers, providing evidence-based strategies and training. And he believes any employer can support any employee on mental health – they just need to be shown how.

Tom has consulted for Mind, Time to Change and Mindful Employer. He lives in Norfolk and likes camping, eating and sea swimming. 



[email protected] LinkedIn



Emma Last is a qualified Mental Health and Wellbeing Trainer and Coach. She has co-written both the First Aid Industry body’s accredited First Aid for Mental Health and Wellbeing training for Adults in the workplace and those working with children.  

Emma also has over 20-years, experience in leading teams and developing strategies for change. She worked in senior leadership for a large corporate until early 2018, when she came to a turning point in her career due to being on the brink of burnout and wanted to gain more of a balance in her life. She then rebooted her life and founded her company Progressive Minds. 

Emma also works with workplaces and schools on their Mental Health and Wellbeing strategies and provides training and coaching to support employees through challenging and changing times. Emma also works with individuals to help them to perform at their best by working on their mental fitness, which incorporates stress/burnout prevention and resilience and agility development through her Human Reboot Movement Coaching Programme. Her clients say they have become more mentally fit, happier and gain the results they want in their lives. 

Her Human Reboot podcast achieved number 22 in the Mental Health category in Mental Health Awareness week. She is a #1 best selling author on Amazon



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