Today I joined other leading organisations on a panel to champion the mental wellbeing at work agenda. My aspiration was to place it at the forefront of business leaders’ minds, and crucially, to recognise the vital role that employers can play.
The reality is many of us know someone who has experienced a mental health problem, but sadly we often don’t recognise the signs, feel able to talk about it or know what to do.
I’m proud to say that this week – for the third year in a row – Anglian Water has re-launched our Time to Talk campaign, which reminds colleagues they don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health.
We first teamed up with Mind in 2014 and I pledged on behalf of Anglian Water to reduce the stigma and discrimination around mental health. Since then we’ve put a lot of effort into encouraging openness and getting people talking throughout the Business.
We encourage employees to ask someone how they are, arrange to meet up for a coffee or chat or go for a walk and catch up in the fresh air. The conversation doesn’t have to be about mental health. Sometimes colleagues are afraid they’ll say the wrong thing, but our own employees who have fought and overcome mental ill health tell us that just talking about normal things can really help. There really is no reason to fear upsetting someone. Knowing someone cares and is prepared to listen makes a huge, positive difference. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to reach out with a simple text, phone call or email.
Line managers are often in the best position to spot when someone is struggling, so it’s vital we equip them to recognise and cope with pressure, and support their teams. We’ve trained our top 150 managers to build their own personal resilience by staying fit and eating well, and encouraging their teams to do the same. We’re now incorporating the same information into our wider management training programmes.
Of course, we also recognise that occasionally people need an extra helping hand to deal with everyday life, and that’s why we provide a free, confidential 24/7 helpline service for our employees and their immediate family, with advice ranging from financial and legal matters to emotional support and counselling.
At Anglian Water supporting our employees to stay fit and well is not just vital for safety and productivity, it’s also the right thing as a responsible employer.
Our health and safety roadshows last year saw more than 2,000 front line employees and contractors take part in seminars and practical sessions on everything from ending the stigma around mental health issues, to healthy eating and alcohol awareness. Feedback has been fantastic, and we know many people shared what they learned with family and friends, creating a wider impact beyond Anglian Water.
Throughout the year we run various wellbeing campaigns that are always well supported by employees. We encourage fitness and weight loss through our Get Active and Biggest Loser campaigns; we recently provided nutrition advice for all employees from expert Dr John Briffa which has been very popular.
Although we’re doing a great deal already, I’m committed to doing more. Employee wellbeing isn’t just a tickbox for business; a one-off campaign. It has to be a corporate ‘state of mind’.
I am extremely proud to be speaking today alongside other leading businesses like Royal Mail and Mind, and I am determined to make sure other businesses join us.