I recently re-joined Anglian Water as Group Director of People, after a break of nine years when I was working in other organisations. As you might expect some things remain remarkably familiar whilst others have evolved beyond recognition. Looking after our employees has always been important but taking such a holistic approach to their wellbeing and understanding that this will deliver an even more productive and efficient business is a very obvious positive change that I can see.
As a water company we have a large operational and construction bias. So naturally we have always had a real focus on creating a positive, open culture around behaving safely. Over the last five years this has seen our accident frequency rate drop by two thirds and a big part of this was getting down to the level of understanding behavioural drivers that deliver a safety culture and empowering our staff to do the right thing.
These successes encouraged us to expand the approach from safety into the wider aspects of wellbeing. Initially we examined the impact of diet, but not just on health but on concentration and productivity too. We also recognised that many people had a more sedentary lifestyle a work, whether behind the wheel of a car, van or tanker or at a desk. As you can imagine our interventions manifested themselves as new healthy options in our canteens, weight loss campaigns and a “Get Active” programme including promoting walking meetings. Enabling our employees to make positive choices has contributed to our sickness rates dropping by more than half since 2009/10.
The next piece of the puzzle was an understanding that there is more to wellbeing than just the physical. Mental ill health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK and is on the increase. It is still a subject that people don’t always understand and so find it hard to discuss. Many still fear what others in the workplace might think of them if they do talk openly about their experiences. That is why we signed up to the “Time to Change” campaign; it naturally aligned with our wish to create an open culture and a resilient workforce.
We now have a fully integrated approach to wellbeing but as a responsible business we also want to make positive changes beyond our organisation. Being part of Business in the Community and Peter Simpson, our CEO, leading their Workwell Leadership Team is one way of doing this and when we became Responsible Business of the Year in 2017, we committed to sharing our thoughts on better ways for collaborative working. Our work on Wellbeing is a key part of this.
In December 2017 we hosted the first East of England Wellbeing Conference specifically focused on bringing large companies and SMEs together to share their experiences on how to embed wellbeing in businesses of all sizes. You can see the impact that it had in this short video.
So building on the conference, and as part of Responsible Business Week, we’ve launched a wellbeing initiative to help address the poor wellbeing statistics in this country, and we’re calling on small businesses to share their inspiring work.
This is aimed at SMEs with innovative products or services that support employee health and wellbeing. In a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style pitch event, expert judges will review the entries, which might focus on normalising mental health, promoting good quality sleep, encouraging physical activity or other aspects of wellbeing.
So if you run or work for an inspiring SME that has wellbeing at its heart, submit your entry for the Wellbeing Innovation Initiative at www.bitcwellbeinginnovationhub.co.uk The deadline for submissions is the 7 May.
Whatever your business does and whatever size it is, creating a positive environment for the wellbeing of you and your employees will have huge benefits. As a responsible business network we can demonstrate our leadership by taking up this challenge to make the UK happier, healthier and wealthier place by place.