After recently being recognised for its mental health initiatives, Tracey Newton, Director of People Performance for Yorkshire Building Society Group, talks about why looking after the mental health of its employees makes business sense and has had a positive impact.
Like physical and financial health we all have mental health and it’s dynamic. It can change from moment to moment, day to day, month to month or year to year. Sometimes we’re thriving and sometimes it can feel we’re just surviving.
Mental health is such an important topic with 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year*. That’s why at Yorkshire Building Society Group we are committed to supporting our colleagues in the way we think and act about mental health and mental ill-health at every level of our organisation.
We are also signatories of the Time to Change Employer Pledge making sure that colleagues who are facing mental health problems feel supported.
Last year as part of our commitment to colleagues’ mental health we introduced a new wellbeing programme across the Group, with the aim to help our colleagues stay well and support them when they aren’t. To ensure that the programme is effective and inclusive, we based it on feedback from over 800 colleagues collated through interviews and surveys, along with insights taken from our absence data.
We seek to make sure all colleagues feel respected, valued and proud to work for us. To support this, we have invested in our wellbeing programme to help all of our colleagues to thrive.
The programme’s objectives are to increase awareness of mental health and mental ill-health and build an inclusive culture where our colleagues feel able to bring their ‘whole self’ to work. In turn we believe this will increase engagement, motivation and productivity and therefore contribute to the Group’s success.
I think one of the most powerful actions an organisation can take is to destigmatise mental health by getting colleagues talking about it. To this end we have published internal blogs and videos about mental health, which have encouraged colleagues across the Group to share their personal experiences.
We also have a network of colleagues acting as wellbeing champions who meet regularly and help us develop campaigns to promote wellbeing across the organisation.
Over the past year our plan has grown from starting the conversation about mental health and signing the Time to Change Employer Pledge to a fully-integrated one including launching a new Employee Assistance Programme, a free, confidential support service for all colleagues that can be used for a range of support including financial or debt problems, legal advice, stress, childcare issues or advice, bereavement, and counselling. We have also introduced Unmind, an online platform and app for better mental health available to all colleagues.
We’ve also developed mental health awareness training for all colleagues and launched bespoke training for senior leaders, managers, HR team members, and our union Aegis in conjunction with the Mental Health Foundation.
Impact and the future
We have seen great engagement with our mental health initiatives so far and some real positives across the organisation. Over 300 managers have attended bespoke mental health awareness training and 35% of our colleagues have registered to use Unmind. We have also witnessed a decrease in short and long-term absences.
I am extremely proud that we were recently awarded 'Best Mental Health Initiative - Large Company' at the inaugural Not a Red Card Awards.
The Not a Red Card Awards celebrate businesses and individuals which have developed and implemented best practices around addressing mental health in the workplace.
The judges recognised our programme as best practice - from colleagues sharing their stories, the support from leadership and the Wellbeing Working Group, through to the resources provided internally. We know we're making a difference - increasing awareness of mental health and reducing the stigma associated with difficulties.
It is imperative we don’t rest on our laurels though. We aim to continue to grow our mental health and wellbeing approach and are developing the programme to be holistic across mental, physical and financial health, helping our managers and colleagues to understand the way that these aspects interlink.
My aim is that every single one of our colleagues will be comfortable talking about their mental health and mental ill-health and for us to be able to provide them with easily accessible support when they need it.
*Mental health facts and statistics (2017). Available from: www.mind.org.uk