How Thames Water took action on staff wellbeing
As one of the largest utility companies in the country, Thames Water provides a vital service for its customers, but it is also helping its staff improve their wellbeing.
The company’s mental health strategy has led to a reduction in time lost to illness of nearly 80% over the last five years and its recent Thriving at Work report recognised that employers need to develop their knowledge and expertise in enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of their workforce.
“Our health and wellbeing strategy is all about the steps we’re taking and the steps we will take, to make sure everyone goes home safe and well each and every day,” the report states.
“We must continue our drive to create a culture where health, wellbeing and safety are as important as anything else we do in a day.
“Not only do we meet the legal standards set out to protect our employees, we aspire to support all of our people outside of this,” the report adds.
“This could be maintaining their fitness or providing them with the tools to make improvements to their own health and wellbeing, in turn, helping them to take the benefits home and into the wider community.”
In February, Thames Water won the Mental Wellbeing Award for organisations with 1,000 to 5,000 staff at the very first REBA Employee Wellbeing Awards in London.
The utility company has adopted a comprehensive ‘Time to Talk’ mental health strategy, which highlights the importance of prevention, including causation and the onset of mental health conditions, particularly in the workplace.
The ‘Time to Talk’ strategy has been built upon the SPOT principles:
Spotting the signs;
Providing opportunities to talk;
Offering a listening ear and;
Talking to professional support services early.
Mental health awareness
Thames Water has also been working with the mental health charity MIND to develop a new mental health awareness training course, called Mind-Fit, which uses virtual reality to put the user in the position of someone with mental health conditions.
The Mind-Fit training will be offered to all employees and replaces the current resilience training courses.
It aims to increase and improve employee understanding and awareness of mental health generally, both in and out of the workplace and is designed to provide an overview of positive mental health as well as mental health problems, including, anxiety, stress and depression.
In addition, it will develop the learner’s ability to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and outline what support is available. It will challenge any perceived stigma surrounding mental health.
Discussion around mental health across Thames Water is also growing, with a mental health discussion group set up on the internal chat service, weekly posts on engagement forms, frequent emails and phone calls to the Occupational Health team from managers and Mental Health First Aiders requesting support following effective conversations.
And the outcomes have certainly been impressive. Over the last year, there has been a 33% reduction in time lost to illness. Cumulatively, Thames Water has seen its mental health measures reduce illness absences by 76% over the last five years. Time To Talk has also led to a significant increase in occupational health referrals, thanks to more effective workplace conversations, which are also helping to completely remove the stigma around mental health at Thames Water.
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In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.
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