World Mental Health Day: Supporting our people through the pandemic
09 October 2020
During these challenging times, taking a moment to reflect on World Mental Health Day has even greater significance. Anglian Water’s Director of People, Susannah Clements, shares her thoughts on how employers can look out for their colleagues’ wellbeing.
Over the last few years, Anglian Water has been on a journey to provide our 5,000 employees with the support they need to be happier, healthier and safer. The COVID-19 pandemic is an important moment on that journey. A time when, more than ever, businesses must be there for their people.
The foundations for this support have been laid by the culture we’ve been building within our business over recent years. Our LIFE programme has brought together all aspects of employee wellbeing to aim for ‘happier, healthier and safer’ people. It means we’re working together across the company in a coordinated way towards this important goal.
We are lucky to have people that lead from the front. Our Chief Executive and senior leaders have shared their own perspectives and encourage others to be open about mental wellbeing. We want people to feel able to talk about their mental wellbeing in the same way they would tell colleagues about a physical injury like a broken leg.
Many people are missing social interaction right now, so there is a growing trend at Anglian Water to connect through fika time. This Scandinavian tradition means taking a moment to slow down and to get to know each other better, often while enjoying tea and cake. While it isn’t possible to hold fika time in offices or on sites, colleagues are finding ways to connect virtually or through walking one to ones.
We also have many practical resources available to colleagues, which we have adapted to support our people during the pandemic. We know that financial worries can have a significant impact on mental wellbeing, so have a wide variety of support available. This includes financial advice on diverse topics from budgeting to managing debt through our partner Neyber, hardship loans, and an Employee Assistance Fund available to colleagues whose households are going through financial difficulties due to COVID-19.
We have teamed up with Mental Health at Work to offer our people a virtual workshop called One Hour to … think about Mental Health. The workshop gives employees the time and space to think about their mental health and practical tips on ways to look after their mental health. It also signposts things like our Employee Assistance Programme, which provides a phone line open 24/7 for confidential, independent support.
We want our people to know and feel that our organisation fundamentally cares about each individual and to feel a sense of belonging. My experience is that a culture of support and positive wellbeing spreads through the whole business and out to customers, creating a healthy organisation.