World Mental Health Day: Our Journey

10 October 2019


In this blog Susannah Clements, Anglian Water’s Director of People, reflects on one of the key lessons we’ve learned on our workplace wellbeing journey.


Like many companies we realised some time ago that the wellbeing of our staff is a key factor in our business success. This set us off on a journey, one that has proved harder and more complex but ultimately much more rewarding than we first imagined.


This is all part of being a responsible business and one which puts social and environmental concerns at the heart of our strategy. It demonstrates our commitment to sustainability and embedding it in the culture of the entire business and supply chain.


Today is World Mental Health Day, and as a warm up for the day yesterday I shared our mental wellbeing story at the MadWorld Summit in London - a great opportunity to give others an insight into the lessons we have learned.


One of the key learnings for me is that if we are going to provide a safe, supportive workplace environment for staff then the first thing you need to do is stop talking and start listening. While there are plenty of experts, buzzwords and, yes, blogs which you can use to build your wellbeing strategy - to be really effective it needs to be shaped by your own people.


One example of this is our mental health referral process. We want staff to be able to talk to someone when they are feeling low, stressed or anxious and we knew we needed to provide that service. Initially people had to talk to their managers and then get a referral - but the feedback we got was this was a barrier to some people who felt they couldn’t talk to a senior colleague about their issues. So we went back to the drawing board and created a self-referral system - staff can now get help directly from the experts without having to raise the matter with their boss.


We also opened our ears to what staff on the ground wanted at our sites and gave them the resources to design and create them. Sometime this was a wellbeing nature garden outside their office to get some space during a hectic day. At one of our treatment works the team decided that they wanted something more active and decided to utilise an empty office space to create a gym. In our central science labs a staff member who has qualified as a yoga instructor volunteered to lead colleagues in some free sessions and had a great response.


These, and many other initiatives driven by our staff on the ground, have shown me and my colleagues at managerial level that while we may have skills and experience in our leadership roles, the wellbeing of staff must be lead, and owned, by everyone in our company.


Today we will be holding tea and talk sessions around the business, inviting all our colleagues to take a break and talk about mental health. I look forward to the feedback and ideas these sessions will generate - and I know that they will keep me and my team busy in the coming weeks and months as we continue on our journey towards creating the workplace all our staff deserve.


You can read the full Mental Health at Work 2019 Report – Time to Take Ownership here.

Or watch our very own Melissa Tallack and Andy Brown share their stories here.