PwC UK wanted to create an open culture, where employees felt comfortable talking about mental health, and were more likely to speak up when they needed support.
The campaign Green Light to Talk was launched in May 2016, during Mental Health Awareness Week, with the objective of normalising conversations around mental well-being and mental ill-health.
There were three key aspects of the campaign from the beginning:
- Wearing a green ribbon. PwC created ‘Green Light to Talk’ day on the Thursday of Mental Health Awareness Week. On this day people were invited to wear a green ribbon as a visible demonstration that they were happy to have conversations about mental health.
- Storytelling. Beyond the Green Light to Talk day, PwC wanted to sustain the change in culture and encourage conversations around mental health all year round. Every month since May 2016,a PwC employee has told their mental health story, creating a simple and personal video. This is shared as part of the ‘Green Light to Talk series’, right across the fim via its intranet news channel.
- Mental Health Advocates. PwC wanted to create multiple pathways of support and also show strong leadership in this space. A group of six senior partners volunteered to share their mental health story widely and be available to talk to employees who were concerned about themselves or someone else. Their role is to listen in confidence and without judgement, and signpost to the right support. There are now 22 Mental Health Advocates across the UK.
The campaign has evolved and grown from strength to strength with local business teams developing activities to further bring the campaign to life. Within PwC, some key results have been:
- Green ribbon: A key result of the Green Light to Talk campaign is that in 2017 the Lord Mayor’s Appeal approached PwC and asked to incorporate the Green Ribbon into the This is Me campaign, complementing This is Me story-telling from Barclays. As a result, this has gone far beyond just a PwC campaign and in Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 over 250,000 people wore a green ribbon across the UK. In addition, increasingly people at PwC are wearing green ribbons all year around and taking them to client sites. PwC has now launched this campaign in other offices around the world including Australia and the US.
- Storytelling: PwC has had very positive feedback on its videos from employees and four years on PwC has enough volunteers to tell their stories for the next 18 months. PwC has had people volunteer to talk about all kinds of life experiences still not often addressed in the workplace, including sexual violence, abuse, bereavement, stillbirth, years of self-harming and suicide attempts. These are all people that are living successful, full lives at work with friends and family surrounding them. These stories have been PwC’s most commented on articles across its whole intranet.
- Mental health Advocates: PwC has had positive feedback on the leadership its advocates show in this space. Two of the Advocates are now on the Inside Out Leaderboard.
PwC’s main challenge in 2016 was not knowing whether people would pick up and wear a green ribbon, so in the build up to launch PwC did a huge amount of communication around what it meant to wear a green ribbon. PwC didn’t want people to just wear one and not realise that it was showing a willingness to have a conversation and listen to someone. To help with this the firm created a flyer that people could take with them to client sites, explaining what the green ribbon symbolised.
A second challenge is that PwC has a lot of people working off-site remotely. In order to reach those people with the Green Ribbon campaign PwC created a virtual green ribbon that people could put on their e-mail signatures.
A third challenge was getting the balance between setting up the campaign and not wanting to control it too much and stifle creativity. Every year PwC produces a Green Light to Talk Resource Toolkit which has ideas as to what local teams can do and how they can bring the campaign to life. The Toolkit provides some structure and acts as a starting point for teams to create their own ideas. Examples of team-led initiatives include:
- The Samaritans is one of PwC’s partner charities. As part of this the firm holds ‘One Firm One Brew’ events where people have a cup of tea, cake and talk whilst also making a donation to the Samaritans.
- Walk n’ Talks. Organizing times where people can go for a lunchtime walk led by wellbeing champions. This is an opportunity to connect, have conversations and check in with each other.
- Mental health awareness quizzes to bring people together and build skills in this area.
- A team ran a session called ‘the elephant in the room’ where a large elephant was drawn and people wrote on it what they thought stopped people talking about how they felt at work. This led to a really productive conversation.
- In Scotland, the team collaborated with the local police force for a ‘Walk n’ Talk’. They walked up to Edinburgh castle for sunrise and afterwards had breakfast together.
Key advice from PwC:
- It was important to make the mental health awareness campaign more than just about the ribbon. Whilst the wearing of the ribbon is fundamental, and showing visible support is essential, it is important organisations think about what goes with that and how to facilitate the conversation to really generate culture change. For example, training in mental health literacy, effective signposting to sources of help and support, and sustained and engaging communications are key.
- In order to get a campaign like this off the ground and sustain it, it is important to have strong leadership support. There needs to be a variety of leaders who understand the campaign, wear a green ribbon and explicitly encourage involvement. For example PwC ‘s central communications about the campaign are reinforced through local business leaders and their communication channels, so that messaging is compelling and lands well.