Schroders wants to ensure employees are given the opportunities to maintain and improve their mental health and wellbeing. In 2015, with executive support and sponsorship, we conducted a strategic review to understand how the benefits we provided compared with best practice and developments in our sector. From this we produced a ‘wellbeing gap analysis’ and a list of operational priorities, and I joined Schroders as Benefits and Wellbeing Manager to develop and drive forward the wellbeing strategy.
As part of a new holistic strategy, we have created an engaging Wellbeing identity and launched an interactive calendar of wellbeing events to support employees across five key areas: mind, workplace, body, financial and work-life balance. By focusing on education and prevention, we aim to encourage healthier life choices and improve employees’ wellbeing.
An initial area of focus was mental health, which our review of sickness absence trends and existing benefits and services had identified as one of the key health risks to the business (the others being cancer and musculoskeletal conditions). Our wellbeing strategy includes a targeted three-pronged approach to mental health: promotion of wellbeing, education and intervention, and raising awareness and removing stigma.
In early 2016, we shared our strategy with CMHA, and became members. I was looking forward to exchanging ideas and experience with like-minded organisations that shared our commitment to supporting mental wellbeing by creating a positive and open culture in which employees can thrive, flourish and be fully productive.
Emma Holden, Global Head of HR and a member of Schroders’ Group Management Committee, is our CMHA senior sponsor, and she champions mental health and wellbeing at board level. When we launched our wellbeing strategy she said: “In today’s world, the pace of change has accelerated rapidly and this has had a major impact on the working environment. At Schroders, we want to make sure our employees are well equipped to deal with these changes and have the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them.”
In February 2016, with unequivocal support from executive stakeholders, we introduced resilience training to help equip employees with the skills they need to handle workplace pressures and recover effectively from stressful situations, in order to work sustainably. The training encompasses cognitive behavioural-based techniques, and was developed specifically to meet the needs of people working in a high-energy, high-challenge environment. Training takes place monthly and is available to all employees.
Occupational psychologists helped us to identify those most at risk from stress or burnout and we proactively invite ‘at risk’ employees to participate in training. Typically, ‘at-risk’ groups are those who have taken on a new role, become a people manager for the first time or returned to work after a period of absence.
The training helps people understand the root causes of stress, how we typically respond and what we can do to build resilience. We are launching a follow-up programme, ‘Sustaining high performance’, this year to teach people how to effectively apply resilience skills in workplace scenarios by identifying critical performance behaviours, communicating effectively, taking clear decisions and problem solving.
We have aligned our wellbeing calendar of events to national campaigns such as Time to Talk Day, Mental Health Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day, and use these to raise awareness of mental health, signposting the internal and external support available. The events are also the ideal opportunity to promote our EAP, which provides free counselling support.
In collaboration with Mind, we hosted a mental health awareness event in August 2016 and ran a pilot training session for managers on ‘Managing Mental Health in the Workplace’, both of which were very well received. We have also decided to train all our employee-facing HR and Health and Safety people in Mental Health First Aid to ensure we can offer appropriate support to anyone who needs it.
Mental health and wellbeing training can be seen as a ‘nice to have’, but we view it firmly as a ‘need to have’ and have decided to embed wellbeing training within our learning and development programme. This reinforces the importance of mental health and wellbeing within our workplace. Our approach has been shared with other CMHA members and we understand that they are now considering implementing a similar approach.
Wellbeing training available through the learning and development programme currently includes Mental Health First Aid (available to all employees) and Managing Mental Health in the Workplace (available to all managers). We have incorporated ‘resilience’ modules into our Fundamentals of Management programme (aimed at new managers) and Manager as Leader (leadership development) programme. We will continue to develop the range of wellbeing training available.
It is increasingly difficult to measure the effect of wellbeing initiatives in terms of reduced absence levels. Like many organisations, we are embracing a more agile working culture, facilitated by technology, and this, despite benefits to employees such as more flexible working, can blur the boundaries between ‘absence’ and ‘presence’. For example, someone may not be well enough to come into work but feels well enough to do some work at home. So although people are unwell, they may not be recorded as being absent, which makes monitoring absence and measuring its impact a challenge.
We have, however, been able to gauge the impact of our wellbeing initiatives in other ways. For example, since we launched our wellbeing calendar in February 2016, 852 employees have registered to attend wellbeing events, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: 98% of participants would recommend the wellbeing session to a colleague and 97% rated the content as good, very good or excellent.
During 2016, over 100 people attended resilience training. A key component to the training is that participants leave the session having identified up to four behaviours they would like to change. Behaviour changes include: thinking style, communication, task focus, recovery time, work-life balance, exercise and movement, diet and hydration, and sleep. To support behavioural change, we provide participants with access to an engaging and interactive ‘21-day challenge’ app. The app allows them to set their behavioural goals: for example, the user can set a goal of ‘get to bed by 10 pm’. They receive encouraging daily prompts and can easily track their progress against the 21-daychallenge. Research suggests that people who complete the challenge are more likely to change their behaviour because they’ve formed new habits, and significantly increase their resilience.
We also ask everyone to complete an evidence-based questionnaire before and after resilience training. The results so far show a positive impact on five key measures of wellbeing. Based on the data gathered, resilience workshops have led to a 32% decrease in the risk of participants developing a common mental health problem, 20% of participants improved their resilience levels from ‘low’ to ‘high’, and 7% of participants reduced their susceptibility to emotional exhaustion. A further 40 managers will have been trained by the end of January this year.
In addition, regularly promoting our EAP has increased usage from 2.7% in October 2015 to 9.9% in October 2016, and take-up of the face-to-face counselling services increased by more than 100% during the same period.
In 2018, we are moving our London headquarters to an inspirational new building in the heart of the City, which is an exciting opportunity to bring all our London-based employees under one roof in a collaborative and modern working environment. The new workplace has been designed with our employees’ wellbeing in mind, and we have carefully considered factors such as daylight and lighting, air quality, noise and biophilia (a sustainable design strategy that helps to reconnect people with the natural environment). There will be a Wellbeing Centre with gym and medical facilities, a cafeteria, several open air terraces, cycle storage and dedicated changing facilities for cyclists and runners. We want to ensure that our employees are proud of their new workplace and enjoy working in it.
We have made very good progress in a relatively short period of time and are delighted to be able to demonstrate quantifiable improvements to our executive sponsors and key stakeholders. We look forward to working with CMHA and its members throughout 2017 and beyond to continue driving forward the importance of mental health in the workplace.