Royal Mail Group are one of the largest employers in the UK, with one in every 175 people employed by the badge-links-to-all-articlescompany. But why do Royal Mail see wellbeing as important to their organisation? Judith Grant tells us why.

Providing support for employee health and wellbeing is a priority for Royal Mail Group. We recognise that our employees are our biggest asset and are crucial to our future success.

We are one the largest employers in the UK, with one in every 175 people working in the UK employed by Royal Mail Group. It is a responsibility that we take seriously. By providing support for employee mental health and wellbeing, we demonstrate the value we attach to our people. But there are also strong business reasons for our investment in wellbeing: its boosts workplace morale, and reduces the costs and disruption of sick absence.

Two-years ago we saw that our sick absence rate had increased. Musculoskeletal problems were a significant contributor but we, like many businesses, found that mental health was a major factor in workplace sickness. We also recognised that there were likely to be other employees who were experiencing mental health problems but had not yet come forward to talk about them.

That is why supporting the mental wellbeing of employees not only makes business sense, in that we help people before they go sick, but it is also the right thing to do as a supportive employer.

It is an approach that is championed from the top of Royal Mail Group. In October, our CEO Moya Greene addressed the Third European Leadership Forum for Workplace Mental Health, telling delegates that no single organisation can tackle these issues alone. She called for a collaborative joint effort to protect one of the most valuable assets any company has; its people.

The event launched the CEO Leadership Guidelines. The guidelines create an action plan to help organisations across Europe build a healthier workplace for employees and better support those individuals who may have mental health issues.

We recognise the power of collaboration in our business. When we first started our First Class Mental Health programme our aim was to start the conversation about mental health in the workplace. We knew we had to raise awareness of the issues and better equip our managers and employees with knowledge and skills to support mental wellbeing, One way we achieved this was through a partnership with the Mental Health Foundation.

Together we developed five bespoke awareness films, which have become a training module for all our managers. The videos help our managers recognise distress and know how to support someone, as well as build knowledge on how to help themselves and safeguard their own mental and physical health. We are now moving into a new phase of face-to-face training and are rolling out the Mental Health First Aid initiative for line managers to help deal with crisis situations as they occur.

We have also formed partnerships with our unions, CWU and Unite CMA, to harness the power of collaboration. Our shared aim is to create a supportive approach to prevent and manage stress, and enable people to keep doing the jobs they love. In 2014, Royal Mail signed the Time to Change Pledge together with our union colleagues. The signing of the pledge enabled us to communicate our commitment across the business and emphasise to employees how to access support.

More recently, we introduced a new initiative with CWU and Unite CMA to support managers, frontline employees and members in talking about and managing stress in the workplace. Together we launched new guidance on stress on World Mental Health Day 2016, 10th October.

The new guidance on stress aims to support managers in having positive conversations with employees about stress and mental wellbeing. A simple, “How are you?” can start a conversation to identify potential areas of need and support.

To help them, our managers have been given a new Preventing and Managing Stress Guide. This provides a stress risk assessment to support employees at risk of, or suffering from, stress and enables them to start a conversation aimed at addressing the root causes of workplace stress. We have also created a new online tool to help staff understand their own stress levels and assess their overall wellbeing in areas such as fitness, diet and sleep.

We have invested in a broad range of programmes aimed at creating an environment that enables our people to thrive. All of them come under the ‘Feeling First Class’ brand which is available to all employees through our wellbeing portal. It already has over 17,500 members. The site gives employees tools such as a Lifestyle Questionnaire combined with access articles and videos to help develop healthy habits. Royal Mail also offers a helpline called First Class Support for employees who want general support, counselling or advice for a range of issues from stress, to financial issues or family problems.

The success of our programmes has been through a measured, strategic approach using simple messaging, branded communications and leadership at all levels of the organisation. While we had ambitions to address sick absence, the investment in wellbeing has also played a part in helping to improve overall employee engagement. It has also led us to be recognised with the BITC Wellbeing Benchmark in 2015, become an Employers’ Network for Equality and Inclusion Wellbeing at Work Award winner in 2016 and get shortlisted for the CIPD’s Best Health and Wellbeing Initiative of 2016. Our investment in wellbeing will continue to play a key role in how we support, engage and reward our people.