With savings of £800.000 in just 15 months, and an overall reduction in sickness absence of 0.8%, Yorkshire Water has reaped the benefits of putting wellbeing at the heart of its business agenda.
Employee Health and Wellbeing Manager Susan Gee knows that people are more engaged and better able to use their skills when they are physically and mentally well.
With this in mind, she implemented a full-scale remodeling of the wellbeing programme at Yorkshire Water, which serves 1.9 million households and employs 3,000 staff.
The new wellbeing model enables a holistic perspective of staff performance and wellness, taking into account physical, social and emotional aspects of the working environment and identifying pressure points which may be impacting on attendance or productivity.
“By embedding this model into the business at every level, the wellbeing initiative has now become integral to the operational and strategic priorities of Yorkshire Water. “
By embedding this model into the business at every level, the wellbeing initiative has now become integral to the operational and strategic priorities of Yorkshire Water.
Mental health difficulties accounted for 21.5% of sickness absence at the company in 2013; the second-largest category after musculoskeletal disorders.
Susan takes a rounded view of wellbeing, recognising that physical and psychological health issues can often impact on each other.
As a result, the wellbeing policy doesn’t ‘single out’ people with diagnosed mental health conditions, but recognises that we all experience stressors and difficulties in our lives. By taking this inclusive approach, Yorkshire Water can identify pressure points across the organisation and apply effective measures to address them.
To achieve this, managers complete stress risk assessments (based on Health and Safety Executive guidelines) with all members of their team on a regular basis.
The assessments are collated and used to identify barriers to optimum performance. This information is then fed directly up to the leadership team and into the overall business plan.
Key measures developed as a result include:
- Creating a health and wellbeing group for each sector, to identify key risks to the business around attendance management
- The creation of a tailored Stress Connect tool in partnership with Leeds Metropolitan University
- Mental health awareness training for all managers, delivered independently by a local GP
- The development of a rehabilitation policy, which enables staff to work adjusted hours or with altered duties as an alternative to sickness absence
- The creation of a Health & Wellbeing page on the intranet, with links to resources such as debt advice, mental health charities, legal advice and online or telephone support such as The Samaritans.
These measures, along with other interventions such as an in-house physiotherapist, have enabled Yorkshire Water to reduce sickness absence to 2.3% since Susan joined the company 15 months ago.
By taking a positive attitude to mental health – identifying pressure points in the working environment, reducing stigma and approaching the issue holistically – Yorkshire Water has achieved one of the biggest reductions in sickness absence across the region.