Both physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace is vitally important, according to the mental health charity Mind, a staggering 60% of employees said that they would be more likely to recommend their organisation if their employer supported their mental health. Nikki Davies, Learning and Development Manager, Allianz Worldwide Partners UK speaks to HRD Connect about what they learnt as an organisation about their people, and how this will shape their future.
What was the reasoning behind Allianz Worldwide Partners UK hosting its first ever ‘Work Well Week’ – what sparked it?
‘Work Well’ is a major initiative across the Allianz Group, aiming to contribute to the wellbeing of all Allianz employees. Although the initiative is focused on managing stress, we wanted to take a broader look at both mental and physical health, both inside and outside of the workplace. Through Work Well Week, we were aiming to raise awareness of the Work Well initiative, provide an engaging and thought-provoking week of activities for employees, and destigmatize the topic of mental health within the workplace.
Can you talk me through the week – what were the key highlights?
We had over 100 employees actively taking part in the Work Well Week events at our head office with sessions including healthy food workshops, first-aid demonstrations and a talk from the Samaritans.
One of the highlights was the health checkpoints, which were made available to employees throughout the week. At the checkpoints, employees can find out vital health statistics including their BMI, blood pressure and metabolic age. We’ve hosted the health check stations for the past three years, so it’s great to see employees continuing to engage with them and to make positive changes to improve their health.
According to Business In The Community’s recent mental health in the workplace report, less than a quarter of line managers have received any mental health training – what are your thoughts on this?
At Allianz Worldwide Partners UK we’re committed to maintaining a happy and engaged workforce, therefore events such as Work Well Week that help raise awareness of the importance of mental and physical wellbeing both at work and at home are key.
With research showing that one in four people experience a mental health issue in any given year, we believe it is vital to give managers the knowledge they need to foster good mental health both in themselves and those around them.
In order to be able to support their teams, managers need to be aware of the way their behaviour can affect their direct reports. We are proud to say that during Work Well Week, and the two weeks either side, 32 of our managers completed the ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training programme. This programme gave all those who took part the knowledge and skillset to champion mental wellbeing within the workplace and support both those in their teams and their colleagues in the wider business. We received incredibly positive feedback about the workshop from the attendees, and are now looking at how we can roll out further mental health training within the business.
Can you tell us what the therapy dogs did, and what impact they made on employees?
Employees were visited by Eric, a seven-year-old border collie, and his owner Diane Whiting, representing the charity Therapy Dogs Nationwide. Eric usually visits primary schools and care homes for dementia patients but agreed to visit our employees as a way to encourage them to not only take breaks away from their desks, but crucially, relax during the break. Spending time with animals is proven to reduce both stress and anxiety levels, so a chance to pet Eric helped ensure the teams took well-deserved time out and gave them a boost before returning to work.
What has Allianz Worldwide Partners learnt as a result of hosting this week, have changes been made within the workplace already?
Work Well Week sits jointly within our Learning and Development Strategy and Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy. Both strategies are focused on maintaining a happy and motivated workforce, as we believe that the development of our people is one of the most important aspects in achieving our business objectives and goals.
As so much information was gathered and shared during Work Well Week, we are creating a ‘Work Well’ hub within our intranet as a continuing source of information for employees. I will also be sitting down with the managers who took part in the mental health first aid workshops to discuss the next steps in terms of further training, and keeping the conversation around mental health going.
What would be your advice to business leaders when considering the wellbeing of their employees?
There is overwhelming evidence of the negative impact of presenteeism in the workforce, and it is important that business leaders understand and appreciate the influence of employee wellbeing on engagement and attrition.
For Allianz Worldwide Partners, it’s not only about what we achieve; there is now a stronger emphasis on how we achieve it, including the wellbeing of all employees and managers. Through the integration of wellbeing in all work activities and practices, a positive environment can be created that is compatible with promoting employee engagement, performance and achievement.
Although it can seem like a vast subject, there is so much information and plenty of resources available for businesses to access for free. Reaching out to local charities (such as your local Samaritans) can be a great place to start.
What impact did having the Samaritans speak have on the overall organisation?
A number of employees attended a talk by Samaritans who shared their ‘Listening Tips’. The purpose of the talk was to encourage employees to listen to the important things their friends, family and colleagues share with them and to devote time and attention to being better listeners. The Samaritans shared some powerful statistics which highlighted how many people are affected by mental health issues. Inviting a charity in to talk about mental health, and in particular suicide, has a powerful effect in breaking down the stigma of talking about mental health in the workplace.
What was the general advice around the food we should all eat – were there any key insights from this?
During Work Well Week, a registered nutritionist ran a workshop for our employees focusing on how to create a healthy lunch. She focused on how to make a healthy lunch more exciting and gave us some tips on ingredients that can make it both nutritious and filling. The main takeaway was that a little preparation goes a long way – preparing a good lunch in advance saves us from the temptation of convenient but unhealthy snacks!
How important do you think wellbeing is within organisational strategy going forward?
At Allianz Worldwide Partners UK, we see employee wellbeing as vital in supporting and building upon the company’s objectives and goals. It is recognised that our employees are our greatest asset, and it is essential that they receive the highest level of support possible to see us through the challenges of our competitive and ever-changing industry.