The Environment Agency has topped Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index for the last couple of years, impressing the mental health charity with its proactive efforts to promote good mental health at work.
As Andy Croxford, Deputy Director at the Environment Agency wrote in a blog post ahead of last year’s World Mental Health Day, looking after employee mental health is an important task.
“The statistics tell us that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health concern in any given year, so it’s an important issue for employers and individuals,” he said. “Employers often say that their staff are their greatest asset; here at the Environment Agency we think so, too. We want our people to be well and happy – and that’s why we have been working so hard to look after the health of our people. All of us have mental health in the same way as we all have physical health and our mental health changes over time in the same way as our physical health does.”
Breaking down the barriers
So, what has the Environment Agency been doing to top the Workplace Wellbeing Index?
“As a manager, I have been in the challenging position of supporting team members struggling with mental health issues,” Croxford wrote. “I felt genuinely concerned for their wellbeing, yet inexperienced and ill-equipped to help. It was this experience that led me to champion mental health in the workplace over the years – I didn’t want anyone else to feel that way, either as an employee or a manager.
“As well as the standard procedures that any large organisation has, we have done two main things to address mental health in at the Environment Agency: our Healthy Minds programme and our staff-led network.
“Healthy Minds is an awareness-raising and training programme for both individuals and line managers that teaches people how to spot the signs of emotional distress as well as how to access support. It creates a positive, safe environment to help staff break down any barriers and talk without fear of stigma.”
Crucially, the Environment Agency’s mental health network is entirely run by staff, for staff. It offers a safe space where people can talk honestly about mental health issues. The network carries out a phenomenal amount of work, offering webinars, mindfulness training and local discussions. It lets people share their personal stories on our staff intranet – helping further remove misconceptions and stigma.
“Through the group, our staff can also get assistance from trained wellbeing advisors – sometimes referred to as mental health first aiders – who can offer an empathetic ear and guide them to other useful resources,” added Croxford. “Plus, line managers can also get peer support through the network, enabling them to understand and support their team members’ individual needs.”
The network now has more than 600 members and is growing daily. Roughly a third of all line managers have undertaken Healthy Minds programme. And some of the organisation’s training webinars, Croxford said, have seen so much interest, the system has been overwhelmed.
Leading the way in wellbeing
Croxford went to on to add: “We’re going to start assessing workload and stress risks when creating new roles, and will look at how we can adapt existing ones to make sure they support staff wellbeing. We’re also looking to specifically reach out to our male colleagues, as men are often harder to engage with when it comes to mental health. And we’ll be running a campaign internally to make people think about the five ways they can look after their own – and others’ – wellbeing: connecting, being active, taking notice, continuing to learn, and giving.
To find out more about Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index, click here.