Member initiative: mental health and wellbeing

PSS member Associated British Ports (ABP) was shortlisted for the Best Health and Wellbeing award for the CIPD Awards in 2023. This award recognises employers who place employee wellbeing centre stage within the organisation and have embedded a strong culture of workplace wellbeing. Investing in people’s health and wellbeing is good for business but it’s also the right thing to do. Successful programmes help to prevent ill health and actively promote people’s wellbeing, as well as demonstrating effective rehabilitation and return to work.

Below, ABP have shared details of their programme and award application.

Why was the initiative necessary?

In 2020, Associated British Ports launched our five-year strategy to support our mission to Keep Britain Trading. During the strategy launch, Henrik Pedersen, CEO said:

“As a business we continually challenge and support each other to realise our full potential. Together we are building an open, inclusive, and diverse organisation with a shared desire to be a winning organisation that people aspire to work for. We are one team, with each of us valued and recognised for our contribution to ABP’s success.”

An engaged and productive workforce whose wellbeing is supported by the business is a key part of strategy delivery.

Raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing at work is of particular importance to ABP for two specific reasons.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2021, the suicide rate for males in England and Wales was 16.0 per 100,000. The port sector workforce has a high proportion of men (85% of ABP’s 2218 full time employees are male). We recognise the need to reduce the stigma around mental health issues, and to support all colleagues of all backgrounds.

Furthermore, the COVID pandemic led to many colleagues working from home or being furloughed, with potential detriment to wellbeing due to isolation and financial insecurity.
The objectives of our mental health and wellbeing training are to:

  1. Emphasise the importance of positive mental health and wellbeing and how to maintain it.
  2. Raise awareness of the early signs of poor mental health
  3. Reduce the stigma around talking about mental health issues
  4. Raise awareness of the range of practical support and information available to ABP colleagues
  5. Equip managers and supervisors with the skills to support members of their teams who experience mental health and wellbeing issues
  6. Maintain positive employee engagement scores relating to wellbeing

How did you deliver the initiative?

We wanted to introduce Mental Health and Wellbeing concepts to our existing programmes and build on the capability of our managers to understand the issues and signpost support. We have an annual safety course called Beyond Zero (BZ) which is mandatory for all new starters and all colleagues every year.  We update the BZ content and delivery each year to keep it engaging. We also launched a manager training programme in 2022 called Lead my Team.

The BZ course was expanded to include early signs of poor mental health, the importance of talking, maintenance of good mental health and sources of further support within ABP and beyond.
One of the key obstacles to the BZ training was online delivery, necessitated by the COVID pandemic. Many of our manual grade colleagues have limited IT skills and little access to IT equipment. We worked with the IT team to install Teams software in meeting rooms, with instructions on how to access courses.

Another challenge was breaking down stigma around mental health. Feedback from other courses showed engagement increases if delegates see “people like them” in the content. We therefore filmed six colleagues in different roles across the business talking about their own mental health. Our CEO also contributed a video describing how he overcame stress in his early career.

We expanded the manager training programme by adding a brand new module called Mental Health and Wellbeing. One of the key challenges was that some managers were not confident to discuss mental health issues with their teams. We met with these managers to determine their specific needs and used this to develop the new module.

We also developed a Mental Health and Wellbeing policy and aligned the launch of the policy and the new training module together in August 2022.

How did you measure success?

Success was measured in four ways:

Training accessibility by attendance rates, which stayed high with 100% in 2021 and 99.5% in 2022.

Secondly, a questionnaire to measure attendees’ knowledge relating to objectives one to four (as outlined above) was sent before and after the training. The results showed that knowledge of how to maintain positive mental health increased from 40% to 82% after training. Likewise, awareness of early signs of poor mental health and the support available to colleagues increased. An increase in the likelihood that people would talk about their own mental health indicates a reduction in the stigma surrounding this. (See supporting information for more details)

After training, to measure the success of objectives one to five, we asked about the most useful parts of both the annual training and the manager course. All comments were very positive. See supporting information for comment examples.

Thirdly, we measured the practical impact of the training by measuring views of our intranet wellbeing pages and uptake of available services.

Since August 2021 there have been 1696 views of our new Employee Assistance Programme information. (In context, ABP currently has around 2200 employees).

From January to July 2022, there was a 113% increase in calls to our new EAP provider compared to calls to our previous supplier in the equivalent period in 2021.

Finally, we include wellbeing questions in our annual engagement survey. Our wellbeing score increased from 57% in 2021 to 60% in 2022. We will continue to measure this in future years.

To ensure the sustainability of the message, we ran poster campaigns, wellbeing workshops in our ports, and have to date trained 62 mental health first aiders.