Telecoms giant BT was highlighted for particular praise in Dame Carol Black’s review of health at work for its efforts to improve the mental well-being of its employees. Since being launched five years ago, its mental well-being strategy has seen a 30% reduction in mental health-related absence from work.
Catherine Kilfedder, BT’s group health adviser, explains that the company started by raising the awareness of mental well-being with staff by running a high-profile internal campaign. It offered advice on healthy lifestyles – such as the importance of sleeping and eating well, maintaining social networks and taking regular exercise – based on World Mental Health Day guidelines.
Senior staff were trained in stress management and taught the warning signs to look out for. An online stress test, based on health and safety standards, rates an employee’s mental state through a traffic light system. Those with red and amber results draw up a plan for tackling the issues with their manager.
After an employee goes sick for more than a few days contact is made so that the company can discuss how it can support them to return to work as soon as possible.
Kilfedder says: “If someone goes off work, particularly with a mental health issue, contact is established with them very early on and continues constantly throughout their absence. Occupational health makes recommendations on what we should do and adjustments to the workplace are made if needed.”