A focus on wellbeing

Jennie Hennessey, our communications manager in the Midlands, explores how businesses can support the wellbeing of their people by tackling stress.

Making a change

Delivering large construction projects is an exciting challenge our people thrive on but it is not without its stresses so we are very mindful of the wellbeing of our team. A few years ago, we decided to make a change in how we support our people in managing stress and leading a more balanced life.

We considered running, like so many businesses do, a ‘wellbeing week’ but it became strikingly obvious that this would have no lasting effect. While awareness weeks and months are important, there needs to be a long-term commitment made by a business to these kinds of initiatives. We needed to give our people the tools to become more resilient to stress through long-term behavioural changes - a more proactive approach that focused on prevention.

Testing the waters

In partnership with a local business specialising in fitness, nutrition and lifestyle coaching, we worked to develop a pilot programme designed around individuals with the goal of building resilience. The programme provides a holistic approach to wellbeing, recognising that a healthy body and a healthy mind are intrinsically linked.

We designed the pilot programme to run for six months, which was a key factor – as for any behavioural change to be effective ‘tools and techniques’ need to be practised for at least six months to become new behaviours.

Although it was an overwhelming success, there were some challenges we faced along the way. The construction industry has a stereotypically macho reputation and, perhaps, as a result, wellbeing and mental health has not been something that people have been prepared to discuss openly in the past, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue and this is changing now. We held briefing sessions with each of the pilot groups to explain why we were embarking on this programme and ensure they were invested and on-board every step of the way.

Real results for the business

Programmes such as this not only benefit our people, but also the business itself. As a direct result of the programme, we were able to decrease long-term sickness of team members with anxiety or depression-related symptoms. Throughout the pilot, we compared a number of key figures with a previous project that was similar in scope and equally as challenging. The results were amazing, as during the pilot we experienced no absences, which in turn meant the business did not incur delays or additional costs as part of the project, which can end up costing thousands of pounds.

Importantly, the pilot also really helped our people, with quantifiable results such as:

  • Stress levels reduced by almost 20% - indicated via both physical measurements and qualitative feedback from employees
  • Employees’ ability to handle stress (resilience) increased by 25%
  • Weight and body fat decreased by 2kg and 2.9% respectively
  • Employees reported that their energy levels are 16% higher

Continuous change

From a business perspective, we wanted to make the wellbeing programme as accessible as possible for all our people. Using the data from our pilot we worked to develop our Life Balance Programme - our bespoke health, wellbeing and performance programme specifically designed to improve lives. It sits alongside our existing initiatives for supporting our people.

Not only is the Life Balance Programme invaluable for our people, it has also created a new way for us to engage with our customers. On recent projects such as the University of Warwick Sports and Wellness Hub, we have been able to extend our programme to our customers, providing them with added value beyond a building. Similarly, we are just about to put a number of our supply chain partners through the programme too, demonstrating the importance of wellbeing across our collaborative relationships.

We are proud to have developed a holistic programme that focusses on prevention not cure, has a long-term measurable impact on the behaviours and performance of our people, and clear evidence of success. We have built on the project and further developed our peoples’ one-to-ones to include quality conversations around wellbeing, performance and development. Similarly, we have embarked on a programme of training Mental Health First Aiders, which helps our people to have a greater awareness of, understand and support their colleagues with mental health and is helping to combat the stigma that surrounds it in the workplace.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing in the workplace, but as conversations surrounding mental health and stress management become more commonplace in society it’s crucial for businesses, regardless of their sector to keep up.