Baywater Healthcare is an independent specialist provider of healthcare services to patients with long term conditions.
Baywater Healthcare’s proactive approach to supporting the mental wellbeing of its employees has been spearheaded by its CEO and provides an excellent example of how commitment by senior leadership can help create a positive culture around mental health in the workplace.
When Baywater Healthcare became independent from its parent company in 2013, its senior leadership team needed to establish new corporate ways of working. Whilst this posed challenges, it also provided an opportunity for Baywater Healthcare to realise its vision of being an employer who invested in their people.
Whilst mental health was not explicitly on the agenda, communication between employees working in diverse roles across office spaces and out in the ‘field’ was an issue. Efforts to improve communication and develop a Corporate Social Responsibility model soon grew into a focus on employee wellbeing.
For Baywater Healthcare’s senior leadership team, assuring employee wellbeing was about more than “people liking the job, being happy and being trained properly”, it was also about “taking a holistic approach to the employee”.
According to Baywater Healthcare’s HR Lead, the Time to Change campaign provided a way to engage with the diverse experiences and needs of individual groups in Baywater Healthcare’s workplace.
“Time to Change was named as a support that would help us develop and look at our strategies around sustaining and changing how mental health is looked at across our workforce.”
The Employer Action Plan- which marks the beginning of an employer’s journey to changing workplace culture and is updated to reflect evolving goals- was particularly useful for providing a focus.
“The Employer Action Plan challenged us to be disciplined; to look at everything in detail across the business.”
Having their Employer Action Plan approved by Time to Change and cascaded across the company marked the beginning of an organisation-wide shift. The commitment to staying accountable to the actions laid out in the Plan was reinforced by CEO Adam Sullivan signing the Time to Change Employer Pledge. This public investment in mental health by those at the top tier of the company set the tone for further changes made at Baywater Healthcare.
Another intervention which was particularly impactful was the CEO’s decision to ask Baywater Healthcare’s HR Lead to train as a Mental Health First Aider. As the HR Lead describes,
“I was dreading going. I thought I’d be out of my depth and exposed, and I was in some ways. But I was with people who were equally vulnerable because of the course. It was lifechanging.”
Once she had acquired the additional title of Mental Health First Aider, this was communicated to all employees through one of the regular weekly Workplace Facebook broadcasts hosted by the CEO, during which the Mental Health First Aider role was discussed with employees in detail. Adam also conducted an interview with the Mental Health First Aider via a podcast on this platform which provided a personal introduction and endorsement of this role to all the workforce from the highest level.
The HR Lead began to receive calls from across the company and, supported by the senior leadership team, was able to provide a listening ear or signpost individuals to professional services, depending on what their needs required.
The anonymity of this support encouraged more people to disclose their concerns and, for many employees, simply having someone to listen to them talk helped to dissipate their concerns.
“The stigma that perhaps was there […] for example an idea of weakness, especially for men […] seems to have gone.”
There have been challenges and setbacks that have required Baywater Healthcare to adapt their approach to supporting mental health. The biggest of these has been the pressure that the Coronavirus pandemic has put on the functions of the business. With the company being a provider of vital oxygen services, Baywater Healthcare’s technicians were at the forefront of dealing with the risks and restrictions associated with the virus, and subsequently were impacted by high levels of anxiety.
The HR Lead began receiving around 15-20 calls a day from anxious employees, during a time when the company’s capacity to support the mental health of its employees was reduced due to remote working conditions. Although this increased the pressure on her role, the HR Lead found that the supportive approach of the senior leadership team, as well as a compassionate reciprocity in the way that advice was given and received between colleagues, made the task manageable.
The regular Employee Forum was one area of support that was significantly impacted:
“The employee forum was an exceptional opportunity that representatives loved because it was an opportunity to interact with people and come together and to be heard […] Mental health was always on the agenda, no matter the topic of the meeting [...but] COVID has stopped us from being able to get together physically.”
However, Baywater Healthcare has adapted its approach to this support by continuing to encourage free and open dialogue via the Facebook forum, making sure interactions have positive and informed responses and professional support details are consistently made visible as they were in the physical meetings.
The weekly Workplace Facebook broadcasts hosted by the CEO have taken on a more significant role in keeping open lines of communication throughout the company. In this way, Adam has adapted his usual open-door policy to the requirements of remote working and has provided a way for employees to get immediate answers to their questions and have regular contact with the senior leadership team.
Activity on the Facebook page was particularly prevalent as the UK first went into lockdown, with the senior leadership team answering queries and concerns around workplace safety, the furlough scheme, government regulations and more, as they arose. With 79% of the workforce regularly attending these meetings, this has proven to be an excellent tool in the adaptation to remote working communication.
The Workplace Facebook page also proved useful as a virtual continuation of a workplace that was a safe space for employees to share how they were feeling.
“[Employees] are doing it because we’re giving them the confidence that they’re not going to be judged and they can share.”
Going forward, Baywater Healthcare plan to further develop their Employer Action Plan and adapt it to the ‘new normal’ created by the pandemic.
An important part of this process will involve collecting feedback from employees. A formal survey, to be run on the Workplace Facebook Page, is already being created to capture information including employees’ preferred methods of communication about personal issues, and their preferences around ways to disclose any challenges they may be facing.
These surveys are to be carried out monthly, with the results to be collated and discussed with Baywater Healthcare’s Mental Health Champions - giving them a better knowledge base to inform the support they provide to their colleagues.
Underpinning these future plans is the determination and vision of Baywater Healthcare’s CEO and HR Lead, who emphasised that,
“We need to keep talking and not let ourselves get complacent, so that stigma doesn’t creep back in”.