It was a close-fought contest, but the winners have now been decided for this year’s Occupational Health & Wellbeing Awards.
Well done to all of you. As we highlighted in last month’s edition, the judges of this year’s Occupational Health & Wellbeing Awards were seriously impressed by the quality and calibre of all of our entries. In some cases, it was a real struggle when it came to drawing up our category shortlists.
But someone has to win, and the results are now in.
To recap, there were six categories:
- Best mental health initiative
- Best musculoskeletal initiative
- Best wellbeing initiative
- OH team of the year (private sector)
- OH team of the year (public sector)
- Best multidisciplinary initiative
The winners will have an opportunity to be profiled within Occupational Health & Wellbeing and will receive special winners’ certificates (digital and physical).
Congratulations to all of you. And the winners are…..
Best mental health initiative
Winner: Thames Water
As part of its “Time to talk” strategy, Thames Water developed a virtual reality (VR) film that places the user in the position of someone who is suffering from severe depression and gets them to think about how they might have acted in similar situations and how they have ignored warning signs in the past.
Since launching the VR training and other mental health initiatives, the company has seen an increase in occupational health referrals for those recognising their symptoms and seeking support, while discussion around mental health across the business is growing.
Mental health first aiders now record an average of 30 mental health contacts every month – five times the number of physical first aid contacts recorded.
There has also been an 18% increase in employee assistance programme uptake and 350 people have joined an internal mental health group.
In its entry, Thames Water argued that the VR training had encouraged teams to talk about their experiences of mental health, helping employees to feel more comfortable talking about the issue.
Our judges were especially impressed with the innovative use of VR technology in this context, with comments including: “The videos are also an excellent way to reach a diverse workforce” and “an excellent submission…there is clear evidence of documenting business impacts and the use of VR is truly innovative and distinguishes the approach”.
Best musculoskeletal initiative
Winner: Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (entered by Wellbeing Partners)
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals’ occupational physio department and health and wellbeing team came together to target three main areas: improving health promotion, reducing sickness absence and improving the workplace in order to tackle recurring musculoskeletal problems (MSKs).
A page on its intranet was created to give staff instant access to advice and the ability to self-refer to OH. This was backed up by a monthly newsletter promoting a range of activities to address MSKs, such as fortnightly back care workshops, weekly exercise classes, health and fitness checks and health challenges.
An “MSK Task Force” was also formed, and bringing ergonomics and display screen equipment within OH’s remit allowed the workplace environment to be improved. A slideshow of desk-based exercises were introduced as computer screensavers, videos promoting exercise at home were produced, and staff were able to try ergonomic equipment in order to make their desk environment more suitable for them.
Staff with suspected musculoskeletal issues are now seen within 10 days, unless urgent. Almost three-quarters of employees who responded to its staff survey agreed they had not suffered an MSK problem as a result of work activity in 2018.
Our judges felt this was “a good example of adapting clinical practice to meet the needs of today’s NHS workforce”, with comments including that “being proactive rather than reactive and getting out onto the ‘coalface’ has increased the profile of OH/H&W and actively demonstrating the support available to staff from OH.”
Best wellbeing initiative
Winner: Arm (entered by Office Athletes)
Being a technology company with a young workforce, Arm wanted smartphones to be at the centre of its wellbeing strategy.
Following the success of geocaching events – in which participants use their mobile device’s GPS to find containers at specific locations – and the augmented reality game Pokémon Go, Arm decided to create its own bespoke event to encourage staff to be more active.
The Arm-GO game saw employees download a map that marked eight locations in Cambridge. Using their phone’s GPS, staff needed to visit these locations and scan a hidden QR code to reveal a further puzzle to solve. Once they had visited all eight locations they had to submit their answers to each of the puzzles to be entered into a prize draw.
The company found that most employees chose to play Arm-GO during their lunchbreak and immediately after work, suggesting they were spending more time outside during their working day.
Our judges described this entry as “a good example of creating wellbeing activity bespoke to cultures and age profile” and an initiative that has “been delivered within a tight budget but has clearly delivered positive results, targeting an issue important for desk-based staff (physical activity). Adapting approaches used elsewhere is clever and good to see the success they have achieved in engaging staff.”
OH team of the year (private sector)
Winner – MBDA
Since 2016, defence engineering company MBDA has revamped its occupational health and wellbeing service to improve how it supports the physical, mental and social wellbeing of its employees and how it delivers health and wellbeing awareness and training.
Key changes have included gaining both senior level and trade union buy-in, with senior leaders and the trade unions actively sponsoring and contributing to the monthly health and wellbeing campaigns promoted to all employees via posters, leaflets and online communications.
Leaders have attended training led by the team and have given visible support to the supported the OH referral process. The OH and wellbeing team has led on strategy creation and delivery alongside providing its in-house service, which includes health surveillance and lifestyle screening, designing and delivering health campaigns and training.
Employees have been recruited to act as health and wellbeing champions, supporting monthly campaigns, with particular engagement from 50 mental health first aiders (MHFAs) and 10 mental health “allies”. A new mental health and wellbeing policy was introduced in 2017, a mental health awareness factbook developed, and mental health resilience and stress awareness introduced to all employees.
Results have included improved employee engagement and satisfaction, a better case management and management referral process, greater awareness of health and wellbeing throughout the organisation (especially lifestyle change), earlier identification of health concerns through the development of a new OH health risk management process and improved take-up of its Employee Assistance Programme.
In its entry, MBDA argued the occupational health and wellbeing service had become part of a “successful support network” providing employees with “a safe, well-supported and successful business environment” and, through collaboration with employees, managers and leaders, there was “strong confidence in the service”.
The judges were impressed by the commitment to gaining senior leadership and trade union buy-in, arguing the entry made “a clear business case and strategy”, all of which had resulted in “a well-planned and comprehensive programme”. There was also “good measurement of business impact with measures suggesting strong business benefit.”
OH team of the year (public sector)
Winner – British Heart Foundation
After its staff engagement survey found that 46% of its workforce felt unable to agree with the statement that BHF “cared about them” and many retail staff felt unable to take a break at work, the charity began prioritising both staff mental health and wellbeing.
It developed a wellbeing programme – called “Live well, work well” – around five pillars: healthy eating, physical activity, mental wellbeing, changing habits and leadership.
Wellbeing “leaders” were selected from across the charity to influence the programme, which was supported by its senior managers. Team walks and healthy eating challenges were offered, while retail staff were encouraged to take a break during their working day – something that many claimed they did not have time for previously.
The charity also wanted to promote some of its values among its workforce, so blood pressure testing was introduced. Twenty-seven employees were trained to deliver this.
Mental health first aid training (MHFA) was rolled out and, so far, MHFA volunteers have supported more than 300 employees. An interactive map was introduced to help staff find their nearest MHFA volunteer, and those in the role have access to a network to share their experiences.
On “Time to Talk Day”, its director of people and organisational development sent a personalised email to each of its 4,000 staff asking “How are you?”, which BHF said helped open up an organisation-wide conversation about mental health. Ensuring that leaders prioritise staff mental health is achieved through a mandatory training course for leaders and line managers.
A “Take a break” campaign was launched to encourage retail staff to take some time away from their roles, while resilience was improved through mindfulness sessions and financial management courses.
Now 67% of staff would be comfortable disclosing a mental health issue to their manager, more than 350 managers have been trained in mental health awareness and absenteeism is down from 7.3 to 5.4 days.
In response BHF has seen the proportion of people reporting that it cares about its people increasing from 54% to 60%, a reduction in absenteeism from 7.3 to 5.4 days and a decrease in the organisations’ average body mass index from 27.8 to 26.8 in one year.
The judges praised the charity’s “well-considered programme with many elements”, arguing the results achieved so far has been “impressive”. As one judge put it: “This is a strong submission and stands out as it clearly articulates the challenge and has well-documented measurement of clear impact.”
Best multidisciplinary initiative
Winner – Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust’s occupational health and wellbeing team operates a “hub and spoke” model of service delivery for its 4,500 employees working across a large, geographically dispersed area. One third of referrals to OH (29.5%) in 2018-2019 were down to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). An aging workforce, with nearly half of older workers (45%) having at least one chronic health condition compounded the health and wellbeing challenge.
The solution to this challenge was the creation of an innovative business plan based on a need’s assessment led by the occupational health manager, clinical lead and physiotherapist. This identified two pathways to reduce the burden of MSDs both for staff and the organisation.
The first pathway was improving early access to physiotherapy, with funding for access to private physiotherapy being supported by the members of the trust’s workforce health and wellbeing group and approved by the director of HR and director of finance. External physiotherapy services were secured and a rollout programme put in place, with referral via OH, management or self-referral.
The second pathway was focused on improving support of psychological factors affecting recovery and management of MSDs. A lower back pain care plan had been introduced in 2012 but employees struggling with the associated psychological needs from back pain can now self-refer to the trust’s employee assisted programme. For longer term complex psychological needs an access guide to local CBT and talking therapies is available via the trust intranet, while OH can also make more specialist interventions.
Prevention of MSDs is also promoted through in-house manual handling training and risk assessment and ergonomic workplace assessments. The OH intranet pages provide prevention advice and there are also health and wellbeing events run.
Results have included referral rates to occupational health for MSDs decreasing by 2.5% in 2018-19 and an estimated cost reduction in sickness absence. External physiotherapy reports include scores in function that can be compared from start to completion of treatment.
The trust argued that its focus on multidisciplinary teamwork and biopsychosocial model of care using has enabled the team to share knowledge and develop skills. Measurable goal-setting via the use of the care plan has enabled the occupational health nurse/physiotherapists to provide better targeted health information self-management of MSDs.
And our judges agreed, with arguing that the programme was “collaborative, well-considered and well-delivered”. “A good demonstration of how multi-professional working is effective, using the skills in each profession,” another judge added, praising the inclusion of psychological support as part of the MSD offering. “This is a great demonstration of well-integrated multi-disciplinary working, with clear recognition and well-described care pathways,” a further judge said.
The judges for the Occupational Health & Wellbeing Awards were:
- Dr Steve Boorman, chair, Council for Work and Health, director of employee health, Empactis
- Sue Carty, registrar, Faculty of Occupational Health Nursing
- Eugene Farrell, head of the UK’s Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) and mental health lead at AXA PPP healthcare
- Professor Anne Harriss, CPD editor, Occupational Health & Wellbeing, emeritus professor in occupational health at London South Bank University, president-elect, Society of Occupational Medicine
- Mandy Murphy, deputy head of the National School of Occupational Health
- Nic Paton, editor of Occupational Health & Wellbeing
- Ashleigh Webber, Personnel Today HR and wellbeing editor.
Our thanks to all our judges for giving so generously of their time and expertise during the judging process
Our awards sponsor
The sponsor for the 2019 Occupational Health & Wellbeing Awards was BHSF, and our thanks goes to them for their continuing support.
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