Nearly three years ago, we made the decision to focus our attention and resources to make a difference in one key wellbeing area. This was mental health. The first thing we did was to sign the ‘Time to Change’ pledge. We created an action plan that focused heavily on tackling the stigma associated with mental health issues. We also began training our own people as Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs).
In the first two years we trained over 130 MHFAs. During that time, conversations around how people were really feeling started to emerge in kitchen catch-ups. They also began to feature as a regular part of team meetings.
What’s really helped drive our plan is the huge amount of support and investment we’ve received from our Executive Board (EB) and Leaders. Two EB members are trained as MHFAs, as well as several leaders.
Expanding the Aster Wellbeing Programme
We expanded our training and awareness programme to include stress and anxiety, self-compassion and resilience. These were sessions delivered by Dorset Mind. We also started delivering breakfast sessions on mental health for our frontline teams and training days for our leaders. Supported by regular corporate comms, we saw stigma reducing as people started opening up about their own struggles. They also began to support each other.
In January this year, we took wellbeing ‘on tour’ across our offices to launch our new wellbeing offer. We have broadened mental health to include social wellbeing under the banner ‘Emotional Wellbeing’. We’ve also introduced two new strands, ‘Physical Wellbeing’ and ‘Financial Wellbeing.’
The pandemic effect
Although the health and wellbeing of our people has always been a priority for us, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen us ramp up our efforts. The importance of building social ties and interaction has proved to be a major factor in how well we feel emotionally, especially during months of isolation.
Dorset Mind again played a crucial role by providing webinars that ran fortnightly during the first few months. They focused on looking after young children during the pandemic and dealing with anxiety.
We quickly realised that with the majority of our people working from home and some employees on furlough leave, it was crucial to try to maintain a sense of togetherness. We switched our classroom-based mental health training to virtual sessions. We’ve live-streamed weekly mindfulness sessions, Zumba, yoga and a weekly virtual quiz.
Our commitment to our employees
Moving into the second lockdown we launched our latest wellbeing campaign ‘Working well from home and on the frontline.’ Nutrition webinars and on-line art classes have been added to our offer as well as our ‘Aster Elf Experience initiative’ that spread a little joy to the kids of Aster colleagues.
Our commitment to our people’s emotional, financial and physical wellbeing is only strengthening, and we will continue to work with trusted partners like Dorset Mind to provide the support our people need through what is an extremely challenging time.
Thanks to our guest blogger…
Huge thanks to Julie Cridland, Employee Experience Lead at Aster Group for taking the time to write this for us.
If you want to find out more about our workplace training, and how we can support your employees, follow this link.