EXCLUSIVE: BAE Systems outlines placing mental health at the centre of wellbeing strategies

EXCLUSIVE: BAE Systems demonstrates how to place mental health at the centre of wellbeing strategies

Employee Benefits Insights 2021: The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the need for robust mental health strategies, explained Claire Walsh, health, wellbeing and injury prevention manager for BAE Systems.

In the closing keynote address to the Employee Benefits Insight 2021 virtual event, Walsh told delegates: “If we consider the pressures that people have been experiencing over the last year, and compare them to the known causes of poor mental health in the workplace, you can see how much the pandemic is likely to have affected employee performance. More than ever, understanding the external factors that affect mental health and work is hugely important.”

As a consequence, Walsh said, it is important to provide support for both workers and their families. However, this does not require companies to reinvent the wheel.

“If you look critically at your existing policies and procedures, you’ll probably find that you already have the best part of the tools that you need,” she added.

She pointed to BAE Systems as an example. In response to the pandemic the company has added Covid-19 (Coronavirus) specific guidance to a number of its existing policies, as well as guidance on topics such as home and hybrid working. It has also set up conversation toolkits for managers to help them start a dialogue around mental health and wellbeing.

Other measures include a new channel on its online learning app, offering free mental health and wellbeing content to employees and their families, the launch of a Coronavirus FAQ for line managers and employees, an intranet information hub and the accelerated roll out of a new employee smartphone app.

Using the app, in October last year, BAE Systems marked World Mental Health Day with a podcast interview with the executive sponsor for mental health and with an employee who talked openly about his experiences.

The launch of a series of webinars has also proved popular. Launched in May and delivered by an external partner, the service ran 12 sessions last year, all designed around employee feedback, and has so far hosted another 18 fully subscribed sessions this year.

In conclusion, Walsh said: “Mental health implementation is a process not a one-time event. But you can use the pandemic to keep the door open. There’s often existing good practice which just means signposting, gaining employee involvement and recognising opportunities to talk about mental health.”

She added: “Finally, these ideas are not new. You just need to remind people that they’re there.”