The BBC has refreshed its approach to health and wellbeing following the introduction of a specialised mental health team. Hannah Uttley looks at how the broadcaster is joining up its existing programme with new initiatives and support.
The impact of mental health and wellbeing both at an individual and organisational level is clear and indisputable, says BBC mental health lead Susannah Robertson-Hart.
“I think at the BBC it’s been very important to intentionally focus on mental wellbeing in its broadest sense, rather than mental health,” she added. “It might seem like quite a small distinction but I think it makes it a lot more accessible and relevant to everybody, and not just to those who have a recognised mental health condition.”
Speaking at the [email protected] Summit 2014, Robertson-Hart explained that the mental wellbeing team – which was introduced just six months ago – was still in the early days of developing its health and wellbeing strategy and the approach to mental health support within that.
Employing approximately 23,000 staff as well as freelancers in the UK and overseas, the hugely diverse organisation obviously has innumerate challenges when rolling out this strategy, she added.
“One consideration we have is communication and consultation. As a large, diverse organisation, how are we going to get the messages about mental health and wellbeing and the strategy out there to staff who are in a number of different job roles and locations geographically and different levels within the organisation?” Robertson-Hart asked.
One way the team has looked at tackling this problem is with the introduction of health and wellbeing champions to support the implementation of strategy.
Robertson-Hart explained that employees would be encouraged to come forward and volunteer as champions to deliver the new wellbeing message to their colleagues, something she believes there will be no shortage of people showing interest in.
A big focus for the broadcaster in the coming months is also developing an online health and wellbeing portal: “We’re trying to pull together a one-stop shop where all things health and wellbeing will sit. At the moment – while there’s a lot there – people don’t always know where to go to find out about the different information.”
The BBC already has a number of support services in place for employees, including occupational health, an employee assistance programme, an access service to recommend reasonable adjustments for employees with health conditions and disabilities as well as risk trauma management.
But noting that the agenda needs to be more developed where health and wellbeing is concerned, the organisation is also launching resilience training for staff and managers with a view to extending this to all employees.
“We’re looking at rolling this out across the business as a new take on stress management and looking at the positive end of the spectrum. It’s not so much how we reduce the impact and the cost of stress, but how we build people’s capability and skills to be able to cope with pressure and difficulties more effectively, to be able to bounce back and learn and thrive from the setbacks that we can all experience,” Robertson-Hart explained.
“So it will be a real reflection on managers on how they have such a critical impact on the wellbeing of their teams and how they can affect that more positively.”
Robertson-Hart was realistic about the team’s challenges in evolving its strategy and recognised that measuring the success of its wellbeing approach will be tricky.
“It’s certainly not going to be an easy job to make sure that we have robust metrics that measure the progress of the interventions and the strategy,” she admitted.
“Obviously, a lot of the success in doing that and getting it right in terms of the metrics is having the data there and available in the appropriate and reliable format – which may not necessarily be the case. I think we’re going to have to get a bit creative with our evaluation data and think about how we are going to measure what we are doing.”
Yet the team knows which areas it needs to focus on and which particular challenges might crop up, and this seems to be the right attitude for an organisation whose overarching vision is to eventually achieve a mentally healthy workplace.
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