BT’s board has agreed a company strategy on wellbeing. The opening statement of the strategy sets the tone by stating:
‘We believe that health, safety and wellbeing are critical contributors to our future commercial success.’ ‘If we have a healthy and happy workforce, it will be more productive,’ says Dr Paul Litchfield, BT’s Chief Medical Officer.
BT has used questions from its quarterly attitude and engagement survey to create a ‘wellbeing index’ constructed for it by Towers Watson. The questions focus on how their managers care about them as people, whether they are treated with dignity and respect and whether they have a good work-life balance.
‘We’re trying to find lead indicators to supplement our existing lag measures. The wellbeing index helps to fulfil this function and allows us to respond faster than previously,’ explains Litchfield. ‘Data from our employee assistance programme can also be an early indicator because people use the service while they are at work and not just after they go off sick.’
Some of BT’s wellbeing policies
BT has a range of active policies aimed at promoting healthy life styles for its employees. Significant emphasis is placed on early intervention and include:
- Implementing a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme – which provides telephone contact, self-help, face-to-face or computer based therapy (or intensive therapy) to staff needing it.
- Health and wellbeing passport – employees with chronic health problems, such as multiple sclerosis or mental health problems, have an opportunity to have a health and wellbeing passport. The passport contains a template for action by the employee and their manager, if their health deteriorates; it also provides necessary assurance to employees.
- Robust action on health and safety – the provision of musculoskeletal health services. Several years ago, BT introduced a self-referral service for its employees, free at the point of use. When employees experience musculoskeletal problems, whether caused at work or outside.
- Employee assistance programme – providing traditional EAP services to employees, typically aimed at helping employees deal with a range of personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and well-being. Unusually, BT’s EAP is augmented with a second tier providing support and advice to managers in need of help to deal with problems faced by their teams.
- Action on mental health – developing a range of self help resources to promote good mental health among staff and training for managers to spot the signs of stress and poor mental health among staff.
Benefits and outcomes
BT has observed a range of benefits and positive outcomes for employees and the organisation, these include:
- Strategic focus on wellbeing has had considerable impact on employees through the post-financial crisis restructuring
- Reducing accidents rates by over 80%
- Reducing absences rates by over 30%
- Keeping employees and skills that would have otherwise been lost
- Developing good practices in several countries and sharing the learning