As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we caught up with our Director of People & Culture, Jo Thompson to chat about how Fulcrum has placed the mental and emotional wellbeing of its people at the heart of the business and how it’s providing support initiatives to its people.

Why is the mental health and wellbeing so important to Fulcrum?

For many years, in a lot of businesses and in society, mental health was seen as quite a taboo subject. However, we have a very people-focused leadership team and have worked hard to change that perception and create a very open and supportive environment. 
Wellbeing has always been a priority.  After all, it’s part of our approach to safety, which is core to our values. 
We recognise that wellbeing isn’t just about healthy physical lifestyles, but also mental health and emotional wellbeing, and it’s important to take a joined-up approach for a culture of transparency, trust and confidence.

It’s not always easy for people to take that step to open up to someone, or to recognise when colleagues might be having issues.  So, we’re addressing this with a series of initiatives to overcome those challenges and achieve our ambition of having the happiest and healthiest workforce.

Has the pandemic and the lockdowns impacted on your approach to mental health in the workplace?

They certainly accelerated our plans and proved that what we were putting in place would be even more important for our people and the business.  We had to adapt quickly, not only because of the lockdowns, but also to ensure we provided different audiences within the business with the right support for them.

At the very forefront was communication.  Without doubt keeping in touch with each other was the most beneficial thing to do.  Within a matter of hours last March, a large proportion of our team lost the ability to interact in person with colleagues and our site teams on the frontline had to quickly alter to new, socially distanced ways of working. 

We wanted to make sure everybody was okay, so in addition to a daily business update and communications, we made hundreds of wellbeing calls to colleagues across the business throughout the lockdowns.  These were carried out not just by members of the People team, but our managers, who took the time to have conversations with people about how they were doing and feeling and what support they needed.  This was really appreciated by our people.

Our leaders also made Covid-secure and socially distanced visits to meet our teams face to face in the field, to check in with them, talk about how they were feeling and identify what additional support we could provide. This personal touch was hugely appreciated by the guys who were working incredibly hard on the front line during the pandemic. 

Losing the ability to meet and work face to face has been a challenge, but we came up with some alternatives to maintain important interactions. Our aim was to do something every single day, which we did, and we were always looking at quirky ideas.  

We created a virtual breakout area, so people could enjoy a virtual cuppa with each other and encouraged them to take part in social media challenges.  We also shared ideas to encourage them to get out and about when they could such as a photography competition.

We also introduced some more formal initiatives, including quickly expanding our team of mental health first aiders, and this will continue, with the training of more colleagues across the business who will join the team. 

We also established a partnership with LifeWorks, an online employee assistance platform that provides a range of physical and mental wellbeing resources and support, 24/7.

Now restrictions are lifting are you changing your approach to mental health?

Not at all, in fact our experience during lockdown is shaping how we evolve the support we provide for our people.  Whether they are working from home, in an office or in the field, we will maintain the same level of communications and support we provided this past year, which has proven effective and well-received.

We recently found out we have been named among the top ten utilities companies to work for in the UK, which has been very much based on feedback from our people and the support we provided to them during the pandemic. 

The transition from more than 12 months of working from home to returning to the office will also be managed collaboratively from both a practical and mental health perspective.  We are running a pre-return programme to help people come back to our Covid-secure offices. We have also introduced a wellbeing room, which will replicate the support we provided remotely during the lockdowns, but can now be provided on a face-to-face basis. 

What’s going on at Fulcrum during Mental Health Awareness Week?

We’ve got a whole week of activities taking place for colleagues to get involved with. Many are based around the theme of connecting with nature to encourage using exercise and our local environments to support our mental health.  We’re also running a few programmes through LifeWorks, which is also offering access to independent support for anyone who might need it.

This week is another important opportunity to further our commitment to wellbeing.  It also allows us to highlight how mental health has become integral to our culture and that the wellbeing of our people is at the forefront of every decision we make.

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