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Changing an employment contract

With many employers looking at changing contracts as a way of avoiding redundancies, we ask Acas advisers Mark Makin and Helen Robinson how to do it well. We explore:


-         The best way to change employment contracts

-         Why consulting staff matters

-         How to do this well remotely

-         What your rights are as an employee


Episode Resources


https://www.acas.org.uk/changing-an-employment-contract


Transcript


Sarah Guthrie

Welcome to the Acas Podcast. We're talking today about changing an employment contract with Acas advisors, Helen Robinson and Mark Makin, and I'm Sarah Guthrie. This is topical at the moment because lots of employers are looking at changing contracts as an alternative to making people redundant. So employers are asking, how can we do that? And members of staff might be asking us, can my employer do this? So Helen, let's start off with employers. What's the best way of going about changing an employment contract?


Helen Robinson

There's a number of different ways that an employer can can consider changing somebody's contract or varying the terms and conditions. But I think the best way from an Acas perspective would be where possible to do so by agreement. If an employer speaks to a member of staff, and they are able to get their agreement to make a change to their terms and conditions, then ultimately that is going to be the best way for conducive working relationship moving forward.


Mark Makin

To echo what Helen said there, taking the workforce with you - informing, explaining consulting, discussing, providing feedback - that sets the tone for the relationship once the change comes into effect, because the trust and the goodwill will need to be there to take the organisation forward afterwards. And if we make changes without agreements, there's a big possibility that that trust and goodwill won't be there, which is going to create problems with itself.


Helen  

Building on that, I mean, what some employers are choosing to do is to see whether they can make these changes on a temporary basis because staff might be more willing or accepting to the changes there. And I've also spoken to an employer recently who has offered an incentives so the change that they were looking at making was a 10% pay cut and that was across the board 10% pay cut for all staff. That was a measure to look at avoiding redundancy. And what the employer said almost as an incentive was that if this didn't work, and if actually they did need to make any redundancies within the next 12 months, their redundancy pay and their notice pay would be calculated at their original wage so that the wage that was slightly higher, and so that that was something that went some way for for stuff agreeing to that change. 


Sarah  

Yeah, I can see why that would really help because we've heard stories of people who have agreed to a temporary pay cap with a perception that then they won't be made redundant and get made redundant and then also have their redundancies as calculated on their most recent pay, which is half of what they were being paid. So I guess it, it sounds like thinking through in detail how your staff will respond to the changes you're proposing both in the short term and the long term is really important here. Some people listening to this podcast might be thinking, Well, can employers change a contract? What are my rights? I wondered if you could give us an insight into that.


Helen  

If a member of staff agrees to a change, then absolutely a change can be made to that contract, whether it's on a temporary or a permanent basis. I think it's very, very important when we're looking at agreements and agreeing to a change that an employer is very open and honest about what this change is going to be. How long is it going to last for? Is it going to be permanent? Because employees need to have that information so that they can make an informed decision about whether they are happy to agree. But I also think it's equally if not more important for employers to be open about the reason behind the change. Because if they approach their staff and they speak about Okay - we will use the 10% pay cut as an example - we're looking at giving you a 10% pay cut, if that's all the information that staff have, then it's highly unlikely that they're going to be happy about that or agreed to it. Whereas if an employer approaches staff and says, Okay, look, we're looking at a 10% pay cut and the reasons are because x y z, people still may or may not be happy about it, but they might be more likely to respond to that say, Okay, yeah, I can understand the reasons why. And yes, I will accept that change.


Sarah  

So keeping very clear communication around the reason why and also how long it's likely to be for and what the long term consequences of that might be. And, Mark, what have you seen from employers about good practice in this area?


Mark  

I think it is the communication as early as possible, as open and transparent as possible. And it's two way. Feedback is given. I think that's something that is often missed in this type of process, where the employer may well go into this type of situation. And they will listen to what people have to say, but they don't provide the feedback. And the feedback may be that was a great idea. But we can't do it, because in some cases, it may be that's a great idea we haven't thought about. Let's discuss in some more detail how we might be able to implement that.


Helen  

Just remember that if you are looking at changing the contract of 20 or more people, there are additional consultation requirements on you, and that you would need to collectively consult. So that would mean either involving trade union representatives if you recognise a trade union, or giving staff the opportunity to appoint employee representatives to almost act as a go between and have conversations with employer and staff themselves.


Sarah  

And that two way communication is very different at the moment for most workplaces than what we would have encountered in the past. Do you have any insight into the challenges of doing this remotely and how people have been overcoming them?


Helen  

I think there are I should say that added challenges. And I think sometimes it's very important for employers to remember that actually, people have got other stuff going on at home. At the moment, yes, they may be working from home. But it might be that they need to schedule a specific time to have important conversations such as these when I don't know if they've not got children at home or the partner is able to look after children at that particular point or other caring responsibilities. So being very, very clear about what's going to be spoken about in a specific meeting or specific virtual meeting. But making sure that that person is in the right frame of mind with minimal distractions to have this conversation because it is an important conversation. Just because people are working remotely or we may have people furlough that we need to speak to, there still needs to be a good level of communication. And what I mean by that is not just an email chain, it's a conversation that would usually be had and it should be a conversation, have it as a conversation, whether it's a video call, whether it's a telephone conversation, not just an email to all and saying this is happening or we're proposing this how. Have a conversation.


Sarah  

So you mentioned Mark that one of the things people often miss is the two way feedback and the need for that. What other mistakes have you seen employers making? And why do you think those mistakes are being made? 


Mark  

There's sometimes an assumption that I've made this decision for the good of the business. So people will automatically accept that it's the right decision. So one of the mistakes that is often made is that that communication, early communication doesn't take place. A decision has already been made, and the employer presents it to the staff almost as a fait accompli, and then is shocked and surprised when they get objections to that, or when people have concerns about it. Or when there is a long list of questions about well, how will this impact me? What does this mean for me? When is it gonna happen? It's it's almost like the employer sometimes jumps the gun and makes the decisions for good reasons, but misses out that communication stage consultation stage.


Sarah  

One thing that's really struck me about doing this process well is that it can take quite a lot of time. And I wonder what you would say to somebody who's thinking, well, that all sounds great, I don't have time to do this.


Mark  

Ultimately, the decision is the employers. But the conversation that I would have with them would be centred around not just the legal risks that they might face if they get this wrong - so there might be breach of contract claims there might be constructive dismissal claims, there might be claims centred around the failure to consult properly if they are in a collective situation. But I'd also talk about some of the less obvious risks, the impact on your workforce, in terms of morale and motivation, the goodwill and that trust and confidence that needs to exist between the employer and the workforce in order for them to function properly.


Sarah  

And so what rights do you have as a member of staff who's going through this process? Perhaps there's been a proposed change, perhaps your employer has or hasn't handled it well? Could you just talk us through what rights you have?


Helen  

It's not an uncommon question from from an employee to say, Okay, well, you're talking about agreement to change, but actually, I don't want to agree to it for whatever reason, and it may be that an employer has done absolutely everything that Mark and I have spoken about. They've consulted they discussed, they've been very open about the the reason behind this change, but the change doesn't suit the member of staff and that is a real life situation. And I think in all circumstances, there's absolutely no obligation on a member of staff to agree to a change. But I do think it's, it's worth being aware that ultimately, if they don't agree to change, there are other options that are available to their employer. For example, if an employer feels that they've got absolutely no option, but to make this change, and their business may go under otherwise, for example, then they do have the option of actually ending the existing contracts by giving notice. And then re-engaging their staff at the end of that notice period on new contracts. What I would say is that it's not a risk free thing for an employer to do. It is still technically a dismissal, you dismissing somebody from their existing role, from their existing contract. And with that in mind, an individual would have the option, if they chose to, to appeal against the decision. They'd also potentially have the option of actually treating that notice as notice of dismissal. And if they felt it was unfair, and they weren't engaged in the new contract, they could potentially look at making a complaint to an employment tribunal around that. So it's not risk free for an employer. It's an option but it's not not a risk free one.


Mark  

As well as the agreement route to vary a contract, and the dismissal and reengagement route to varying contracts, some employers already have flexibility clauses built in to their contracts, which they can invoke. Just a word of caution around flexibility clauses: they do need to be well written, they need to be quite specific, and they need to be reasonable in order them for them to be to stand up and and be operative. And you usually find them around place of work, job role, job function, hours of work. Even if flexibility clauses already exist in a contract before invoking them, I think it's good practice for the employer to speak to staff and explain the circumstances such that they feel they need to invoke the clause. Here's the reason why I feel a need to involve the clause and here's the fine detail about about when and how and what it might mean for you. But then leave the door open for the staff to come back with questions, concerns and objections of other suggestions and ideas. There is another option, unilateral variation, which involves the employer simply making the change and imposing it on employees. But it is fraught with risk and it should be only used as a very, very last resort. It opens the door to legal challenges, it doesn't go down well with the workforce, it will damage goodwill, it will remove any discretionary behaviour that might have been the previous layer, and it just doesn't make for good employment relations as well as the the big legal risks that come along with imposing changes on your workforce.


Helen  

And I think if I if I just add to that, I did some work with an organisation last year - so we're talking pre COVID pre pandemic. And the employer had done exactly this, they had basically informed all of their workforce that as of next week, they were going from a five day to a four day working week, and the pay cut that that attracted as well. Now as Mark said, they lost a lot of goodwill from their staff with that, but what also happened was they lost within about the following month, four members of staff left and went working for another organisation. But what had actually happened, these four particular members of staff were quite specialist, so they had to be replaced. So there's all these then additional costs that the employers got of losing experienced, knowledgeable members of staff, and then having to go through recruitment again to replace them when they were already struggling with money, which is why this this going to four day working week had come in in the first place.


Mark  

And I can see in a situation like that Helen where, if the employer had spoken to people in advance, early, been open about the need to make the change, staff may well have agreed to that once they understood the full picture. 


Helen  

Absolutely, yeah. And I think at the end, the employer in his particular circumstance, had done exactly what we were talking about earlier. He'd fallen into one of those traps where they felt they had consulted because they themselves had thought about all these different measures or different ways and come up with the solution. But they'd done it on their own. They hadn't involve their staff during that thought process.


Sarah  

I'm just thinking of people who are listening to this and thinking my employer is not doing this well. They haven't consulted very well. They haven't listened to that feedback. What would you advise someone in that position about how they can help their whole workplace go through this process more smoothly? 


Helen  

I think in the first instance, and this would be true of any concern that any member of staff has within a workplace, we would be advising them to raise that and to raise that internally. I think it's very important for both employers and members of staff to see whether a situation can be resolved internally before they think. Okay, well, is there any sort of external complaints I could make? And part of the reason for that is something that Mark mentioned earlier on, it's about the fact that hopefully, a working relationship is going to continue. And the more that that can be resolved internally, and informally wherever possible, the more likely it is that that working relationship will continue and will continue to be positive. 


Sarah  

Thanks. That's been really helpful. I wondered if you could leave us with a key insight that you've had to during your work on this topic. 


Helen  

The key thing - and Mark and I have referenced this throughout our conversation today - is to communicate and to communicate as early as possible.


Mark  

And to keep communicating. I've seen situations, certainly in collective situations where there are laid down consultation periods that the employer must observe. But I've seen situations where we get to the end of that 30 days or 45 days, depending on the numbers, and the employer decides that's it job done, when it would have made so much more difference if they just kept that talk in that communication going for a few more days, because they were making progress. Things were developing yet, they'd come to the end of the statutory consultation period, and they felt that's it. That's the green light to move ahead now. So don't be bound by any limits. If things are moving ahead. If progress is being made, keep talking. 


Helen  

Absolutely. Yeah. 


Sarah  

It's a great thing to remember for all workplace relationships, not just varying a contract, changing your contract. And so thanks very much for your insight today.


Helen  

Thank you. 


Mark  

Okay.


Sarah  

You've been listening to the Acas podcast. You can find full details about what you need to know about changing an employment contract on our website at www.acas.org.uk Thanks for listening. 

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3/18/2021

The business of mental wellbeing - with Fujitsu

Does investing in mental wellbeing really bring business benefits? We’re joined by Sarah-Jane Littleford, Head of Responsible Business at Fujitsu Global Delivery in the second of three episodes featuring stories from employers working to improve mental health at work. Sarah-Jane shares:How it makes business sense for Fujitsu to invest in the mental wellbeing of their people.How Fujitsu’s approach to wellbeing has shifted during the pandemicHer insights on what’s made the biggest differenceEpisode resources:For more information on supporting mental health during coronavirus, visit: www.acas.org.uk/mental-health-resourcesFor in depth analysis, in our latest policy paper, Adrian Wakeling explores the impact that COVID-19 is having on how workplaces support mental health. To contact an Acas adviser for specialist support, get in touchTranscriptSarahGuthrieWelcome to the Acas Podcast. My name is Sarah Guthrie. We are the workplace experts and our aim is to make working life better for everyone in Britain. This episode is the second in a series of three looking at practical examples of how employers have supported mental health and well being at work. In the first episode, we heard from Martin Short at the Ministry of Defense, and this episode, I'm delighted to be joined by Sarah-Jane Littleford, who is head of responsible business at Fujitsu global delivery. So thanks so much for joining us today, Sarah-Jane.Sarah-JaneLittlefordHappy to be here. Thank you.SarahSo we're going to be talking in this episode about why Fujitsu thinks it's worth investing in staff well being, what the benefits have been, how you do it, how Fujitsu does it, and what other workplaces can learn from this. But Sarah-Jane, I wonder if you could start off by just telling us what your role is at Fujitsu Global Delivery.Sarah-JaneYeah, so as you said, I'm head of responsible business for a region of Fujitsu that we call global delivery. So global delivery is, as it suggest, aglobal part of our business. It covers eight countries, right across the world, from Costa Rica in the West, all the way to Philippines and the east. And it's the part of our business where we deliver services to our customers, we do provide multilingual 24, seven service desks. But beyond that, we also provide a lot of technical services, like remote infrastructure, management, r&d, all the technical stuff that goes on behind the scenes that makes a business function. There's about 15,000 people. My role as head of responsible business basically means that I work with all of the countries and local teams to set strategy for corporate social responsibility.SarahHow did you personally get into well being and thinking about that as a topic?Sarah-JaneFundamentally, it was because it was handed to me in my role of responsible business. And that was my first introduction to wellness in a corporate context. For me, personally, it's always been a huge part of my life. And mental health was increasingly important, as I grew older, primarily because I did a PhD. And for anyone listening who has gone through that process, it's an incredibly humbling time. It's a mammoth project that you're delivering on your own, under your own steam, completely dreamed up by yourself. So it's an incredibly stressful time, at least, it was for me. So I learned a lot about mental health personally, during that time. And then I was able to bring that self knowledge, at least, to my role at Fujitsu. And I've been learning so much from my colleagues and from experts, including at Acas over the past few years.SarahSo before we get into the how of supporting mental health and wellbeing, I'm wondering, what have been the benefits of Fujitsu investing in this?Sarah-JaneI think it is fundamentally clear that mental wellness is a strategic enabler for business. A report came out from Deloitte, Gosh, a year ago now, January 2020, that demonstrated that for every pound that you spend on staff well being, you get a five pound return for employers. It's just- you can't argue with the fact that putting time and attention into wellbeing delivers huge benefits for the business. But we also recognize that as an employer, we have a responsibility to offer help and support for our employees. And that responsibility is something that we take really seriously. Particularly over the past year, employee wellbeing has become so highly critical. And we've put a lot of energy and focus into that. We've brought together multiple different teams, so not only responsible business, but also HR, operational teams, our health and safety teams, to make sure that we are delivering something for our employees that is meaningful and impactful. And deals with all of the aspects of personal health. So yes, that is mental health, but it's also physical health and social health.SarahIt sounds like, particularly during the pandemic, that you've been working across different teams within Fujitsu to look at the whole picture, not just the mind and the mental part of what it means to feel well.Sarah-JaneYes, definitely, since April 2020, which is the start of our financial year, we've delivered over 250 virtual wellbeing activities, which is a massive shift from how we used to deliver wellbeing activities. And that is over 10,000 hours of activities, which is about a 300% increase compared to the same period last year. So yeah, it's huge. It's not only the fact that we want to deliver these, but our employees really enjoy participating in them.SarahSo you've mentioned a whole bunch of activities that are in fact, 10,000 hours worth of activities. What would be your top recommendations of things that employers can do to support employee wellbeing, what do you think has made the most difference?Sarah-JaneSo I would say that you have to fundamentally start from the right place. And for us, this has been using trust as a standard. So we set out to empower our employees. As they work from home, they set their own schedules, they work based on home needs, like childcare. And our employees trust us. We had said at the beginning of the pandemic, that we wouldn't make redundancies across Fujitsu global delivery. So they knew they could continue to rely on employment, and not feel vulnerable in that way. And we do continually build our systems around supporting our workers to give them everything that they need remotely. So starting with the baseline of mutual trust, I think is really fundamental. And then from there, something that we have found hugely helpful was we launched an employee assistance program covering all of our global delivery locations, those 15,000 people, at the end of December 2020. We see significant usage of the online resources of the webinars, and also of the calling services, just since it launched a few months ago. I would say something that is also really important to do is to continually check in with employees. So we ran a dedicated COVID-19 employee survey actually a few months ago, to get employee feedback on the measures that we implemented. And this did show us that employees really felt protected, they were happy with what was being provided by Fujitsu they felt cared for. And we've seen a significant rise in our employee communication scores as well. So that is fundamentally important. That clear lines of communication.SarahI'm wondering, in this journey of setting trust is a standard and communicating that care what kind of challenges if you come across.Sarah-JaneSo there have been challenges in that we operate across very different cultural environments. So in some environments, there is already an openness to talk about mental health, and that is very acceptable in the national culture. Other countries where we operate, it's much more challenging to have these conversations about mental health. And indeed, the term mental health has some stigma attached to it itself. So we do try to use the term mental wellbeing as a way to be more open, and to be more inclusive of multiple different people across the world. Another thing we have struggled with is that we developed an absolutely fantastic training course for our managers. And we did this in collaboration with Acas. And it was a day long face to face training, where we really worked with our people, managers, to open them up to talking about mental well being to equip them with the tools to feel comfortable doing this. And also to make sure that they are aware of all the resources that were available in their locations that they could direct their teams to. Obviously with a pandemic, we weren't able to do that face to face delivery anymore. So we really have to think quite hard about how do we adapt this to be delivered virtually. What are all of the things that we have to change - the adaptations that we have to make in a virtual environment, where talking about these controversial or difficult topics over video are very difficult. So that was another thing that we did have to contend with. But I'm happy to say that we have been able to make that adaptation. And we are now delivering that training course virtually.SarahWhat do you feel in those discussions that you've learned through that process that can help others also struggling with that common challenge for people working remotely?Sarah-JaneSo I think the pandemic really outlined an opportunity for us to think about what wellbeing training means. And we've realized that we need to shift our focus a little bit more, to not look at those kind of standard topics of anxiety, stress awareness. But to talk more about resilience. This is such an important topic. Because we want to equip all of our employees to be resilient to face challenges and to bounce back and to keep going with a healthy mental attitude. And that's really what resilience is all about. So we are rolling out new training courses to help our employees gain more knowledge on this on how to deal with rough terrain, but still protecting their mental health. So it's not just about crisis responding, but it's about long term health and wellness.SarahIt's interesting, thinking about the word resilience, which is perhaps a positive attribute that we are wanting to grow and that we can develop, as opposed to stress, which is a negative symptom that we want to minimize. And am I right in thinking that maybe resilience - because of that - is easier to deal with virtually as a topic, as opposed to the more crisis, acute language around stress and anxiety?Sarah-JaneI think you're absolutely right, Sarah. Yeah, I think that's really true.SarahAnd you mentioned that different cultures have different attitudes towards the word mental health, and that you've adapted your language to make it as inclusive as possible in a global organization. I'm just wondering whether you come across people in your day to day work that do have a stigma attached to talking about this, and how you go about bringing them on a journey of being open to talking about it?Sarah-JaneSo I think the most important part of that is showing that this is something that our senior leadership team can and can be and are open about. I think there's a real value to seeing senior people in an organization, talk about topics that might be controversial or taboo in some parts of the world. Because talking about something means that it exists, and it's okay that it exists. So for example, one of our senior leaders has been very open about their mental health, talking about their anxiety and how this leads to trouble sleeping. People who feel the same or similar, can say to themselves, okay, I'm not alone. This is all right. 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So it really is that connection of employee well being with high quality output for our customers.SarahSo it's about treating wellbeing not just as something that HR deals with, but thinking about it in the round and trying as best you can to draw together the different departments and people within your organization's so that you can think holistically about wellbeing rather than putting it in a silo over in HR, or for volunteers.Sarah-JaneExactly. Yeah. If we're talking about investing in customer experience, this necessarily means investing in employee wellbeing, because you have a more motivated and more empowered workforce that can really meet the needs of your customers.SarahIt's been great to hear from your experience at Fujitsu, Sarah Jane, thank you so much for joining us today.Sarah-JaneThank you so much Sarah.SarahThis has been the Acas podcast. If you're looking for more support and ideas on supporting positive mental health, then do check out our website, I've put the links in the Episode Notes. And also we have a policy paper if you're looking for more in depth analysis of how Coronavirus has impacted how organizations supporting mental health at work. If you're looking for more specialist support then we have a whole range of fantastic advisors who do bespoke work around this. So please do get in touch. I've put the contact details for that as well in the Episode Notes. Thanks for listening.
2/19/2021

Workplace wellbeing strategy in practice: the Ministry of Defence

How does a large, complex organisation create a coherent mental wellbeing strategy that works? In the first of three episodes showcasing employers taking action on wellbeing, we’re joined by Martin Short, Head of Wellbeing, Inclusion and Diversity at the Defence Intelligence unit, which is part of the Ministry of Defence.This episode is for leaders, managers and advocates for mental health in the workplace. You’ll hear how Martin created a wellbeing strategy with distinct stages, what actions made a difference, and how you can influence others in your organisation to make wellbeing a priority.Episode resources:The Acas Framework for Positive Mental HealthFive ways to wellbeingHeadspaceMental health first aidSpeak to an Acas adviser for tailored supportTranscript SarahHello and welcome to the Acas podcast, I'm Sarah Guthrie, we are Acas, the workplace experts. And today I'm here with Martin Short, who is head of well being diversity and inclusion at the Defense Intelligence Unit, which is part of the Ministry of Defense. We are talking about mental health today. And what we really wanted to do at Acas is give real life examples of organizations who have headed this question of wellbeing face on and have created strategies and actions which have improved wellbeing in their organizations. So I'm delighted to be joined by Martin who we've worked with over the past year or two on mental health. Martin, to start off, I wondered if you could just explain what Defense Intelligence is? Because I certainly did not know before meeting you.MartinSure, Sarah, Well, I mean, intelligence itself is really just the sort of art or the science of helping people make better decisions. And so Defense Intelligence is a large business unit within the Ministry of Defense, and it provides an intelligence function for MoD, so it helps MoD and other government departments make better decisions. And we do that, in order to enable military operations or activities. Sometimes it's disaster relief, sometimes it's provision of aid to other countries, but we provide planning information that actually helps the government run operations.SarahThat sounds like very significant work, and I'm guessing it can be stressful for your employees. How did you get involved in wellbeing Martin initially?MartinI think my journey, really, I've done a number of different jobs in the MoD, I've worked abroad for best part of a decade as well, and I sort of came to a point really, it was probably around sort of 2015 or 2016, where, you know, I've been used to sort of seeing, you know, the normal stresses that you get in any workplace, really, you know. 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And so if B, if staff have had a particularly stressful day, it's not always possible to offload to friends or families in the way that might be in other organizations. In terms of effort to sort of de-stigmatize mental health, you know, such staff sometimes worry that if they, you know, fess up to a mental health condition, it might in some way affect their security clearances, and therefore, their job security. So we have sort of issues like that. But also, you know, we have to deal with some pretty unpleasant material from across the world, you know, we have to monitor the aftermath of terrorist attacks. So sometimes our staff have to go through visual material, which is potentially very injurious to mental health. And that's, you know, where they certainly need a little bit of extra support. And you know, where we really need to sort of focus on helping staff develop the skills they need to manage their mental health more effectively.SarahAnd so, back in 2015, you were noticing these issues and wondering what you could do about them?MartinI think I became concerned about the just the lack of resources that we had in that particular area. So back then we didn't have a wellbeing set up within the organization, there was no real sort of depth and sort of mental health support at all. And so we really started looking at different ways in which we could provide that support. And I actually became sufficiently interested enough to take an 18 months secondment out of the organization. And I spent that time working with what works center for wellbeing. So I did that, I came back to the organization, I persuaded the head of the organization that because of some of the challenges that we had, it was well worth investing in this area. And you know, to his eternal credit, he listened. And we kicked that off in 2018. And we've been going ever since then, really.SarahAnd so from that, the obvious question is, so what did you do?MartinWell, we realized that we had to sort of learn how to walk before we could run with this. When we started, we didn't really have a corporate understanding of what we meant by wellbeing within the organization. And in particular, you know, I think a lot of people thought it was something rather soft and fluffy. And so there was a lot of work to actually expose the, you know, the current wealth of wellbeing evidence that's out there to staff, and help them understand that well being is something that mattered not just to individuals. It wasn't just a question of feeling happy in the workplace, but that there were hard business benefits to it as well. So that educate bit was really important, because it just enabled us to get to a sort of common understanding of what by what we meant by wellbeing. So we could then start to have better informed higher quality conversations. Now the other thing, because we're dispersed across dozens of different sites, I didn't know who was doing what at which site in wellbeing. And so we had another activity that we called connect, which was really just about identifying all the stakeholders who had an interest in wellbeing. And anyone who had an interest in wellbeing we pulled together and we formed them into a single stakeholder group. And that was the community that I created to work with over the course of the full program. And then the final one was measurement. We recognized the data that we had on well being was actually very low quality. And we knew that if we wanted to make improvements, we needed to get some sort of benchmark from which we could measure. And so we actually used a tool that was developed by the what work center for well being, and that actually created the benchmark we are now currently using to measure the effect of the interventions that we make as we go through the next few years. So that first stage of getting the basics right with its sub every element of educate, connect, and measure that was absolutely critical to it.SarahSo there were these first phases of educate, connect and measure, just on the definition of wellbeing, what definition did you end up using?MartinI pulled it through from the what works work center for wellbeing because I, it's nice and simple. Well being for us, really, is simply how we feel we're doing, you know, as a nation, as communities, and as an individuals. How sustainable it is for the future. So it's very subjective in nature. And if you think about it, you know, the same situation can produce completely different well being outcomes in two different individuals, you know, one person might, you know, really like a particular environment, someone else might not like it at all. And so that's subjective nature of well, being the experiential angle of it, I think it's a really important one to recognize, you know, we're all different. And I think, you know, perhaps looking at the COVID experience, you know, you can see that some people have breezed through it without, you know, any ill effect whatsoever, other people have had an absolutely awful time through it. So again, that same sort of macro experience can have very, very different impact on individuals. And I think recognizing that well being is a subjective experience, and people can react differently to different situations, I think it's a really important one to try and acknowledge if you want to do something about it.SarahIt's interesting, Martin, that definition of well being. When I think of the MoD, I think of a macho culture. I'm wondering, when you started that initial phase, did you get pushback on wellbeing as a word, either from employees or from managers who didn't think it should be a priority?MartinI think it's so it's always had a right, you know, until probably about 10 years back, I think it's, you know, wellbeing's had a reputation of being something a little bit soft, fluffy and intangible. But I think what has changed over the past 10 years, is just the sort of volume of research that's now starting to indicate the, you know, there are real connections between workforces that have higher levels of well being and much, much better business outcomes. So, you know, there's already lots of evidence to, you know, show that, you know, higher levels of well being have an impact on performance, on productivity, on creativity, on resilience. And I think, particularly for our organization, you know, we're constantly having to respond to evolving threats. There's a lot of uncertainty in our business as well. And so we want people to, you know, to be innovative, to be creative, to come up with new ways of doing things. Because if we don't actually have a workforce that will experiment, wil try something new, then, you know, we stand very little chance of being able to evolve and, you know, meet the threats that are actually sort of that are actually out there. Yes, I think, you know, I think the military does has a reputation of being a macho culture, but I do think an awful lot has changed over the past, you know, couple of decades or so. So I do think the times are changing with that. But you know, MoD is a huge organization and, you know, change in any big organization is it's like turning an oil tanker. So it does take time. But I think we are heading in a good direction now.SarahAnd you began trying to shift that oil tanker with these phases of educate, connect measure. Moving on from that, what were the strategies, or what were the actions that you took to improve well being across the organization?MartinWe did take a structured approach. And I'll put in a plug for the ACAS mental health model, because we found that incredibly useful. So for those who don't actually know what it is, it basically breaks down what can potentially be a very complex workplace well being model, you know, when you look at well, being a well being challenge in its entirety, it can be quite daunting. But what what I did find that the ACAS model enabled us to do was break it down into manageable chunks. So that was to really look at, you know, what we could do to with at the individual level, what we could do at the manager level, and what we could do at the organization level. So the individual level was really about helping individuals develop the skills and resources they needed to better look after themselves. The manager level, it was about developing managers skills and awareness, so they could better promote well being a team level. And at the organizational level, it was about ensuring that well being considerations are applied to policies, processes and structures within the organization. So we actually have a culture the cultural series of cultural habits that enhance well being rather rather than sap it so breaking it, you know, that complex wellbeing puzzle into those three chunks, we found very helpful indeed, because it just made it a lot easier to manage.SarahSo thinking about someone who's listening to this, who gets that this is a priority, what kind of maybe quick wins, might they be able to put in place, say in the next two months to six months that would really support their people's well being in what is undeniably a very stressful time?MartinSure. Well, I mean, I think, you know, let's go back to the a caste model with it. Because I do think it's helpful to look at, you know, what you can do individual manager and organizational levels. So, I think the one thing that I think underpins everything else is destigmatization, you know, I think all organizations need a culture where people have no embarrassment about talking about mental health, that, you know, people are happy and comfortable talking to managers or Mental Health First Aiders, when they get into struggling territory, and know that they're going to get the support that they need to get them, you know, up and running again as quickly as possible. So at the individual level, the basic framework that we use, and I think this is a really quick win for any organization is just adopting the five ways to wellbeing. This is a framework that's used, really as the sort of, you know, core healthy habits, sort of advice from the NHS. And it's really just a series of five habits, or you know, whether it's a really good evidence base to show that the more you can build into your daily routine, the greater the sort of beneficial effect on your well being, we did a mindfulness offer. So we partnered up with headspace on that they produce some metrics every month, I find that quite useful, because I'm able to see what packs people within the organization are accessing. And throughout COVID, the two big ones have been stress and sleep. So again, that gives me a sort of a bit of an indication of the sort of support that staff are looking for from within the organization. It's not exactly a quick win, but Mental Health First Aid. We've got a network of instructors now we feel that's really changed the dynamic on discussions of mental health within the organization. So it really helps with that destigmatization at the manager level. Probably a little bit more difficult, but I think anything that you can do to increase awareness and confidence of managers to talk about mental health issues, so whether that's mental health awareness, training, mental health, first aid training, all that stuff's going to help. And I think the other thing in terms of recognition and reward, we do have managers who do that little extra bit to actually make the workplace environment, you know, happier, healthier, more fulfilling place for staff then recognized and that's a very easy thing for organizations to do. So if you've got a manager who achieves results by cracking the whip harder, they're probably not the people you want to be rewarding. And I think at the organizational level, you know, what we did was we made sure that well being diversity and inclusion were permanently established as routine agenda items in all our senior management boards. We put in a mandatory objective each year to encourage people to get involved in well being and diversity in Inclusion activity. And that also provided a map mechanism, again, to say thank you to those people who did that a little bit extra went above and beyond, you know, for the sake of their communities and their teams. And then I think the final thing that we tried to do really not exactly a quick win was actually incorporating wellbeing training in through career training.SarahWhat strikes me listening to you is that you're not really thinking about mental health as this thing over here, that happens in a box that you've got your mental First Aiders on to kind of, you know, sort the symptoms. You're thinking, "Well, what else in the organization is increasing or decreasing the likelihood that someone feels good about their work? And how could what action can we take to increase the likelihood that they feel good and recognized and valued in their work?" Because you know that that will impact on their well being?MartinI think so. So yeah, I think also, is, there's a little bit there on where you put well being. So you know, I think a lot of organizations have thought, "Now wellbeing, yes, it's about people, isn't it, so, you know, probably naturally fits into HR." But when you actually look at, you know, what drives well being the cultural aspects, I think it's far more sensible for organizations to look at treating well being as a foundation stone of their culture, you know, it's not a little hang on that you put into sort of HR, it, it is the very essence of your organizational culture. So, there is that need in any organization to feel that the workplace is fair, that, you know, you will be recognized for, you know, for effort that you put in, it's not, it's not going to be claimed by someone else, you'd like to feel part of something bigger, knowing that your contribution is actually sort of helping and, you know, helping a much, much bit, sort of a bigger aspect of work. And so I think, you know, that, that that positioning does become very important. I think, also, you know, well being, it's a sort of relatively late comer to organizations. And I think initially, a lot of the stuff we do is reactive, so we wait for people to develop a mental health problem, and then we try and fix it. I think as well being programs mature in organizations, they would be far better advised to actually start switching activity to the preventative, you're always going to need the reactive because, you know, we all have mental health. Sometimes we're great, you know, sometimes we're okay, sometimes we're struggling, and sometimes we're ill. But I do think that, you know, as you know, well being sort of effort matures within organizations, they're gonna need to look a lot more at the preventative side of it.SarahThanks so much, Martin, that's been great to hear how you've approached well being in such a huge and complex organization like the mid breaking it down into these chunks and phases, thinking about what could support well being at these different levels of the organization, the manager and individuals. There's such a lot of food for thought in there about what drives good well being and how culture affects that and how we need to shift from preventing poor mental health rather than just treating symptoms. So thank you so much, Martin. This has been the best podcast, I've put links to some of the resources Martin mentioned, like the five ways to wellbeing and the Episode Notes and of course, the A CAS model. We hope you find them useful. And please don't hesitate to get in touch with a cast if you're looking for help with improving mental health in your organization. Thanks for listening.