Today we’re interviewing our Health & Wellbeing Advisor, Hannah Meredith, to find out how MVF’s wellbeing strategy has pivoted to continue offering support to our people through COVID-19.
Q) First of all, how would you describe your wellbeing strategy to anyone who hasn't heard about it?
A) MVF's wellbeing programme, Be Well, was designed to be multifaceted with a clear brand identity. The five elements - physical, mental, environmental, philanthropic and social - aim to enable employees to access wellbeing initiatives and activities in different ways. We wanted to recognise that wellbeing isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept and can mean something different to everyone.
Q) What made you launch the Be Well programme in the first place?
A) 3 years ago, MVF created a new role dedicated entirely to supporting the mental and physical health & wellbeing of our MVFers - MVF’s first Health & Wellbeing Advisor. I started to build our current strategy plan. My vision was to create a clear and tangible brand identity that embedded health & wellbeing into our culture at MVF; rather than simply being an add-on, wellbeing would become infused in everything we do.
Q) That sounds fantastic - so, who can benefit from Be Well?
A) Well firstly, Be Well benefits MVF as a business. We’ve proven we’re driving engagement through our wellbeing offering; ‘Health’ is one of our highest scoring drivers of engagement at MVF and was at 0.3 above industry benchmark in our last survey. MVF have scored 1st for wellbeing in the Sunday Times Best Companies the last two times we have entered, as well as recently winning their Number 1 Company to Work For in the UK 2020 award! I feel this also speaks to how happy and healthy our people are.
Be Well also obviously benefits individual MVFers and their families and households too through the offering of a 24/7 Employee Assistance Programme. We have a team out in Austin Texas that until recently haven’t been able to benefit from the full Be Well programme. They had some yoga classes and movie clubs etc. but weren’t able to access as much as our UK-based employees, until now.
Q) It sounds like people are a real priority at MVF. How has the move to remote working impacted your Be Well strategy? What were your initial wellbeing concerns and how have you been able to adapt Be Well to work around these?
A) One of our biggest concerns was the potential impact on mental health, particularly for people with existing mental health concerns being triggered or aggravated. From an ergonomic perspective, how we would keep our MVFers working safely needed to be considered. Another worry was around MVFers feeling isolated and so we prioritised connection with others, as well as fitness and movement.
Once the business moved to remote working, we quickly doubled up recourse, redeploying an extra person to the Be Well team and mobilising our fantastic team of Mental Health First Aider’s. We made sure all MHFA’s were easily identifiable on Slack, plus we created a phone rota so that there was always someone trained available to speak to anyone wanting to reach out. We also built a Mental Health First Aid communication plan, assigning different channels to different MHFA’s split by team/department, to ensure mental health support was reaching everyone in the business.
We created and published a mandatory DSE self-assessment module on how to set yourself up to work from home as safely as possible.
Within 2 days of working from home virtual yoga, pilates and mediation sessions were made available to everyone and by the beginning of week 2 a jam packed virtual clubs schedule was published for all MVFers to get involved in.
Q) So, have you done anything to support teams not in the UK?
A) We’ve realised that this pandemic has provided a unique opportunity to help us expand our Be Well programme to give our non-UK based MVFers more access to it than they had before!
All planned initiatives and events were moved to a virtual webinar format and recorded for anyone to catch up on at a time convenient for them.
We assigned a Mental Health First Aider specifically for the US Office to reach out to individuals living alone, as well as to regularly communicate how to support mental health and encourage using the US Employee Assistance Programme. We arranged extra yoga classes specifically for the US and as they’re a sales team we launched mindfulness-based sales coaching sessions focussed on resilience and selling with empathy during the pandemic.
Our Mental Health First Aiders also host a weekly coffee morning and are offering bookable 1-2-1 mental health chats for the US team to provide a dedicated safe space for conversation and connection for anyone feeling isolated.
Q) This all sounds great to me, but have you had any feedback from your teams?
A) Yes, we’ve run three remote working engagement surveys and feedback has been really positive overall. We’ve used the feedback to improve and adapt our virtual Be Well offering to tailor it to the specific needs of our MVFers.
In response to survey comments requesting even more information around wellbeing during this pandemic, the Be Well team launched a Wellbeing Resource Library; resources include Mental Health First Aider’s tips for people managers during this time, suggestions on staying connected during isolation or when on furlough leave; free mental health resources and information on how to access mental health support, LGBTQ+ mental health support and a dedicated parents and carers section.
After a second survey, we added financial wellbeing resources and information on individual rights during the coronavirus crisis to this library and also enlisted HSBC to run a series of financial wellbeing webinars and 1-2-1 health checks.
We partnered with Sanctus, a mental health coaching company for a taster month of extra focus on mental health. The month coincided with Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 and Sanctus provided us with 1-2-1 coaching sessions held over video call, webinar lunch and learn events, and facilitated group discussions. Engagement with the taster month was extremely high and feedback has been resoundingly positive. I’m really pleased that we were able to offer this extra support to our MVFers during what has been an unprecedented time.
Q) So what’s next for Be Well? What's worked well and is there anything you’ll keep up/virtual now that the lockdown and social distancing is relaxed?
A) We’ve learned from moving to remote working that the pandemic has given us the opportunity to make our clubs more inclusive. People who wouldn't normally go to classes like PT or yoga are now joining in to exercise from their homes, so I envisinge we’ll be keeping some virtual sessions each week even when we are out of the risk zone for COVID19.
I’m extremely excited that MVF are launching a partnership with Headspace later this month. We decided to switch our current meditation offering to something that reflects the flexible way that our people are now working. Instead of set sessions at fixed times as we had previously (which worked brilliantly when everyone was in the office!) - MVFers will have the opportunity to mediate and practice mindfulness at any time that suits them.
Throughout this challenging time, Be Well has grown and adapted to meet the needs of our wonderful MVFers. The lessons we’ve learned from this will only help us continue to evolve and develop the Be Well offering in the future - so watch this space!