Thames Water is the UK’s biggest water and wastewater services provider. We have invested more than £1 billion every year, on average, for the past 13 years – improving service for over 15 million customers across London, the Thames Valley, and surrounding areas.
For an average of just over £1 a day we provide 2.7 billion litres of clean drinking water and safely remove 4.4 billion litres of wastewater – every day, 365 days a year.
In addition to our commitment of providing clean and safe water, over the last five years Thames Water has been on an incredible health and wellbeing journey. The introduction of waves of proactive initiatives, year on year, has led to an over 80 per cent reduction of workplace illness and several thousand of our people being supported for non-work related mental health issues.
We pride ourselves on being transparent about our health, safety, and wellbeing status, and are one of the only organisations I’m aware of who capture and openly report on work-related mental illness cases. At Thames Water we treat work related illness in the same way as a work related injury. We report on and present physical and psychological health and illness to the Executive and Main Board Directors on a monthly basis, ensuring that health has the same visibility and profile as safety and injury.
At Thames we rely on the engagement, productivity, and happiness of the workforce – and we’ve found that the level of transparency we encourage increases trust. Over 90 per cent of our employees understand and agree that we take health and safety seriously – demonstrated through feedback from our annual employee engagement survey. Employees feel engaged, involved, and that they are able to infiltrate the ethos of our strategy into their day to day work. Our proactive health & wellbeing strategy really is at the forefront of our business decision making.
Below are some of the key steps we’ve undertaken, along with some of the key outcomes we’ve achieved, through actioning our mental health strategy.
Leadership Core Values
‘Take Care’ is one of the company’s values, highlighting how we look after ourselves, our customers and our business. We have a zero compromise approach to health, safety and wellbeing. Executive Illness Reviews were recently introduced – convened and led by a member of the Executive Leadership team – to address all work induced psychological and physical health cases that lead to lost time illness.
We support The Prime Minister’s Mental Health Review and were actively involved with the Stevenson Farmer report ‘Thriving at Work’ (we have in place both the core and enhanced standards detailed within the document). The introduction of Personal Medical Assessments for all employees, every year, has now been in place for five years – these consist of both physical and psychological analysis.
Over 10,000 face-to-face medicals have been undertaken; resulting in 20 per cent of those tested being referred to their GP for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. 88 people were sent immediately from work to A&E or their GP. We also identified over 130 abnormal results for prostate, bowel, and thyroid and are aware of 13 confirmed cancer cases detected early with no signs or symptoms. We have also implemented medicals for our contractors working across our Capital and Infrastructure Alliance Frameworks and have line-management owned health and wellbeing programmes with over 1,000 of our employees getting involved in activities each year.
Through working with the Mind Time to Change team we have received certification for our mental health strategy – demonstrating the provision of an effective mental health support framework across the company. We have promoted this to our contractors, many of whom have now followed suit. We’re proud to have gone beyond solely seeing work related illness cases, our clinical occupational health team now process over 100 referrals every month, 99 per cent of which are for non-work related issues, and 80 per cent of the cases referred are for those still in work.
We have introduced internal Clinical Occupational Health Specialists at a ratio of 1:1000 employees – they support the business in case management, health screening, health surveillance and wellbeing focus. Mental Health First Aiders have also been introduced across the business and presently we have 1:15 employees to MHFAs ratio across all areas of the business (our courses are also fully booked for the coming year).
We run a Mind-Fit half-day mental health awareness course for all employees – this has led to first aid interventions increasing to a point where we now have five mental health first aid interventions for every one physical first aid case. The development of the world’s first virtual reality mental health training course also took place here and is now embedded in our Mind-Fit awareness course and our Mental Health First Aid training courses.
Communication & Engagement
Each year we produce a series of educational videos to aid consistency in messaging on physical and psychological health. We have embraced social media and introduced the internal social media platform ‘Yammer’ increasing sharing and learning for all. Closed groups have also been set up to assist all Mental Health First Aiders. When it comes to external engagement we agree to be interviewed by other organisations wishing to understand our health and wellbeing journey. We also regularly present at major conferences.
On top of these ongoing programmes we have a stand-out Water Wellbeing Week – a week dedicated to health and wellbeing and acts as a catalyst for engagement, openness & transparency. During Water Wellbeing Week we capture stories that are then included in our company magazine, ‘The Source’, and across our internal intranet portal. We believe this approach aids in the removal of stigma for those wishing to speak about their own psychological condition.
Another favourite – the body-fit campaign – aimed at promoting activity for sedentary workers, through offering beneficial programmes to improve physical health affecting psychological self-esteem, which included free access to slimming world, free stop smoking programme, and support with access to local gyms. To aid transparency we monitor Illness through a Lost Time Illness Frequency Rate indicator that enables illness cases from work related issues to be captured to highlight trends, learning and improvement demonstrating illness absence to be taken as seriously as injuries.
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