14 March

Aon's Head of Wellbeing shares mental wellbeing support structures

Laura Sartin, Head of Health, Safety and Wellbeing UK at Aon explores the role of the impact of mental health advocates within organisations, and where they best fit for maximum impact. 

Can you provide an overview of your role and responsibilities in supporting staff mental wellbeing within your organisation, including what department/team mental wellbeing sits in within your organisation?

Mental Health and Wellbeing is a priority for both the People Organisation, and the Health, Safety and Wellbeing function. As lead of the health, safety and wellbeing function, my responsibilities include preventing harm to our colleagues that could arise through work activities.

Our skills in risk assessment mean we take a proactive, preventative approach to identifying potential causes of work-related stress and mental ill health, and implement actions to reduce that risk. We report through to the COO, who is Aon’s responsible person under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Mental Health and Wellbeing is treated equally alongside physical health.

My team support our mental health resources, including a team of trained mental health first aiders, wellbeing ambassadors and a resource hub on our intranet. We operate a learning strategy, including mental health awareness as part of our health, safety and wellbeing induction programme and ongoing learning through our internal Viva Engage platform. 

We monitor and measure outcomes and report through to a Health, Safety and Wellbeing committee where both senior leaders and colleagues represent their business lines, giving feedback and direction.

"Mental health and wellbeing is everyone’s responsibility."

In your opinion, which department do you believe is most closely aligned with the goals and objectives of supporting staff mental wellbeing, and why?

Mental health and wellbeing is everyone’s responsibility. Managers and colleagues have roles to play in supporting each other and creating and upholding healthy, inclusive and sustainable working environments. 

Having a good structure of support in place is essential to provide help at the right time. But crucially, building a positive culture is a long term goal that is worth investing in. This will have the most lasting and ongoing impact.

Following the HSE guidance on reducing work-related stress or ISO guidance for managing psychosocial risks in the workplace is a good foundation for a culture that supports the prevention of mental ill health and provides support and rehabilitation for when people do need it.

Using risk assessment, root cause analysis and consultation skills from the health and safety profession means that we can identify root causes and recommend impactful actions. This must be done in partnership with leadership, so they own and implement the actions.

"Building a positive culture is a long term goal that is worth investing in."

The health and safety function has all the key skills required to lead a mental health and wellbeing strategy. We are governed by the health and safety at work act which mandates that employers protect the health and safety of workers. This has long been interpreted as physical health and safety but is equally mental health and psychological safety.

How do you collaborate with other departments or teams within the organisation to promote positive mental wellbeing, and are there any challenges you encountered with this?

Our health, safety and wellbeing function collaborates with the People Organisation, our employee led business resource groups and our internal communications team to deliver a structure of ongoing learning and support resources.

When you combine the skill sets and experiences of multiple teams, you are more likely to produce a better outcome. We all want the same outcome and when you are able to work alongside others who share your passion, it can really motivate and give a sense of purpose. Ideally, one function or person should lead and own decisions but that can be difficult in large and complex organisations.

"When you combine the skill sets and experiences of multiple teams, you are more likely to produce a better outcome."

One of the principles of health and safety management is consultation with workers, so if you work alongside employee led groups, listening carefully to understand what is important to them you are likely doing the right thing. We collaborate with the Early Careers team to ensure our cohorts of apprentices and graduates are supported to achieve their best right from the start of their career.

How do you ensure that the mental health support strategies are aligned with the overall organisational goals and values?

We are certified to the ISO 45003 guidelines which requires us to set objectives that are aligned with our business priorities. This ensures we secure senior leadership commitment and can make meaningful progress. We regularly consult with colleagues to understand what is going on for them and consider ways that we can improve from a work organisational and social context.

How do you engage with leadership and management to gain their support for mental health initiatives, and how does their involvement contribute to the success of these?

We operate a regular health, safety and wellbeing committee that is represented by the COO’s of our different business lines. We update them on our progress and take direction from them.

Our Mental Health business resource group works with their executive sponsor to raise awareness around mental health and drive their agenda within the business.

As well as our regional HSW committee, we also require each office to host their own committee led by the most senior person at that location. This ensures that leadership is visible and leading by example, creating layers throughout the organisation that are all aligned to the same goal.

Can you share a success story or a specific instance where your role in supporting staff mental wellbeing made a significant positive impact on the organisation?

I have recently carried out some focus groups with teams that were experiencing work-related stress. Using my skills in risk assessment and root cause analysis, we were able to work together to identify actions to improve. These actions were owned by the local leadership team to implement and we have already seen progress.

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