Exercise is proven to have a positive impact on depression and anxiety, relieve stress and boost overall mood. Before the Covid-19 lockdown, Occupational Health and HR managers up and down the country were prioritising mental health awareness. And within a few weeks of lockdown starting, it was clear that managing employee mental wellbeing would be as vital as virtual meetings for those working from home at this worrying time.
One such business that had its eye on the ball was Thames Water whose holistic and innovative approach focuses on health issues that can be impacted by work. Of the three key pillars in its wellbeing strategy – Mental Health (Mind Fit), Musculoskeletal Health (Body Fit) and Work-Related Health Issues (health surveillance, H&S and work-related illness/injury) – mental health is its biggest concern. As like many other businesses, a large percentage of sickness absence amongst its 6000-strong workforce was related to mental health. And that was BEFORE lockdown hit.
“Prior to lockdown we had done a lot of work on removing the stigma around mental health at work and begun to focus on proactive ways to support positive mental health,” says Aimee Cain, Thames Water Occupational Health & Wellbeing Manager. Part of the company’s strategy was to link with Gympass and they started their partnership in June 2018.
“Gympass was the perfect initiative to generate our new focus on mental health and offer our employees a range of options for physical activity. In the two years since we joined forces, we saw our Gympass members grow steadily as employees embraced the flexible opportunities for physical activity.”
Lockdown required a whole new level of intervention. While the office-based workforce was largely disbanded to work from home, the engineers and technicians at the water and waste plants and out in the field were working as usual. “Water is an essential service and our employees have been working throughout Covid-19,” says Aimee. “In many ways that has been good for them, but in other ways it has been challenging as their work has been set against a very different domestic and social landscape.
“We quickly identified the need to manage the impact of lockdown on the mental health of our workforce and were relieved to find Gympass had pivoted fast to release a range of remote resources,” says Aimee. “Its digital Gympass Wellness platform offers far more than just online workouts, with plenty of financial wellbeing and mental health resources also available. This really bolstered what our health and wellbeing team could offer giving them ready-made materials to signpost to colleagues.”
Stand out opportunity
What really stood out for Aimee was a very successful live workout for employees that was run during Mental Health Awareness Week by Gympass for all Thames Water employees. Gympass’ first live class exclusively with Thames Water, it was delivered by its live class partner, SW7 Academy co-founded by the legendary British Lions rugby player Sam Warburton OBE who took people through a 30-minute lunchtime mobility bootcamp. A total of 320 employees attended the class live while over 600 have viewed it since as it’s available on-demand.
“This was a great event and such a treat to have it bespoke for our workforce,” says Aimee. “Our leadership team got heavily involved and we were able to run this for the whole business not just Gympass members – which is what made it successful.
“Before lockdown, our workforce was increasingly receptive to health promotion and wellbeing activities thanks to our partnership with Gympass. Its continued support of our activity throughout lockdown gives me confidence that as things start to return to normal, even more colleagues will interact with Gympass to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.”