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The Kamwell Interview: global wellbeing programme leads at LNRSG and Elsevier

Interview with Ali Fox and Beck Stockdale, Wellbeing Leads at LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group (LNRSG) and Elsevier.

We have been working with RELX sister companies LNRSG and Elsevier since the inception of their wellbeing programmes Living Well and MindLife. We had the pleasure of speaking to wellbeing leads Alison Fox and Beck Stockdale, who have both done incredible work within their respective organisations to drive the wellbeing agenda forward. We talk all about wellbeing programmes, the pandemic and their future wellbeing ambitions.

Kamwell: You're both really passionate about the role that a business can play in supporting the wellbeing of its people. Tell me more about why that is.

Beck Stockdale (Elsevier):  

It's absolutely vital that wellbeing is high on the agenda of any company, and particularly an organisation of our size [8,100 employees]. We want our people to be all round healthier and feel genuinely cared for (as well as caring about their own wellbeing journey). This ultimately means that they will perform better and, as a result, so will the business. But aside from that, supporting an employee’s wellbeing is just the right thing to do.

Alison Fox (LNRSG):

Not dissimilar on my end. We've all got to cope with the stresses and strains of our everyday lives. Most of us spend at least seven hours a day at work, five days a week and the more a business can do to support the wellbeing of its people, the better they will feel and the better they will perform. That's kind of where I'm coming from, a three-point approach if you will: make people feel better, make them feel cared for, and make them want to stay working with us.

Kamwell:

You've both been on incredible journeys in your respective businesses - what achievements are you are most proud of?

Alison Fox (LNRSG)

I think the last year was a massive a learning curve for us all. I’m really proud of how we transitioned from doing mostly on-site wellbeing activities to an all virtual set up. We did it so quickly, we kept everybody informed, and did as much as we could to make our people feel that the company was really looking after them.

Beck Stockdale (Elsevier):

I think I am most proud of how we have moved the needle on mental health within Elsevier. We've recognised, and our people have recognised, that it's okay to not be okay; it's okay to go to somebody and say, I'm not coping. We give our employees enormous flexibility and empower them to make choices that will best support their mental wellbeing. We regularly run webinars on mental health topics (anxiety, dealing with change, grief, stress – the list goes on), we trained 400-odd managers in mental health awareness, we’ll be rolling out all-employee training at the end of May and have started planning a mental health video that will communicate to our people that their mental wellbeing is paramount. I think we've really done a great job in that arena and I plan to continue to build on it. And the commitment of our employees to dedicate the time to online learning has been incredible.

Kamwell:

The MindLife and Living Well programmes are really well respected within your organizations - they're embedded and established. Could you share some advice for anyone who is just starting out on their wellbeing journey?

Beck Stockdale (Elsevier):

Start small with something that's impactful, but manageable. I felt strongly that I had to pick something that I could be sure I could deliver, and then grow organically with the support of people that want to be part of your journey. I think a big bang can be super. But if a big bang falls flat, you're up against it already. So the most important things are the strong embedding of your principles and growing organically. And the other key thing is you must have your senior leadership's ear and their full support. Because without it, you'll never manage to target the audience that you need to.

Alison Fox (LNRSG)

I absolutely agree with that. On top of that, my one word of advice would be: collaborate. It’s so important to understand what what works best for your people. We run surveys, interview people, and have a great team of people that are able to champion their colleagues’ needs. I have 90 wellbeing champions around the world that feed back what people in their teams and locations would like to see out of the wellbeing programme.

Kamwell:

Beck, you mentioned the importance of having support from senior leaders - could you talk a little bit about how important leaders are in creating a culture of wellbeing?

Beck Stockdale (Elsevier):

Leaders have to own the wellbeing narrative and walk alongside you, otherwise there can be cynicism around a programme. We need to give leaders the opportunity to show compassion and empathy – this really supports the impact of a wellbeing programme. For example, for World Mental Health Day, we ran a panel with some senior leaders where they talked about their mental wellbeing, giving staff an opportunity to hear first-hand what wellbeing means to their leaders.

Kamwell:

Ali, have you got anything to add from within RSG?

Alison Fox (LNRSG):

Yes, I absolutely agree. It's hugely important that your people see the leadership team both endorse and participate in your wellbeing programme. Our CEO regularly highlights our wellbeing programme and the importance of our people taking time out for themselves to participate in activities, during his company town hall meetings. And our HR Director is our executive sponsor, so we have a particular senior leadership team member who advocates the programme, supporting our comms and encouraging people to sign up for wellness services and attend events we offer.

Together with our mental health ERG, we just released a video of a number of our senior leaders talking about how they've been coping with their own mental health during the pandemic, what they miss, what they're looking forward to etc. That's been really well received and has formed part of our mental health programme.

Beck Stockdale (Elsevier):

Yeah, it's key that the leadership empower employees to attend initiatives, this was especially important during the pandemic. In some organisations there is an expectation that attending a wellbeing webinar is low priority but that’s not the case at all at Elsevier. We have a town hall next week and MindLife will be mentioned and the message will be: prioritise attending any initiative that will benefit you.

Kamwell:

It would be great to hear a little bit about how your respective organisations stepped up to support people during the pandemic.

Alison Fox (LNRSG):

We worked with Kamwell very closely to convert all of our on-site activities into global Virtual Vitality Days offering a really broad range of online activities for our people, starting early morning, right the way through to late evening. That ran so well, that we’re carrying that on this year. The pandemic really focused us and brought mental health to the forefront of our strategy for the year and we pulled together a full programme. We've rolled out two mental health awareness programmes for line managers and employees at the moment. We're also rolling out a global training programme to bring on board mental health first aiders (after a successful launch in the UK). Volunteers are trained to be able to deal with local instances where they are able to spot, support and signpost colleagues who are having a hard time.

Beck Stockdale (Elsevier):

We're doing exactly those three steps as well, with the line managers, employees and first aiders. Lots of our champions are experienced and trained in various aspects of wellbeing – many of them stepped up to deliver initiatives ranging from workshops on self-care and dealing with loneliness, to guided mindfulness and yoga. We ran a mini webinar series and rolled Headspace out to all our people. We really encouraged staff to share MindLife resources with their families and that’s something I’m keen to do more of. But, yeah, mental health has been without doubt the absolute focus for us.

Kamwell:

Yeah, I think that's lovely as well, involving families because it just shows that you realise that a person is not just an employee who comes to work as an employee, they come to work as a parent, a brother, a mother, a sister… your family life and your personal life are so intertwined with your work life.

Beck Stockdale (Elsevier):

The pandemic has shown that that really is the case and that we need to take a bigger view on things – we’ve met people’s children, pets, husband – everybody is involved!

Kamwell:

I think I’m right in saying that both of your organization's won't see a mass return to the office any time soon. How do you think the future of work looks in your organisation?

Beck Stockdale (Elsevier):

I don't see that the RELX community will ever look the same again and in terms of wellbeing, I think we’ve seen that virtual, global events will have the greatest impact so I’m not sure to what extent we’ll go back to the on-site, in-person delivery mode.  

Kamwell:

You could organise a wellbeing day in an office where 100 people attended, or a virtual day where 600 people can attend from all across the world. The difference is quite staggering.

Beck Stockdale (Elsevier)

Yeah. When you start thinking about it, surely, that's the better way to invest. Even with having events online, there's nothing to stop you booking out a room allowing people in the office to watch something together and have a discussion afterwards. That way we can still deliver to the much wider audience but also ensure that you’re having really good conversations about something that's important. Now, how powerful is that?

I feel we are putting ourselves as an organisation in the best possible position we could be in terms of what the future holds; that we've really laid the groundwork for what may be for some a return to normal, or to a new way of working. I don't know that we could have done much more than we have.

Kamwell:

I really agree with that and actually my last question stays with the future theme and I was hoping you could both talk me through any ambitions, big or small, for the future?

Alison Fox (LNRSG):

I'd like to see our global Living Well champions increasingly deliver more initiatives to their colleagues at a local level – we’re currently working on initiatives we can fund centrally but set up very easily – a menu of wellness offerings, if you like. We also found the virtual delivery works really well, so we'll carry on running that. And we're looking at a reward and recognition programme for Living Well champions - we kicked it off last year and our top three most collaborative champions put together the most interesting and in some cases, fairly remarkable virtual offerings. And mental health support and training will continue to be a high priority.

Beck Stockdale (Elsevier):

I think my ultimate vision would be that if anybody needs help, they're signposted correctly. We're more junior than the Living Well programme, so we're still making sure that people know where the links are, know where our resource packages are and where they can go for support and help. Ultimately, I think that the programme is designed to be the support mechanism for our employee base. I want everybody to have bookmarked MindLife. I want them to know where to go when and I want them to know who to ask. And that's ultimately for me a true testament of success.