As part of our new series of interviews with those carrying out great work in the employee wellbeing space, we loved having a chat with Beth Pollard from Covéa Insurance. Beth is a key member of the company’s wellbeing committee and has been at the forefront of its impressive employee wellbeing focus.
SWW: Can you describe any initiatives Covéa Insurance is running to boost employee wellbeing? If so, what are some of your favourites?
Beth Pollard: We have several community groups and networks within Covéa which allow our people to focus on the issues that really matter to them and gives them a way of contributing to our broader ESG strategy – even this additional sense of purpose is a wellbeing boost for some!
Along with other groups (like Pride, Inspiring Colour and Climate Action) our Wellbeing community organise activities and shares information with the whole business which may help individuals with issues such as mental health and financial fitness, as well as the more traditional physical health and wellbeing. Last year we launched a partnership with Vitality which provides access to Vitality wellbeing services for all our people.
More recently, we’ve launched a Men’s Mental Health course in partnership with Rugby League Cares. This is the first tailored mental health course we have been able to offer our people and it’s had a great response from those taking part and the hosts.
In response to the recent rise in the cost of living we have hosted a number of Budgeting Bootcamps to help our people make informed decisions and to provide them with tips on how to save money – for example budgeting/food prep etc. These have proved really popular and we have received some brilliant feedback.
We saw that Covéa recently won an award for Diversity and Inclusivity. How does this fit in with your employee wellbeing programme? Do you feel the two are strongly linked / complement each other?
BP: Absolutely – we want everyone at Covéa Insurance to feel they can be themselves here. Looking through a lens of intersectionality the link between inclusion and wellbeing is really clear. It’s why we have a wellbeing group as part of our approach to building a fully inclusive culture. The groups are there to raise awareness and improve understanding and empathy. We understand that sometimes people struggle and we are there for them as a company and as colleagues. We want our employees to feel healthy and happy, and wellbeing is a critical part of that
Covea has been focusing on employee wellbeing for quite some time. Have you faced any obstacles reaching employees who weren’t particularly interested or saw wellbeing as ‘fluffy’, if so what have you done to try to overcome this?
BP: Prior to 2020 this would perhaps have been quite a different answer, but our response to Covid19 has been rooted in wellbeing and, for us, that’s changed the view of even the least ‘fluffy’ person. I don’t think there’s been anyone who hasn’t struggled at some point over the various lockdowns in one way or another. Everyone now understands the importance of mental health and wellbeing as well as physical. We’ve had online Yoga sessions, bake-a-longs, digital detoxes and virtual cocktail parties and even though we’re now less physically isolated than we were then, that awareness of the dangers of burn out and the need to focus on wellbeing in all its forms, remains.
You took the Time to Change Employer Pledge to help end the stigma around Mental Health in 2018 – what impact has this had?
BP: Signing the Time to Change pledge was huge for us as a company, it was the first wellbeing related pledge that we signed and is something that we are really proud of. We recognised that if we wanted to help reduce the stigma around Mental Health this needed to come from the top of the organisation first. Our Executive Directors shared their own personal experiences of mental health and the support that the company provided them with during this time. This was followed up by Resilience Roadshows hosted by Luke Ambler across all three of our sites which further embedded the message that ‘it’s okay to talk.’ We have seen an increase in people speaking about their problems and the introduction of a Wellbeing Slack channel during the pandemic gave our people a platform to share their hints and tips for ….
Since being part of the wellbeing team what has given you the most satisfaction?
BP: Knowing that we have made a difference to the life of one person even if only for that day. When we receive messages thanking us for sharing a news article, hosting a webinar or having support in place internally (like our Employee Assistance Programme, Mental Health First Aiders) I feel quite emotional that we have had a positive impact on someone’s day, week or even life. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with running a Wellbeing team for nearly 2,000 people, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
You still have a mixture of employees WFH, hybrid workers and some people back in the office full time, how are you managing to make employee wellbeing appeal to these different groups?
BP: We’ve come a long way from the ‘Zoom Quiz’ days and still have a lot of things in place that support hybrid working to ensure people get social contact if they’re not in an office. From streaming updates from our CEO and exec members so people can keep in touch with what’s going on to having walking meetings, there’s a lot going on to connect people in different ways.
We’ve recently upgraded our intranet and we use this as a central place for sharing good news and important updates as well as letting people know what’s coming up. Along with Slack and Teams, this can be accessed from any device so people aren’t restricted to when or where they catch up with what’s happening.
We use Slack a lot, we’ve set up a whole host of channels and groups on it such as Covéa book club, cats and doggos, and of course the obligatory ‘what’s for tea?’ channel. We also use it share and celebrate success too – our Doing What Really Matters channel is a hub for everyone to call out the people who are making a difference and, well, doing what really matters!
It’s not all virtual though, we know there’s a strong correlation between social interaction and positive wellbeing so we’re starting to hold some physical events in the office now, and we’re investing in tech which will allow us to live stream these so they better support a hybrid workforce.
When it comes to your own wellbeing, what are your non-negotiables / must do activities that you turn to maintain your wellbeing?
BP: It has taken a long time for me to get to a place where I can recognise that my wellbeing is declining but now, I make sure to take time for myself each week. I don’t do anything mind blowing but a long, hot bath with minimal distractions always helps me to relax and feel much calmer.
I always feel like a weight has been lifted when I have taken the time to focus on myself and my own wellbeing. I often over catastrophise situations and being able to take this time allows me to think about situations rationally without distraction, I often end up a different conclusion than I would have done had I attempted to analyse the situation in the middle of the working day!
You can read more about some of the initiatives and groups listed above via Covéa Insurance’s News Hub, accessible here. For more Q&As with those doing sterling work when it comes to employee wellbeing, visit our Insights page.