MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Make a Difference Awards

Thank you to the 5000 people who voted for the winners of the inaugural Make A Difference Awards. Read on for more details and to find out who won.

Voting closed at midnight on Tuesday 8th June for the inaugural Make A Difference Awards, in association with Royal Mail Group and Optima Health. The winners were announced at the free to attend Make A Difference Insights & Awards interactive webinar from 4.00 – 5.00pm (UK time) on International Make A Difference Day – 15th June. In this session, our judges and the winners also shared valuable tips for all those striving to really make a difference when it comes to workplace mental health and wellbeing including:

  1. > How to get buy-in to supporting employee mental health and wellbeing from the Board / the senior level sponsorship that we so often hear is essential.

  2. > Getting through to the cynics and the hard to reach.

  3. How you keep the momentum going and keep pushing this agenda forwards so that it remains a business priority after the pandemic.

We’ve also included the brief explanation that was provided with each of the shortlisted nominations.

The winners are:

Employer – Corporate – more than 250 employees – Aldi Stores UK

Employer – SME – less than 250 employees – Infinity

Employer – Public sector / charity – British Red Cross

Individual – Unsung Hero – Christine Howarth, Client Services & Mental Health Ally, Allen & Overy

Individual – True Leader – David Henderson, Managing Director, Tobermore Concrete

There are also more details in this article.

If you would like to be involved in the Make A Difference 2022 awards contact


A: Corporates – more than 250 employees

The shortlist of nominees for the Corporates category (listed in alphabetical order) is:

Aldi Stores Ltd  

“Aldi focuses on five areas of health and wellbeing – mental, physical, financial, nutritional and social. These are communicated on a dedicated MyWellness platform on our MyAldi app, which provides advice and guidance for colleagues in the form of articles, videos and signposting to trusted third parties. Visited by all of our 45,000+ colleagues since the launch in June, the platform is continually developed to support colleagues both in and outside of work. We partner with experts like the retailTRUST and Mental Health UK to provide colleagues with the best resources to support their wellbeing, including eLearning for all”.


“In March 2020, Awin established a framework to safeguard employee wellbeing through increased flexibility. Following the shift to a 4.5 work week to allow employees to spend time with family and the expedited rollout of a Global Wellness Programme, our efforts have culminated in the introduction of a 6 month pilot of a 4-day-work-week. In Q1 2021, employee sick leave has decreased -59% Year on Year (and -29% compared to 2019) with staff engagement increasing by +12.8%. Awin was named as one of Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work in the UK listing, an award based entirely on unsolicited employee feedback”.


“EUK’s newly adopted proactive, transformational human centered approach to wellbeing is underpinned by organisational strategic objectives and sustainable development goals to achieve a better world at work. An organisational wellbeing maturity model was developed and used as a gap analysis tool, along with other hygiene factors to assess our maturity and identify areas for improvement. The central wellbeing strategy (mental, physical, financial, clinical, work engagement) steers organisational wellbeing with the opportunity for local empowerment and a tailored approach using the operational maturity model and contract specific data to drive decision making. Our wellbeing movement is supported by our wellbeing champions network. Our aim is to ensure EUK’s wellbeing is embedded within our organisation and extends to families, supply chain, clients and communities”.

B: Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) – less than 250 employees

The shortlist of nominees for the SMEs category (listed in alphabetical order) is:

Circus Street

“During and after the upheaval of the pandemic we kept the Circus Street mindset (empowerment, self-awareness, strength-based development and optimism) front of mind. We quickly communicated all employees’ jobs would be secure with no furloughs or redundancies for peace of mind and pivoted our wellness strategy to maintain our company culture and keep spirits up. We ran pulse surveys to respond to any issues quickly and implemented more organisational clarity, more hybrid benefits, clear policies and constantly reminded people of our coping strategies, of mindfulness and provision of in-house CBT and the service of our health insurance provider. We also created lots of opportunity for social connection”.


“Mental health is now openly discussed in the business. We have had financial advisors in to support our financial wellbeing on a one-to-one basis; monthly care packages from pizza kits to fruit & veg boxes to hampers handmade & delivered by the management team; a walking challenge to encourage our colleagues out in the fresh air through the dark winter months that raised £7000 for local foodbanks; virtual games and social events.

Taking into consideration the different age groups within the business, we have tried to cater for everyone with a cross section of activities and maintain the family culture we pride ourselves in having”.

C: Public Sector / Charity

The shortlist of nominees for the Public Sector / Charity category (listed in alphabetical order) is:

British Red Cross

“At the start of Covid-19, the British Red Cross recognised the need for welfare of our volunteers to be at the heart of our response and launched a Volunteer Support Line (VSL). The VSL ensures people’s wellbeing is valued, supported, and protected to:

1) Have a healthy balance in their volunteering and personal life

2) Take care of their social, psychological, financial, and physical wellbeing

3) Be honest about their wellbeing and receive support when they need it.

The freephone / email VSL is accessible to >100k volunteers and operated by staff and volunteer. Funding has been secured to sustain this during 2021”.

Highways England

“At Highways England we want everyone home safe and well. Our kindness campaign increased conversations about mental wellbeing, which are culture changing. Engagement is up 12%. Our people shared positive things about our mental health: * Support from each other (90% fav); * Open and honest communications (89% fav); * Feeling cared for (88% fav). This is significant.

We introduced single-crewing for Traffic Officers; lateral-flow testing across operations, ensured shielding/self-isolating, gave budget for home-working and time for home-schooling and caring. Major construction continued, our Brexit plan was executed, and our new 5-year road plan began in these times”.

Sandwell College

“Sandwell College has gone above and beyond supporting colleagues, learners, and the wider community with issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing. The impact has been far reaching and inclusive of all groups and is the essence of decision making and actions. It has been further engrained into College culture and initiatives are sustainable and will mostly continue long term.

Examples of initiatives include the following: strong communications; additional support mechanisms; ‘Keeping Connected’ virtual events; interactive wellbeing site; external guest speakers; reduced appraisals etc. Initiatives have been taken by many sources from across the College through strong engagement within the College community”.


A: Unsung Hero / Heroine

The shortlist of nominees for the Unsung Hero category (listed in alphabetical order by first name) is:

Christine Howarth, Client Services & Mental Health Ally, Allen & Overy

“Christine became one of our London Mental Health Allies in May of last year and since then she has worked diligently to make an impact in ways far beyond what is expected of her as an ally. She sends a regular email to her practice group (Business Services) on all things wellbeing related whether that be webinars, toolkits or simply information that may in any way impact her colleagues’ mental health positively. She has actively become involved in writing communications on wellbeing for our wider London office and has now written stories about our allies, stress awareness and lockdown lifelines”.

Laura DeCook, Wellbeing Specialist, Expedia Group

“Laura was hired at Expedia Group as an Executive Assistant in early 2018. Less than a year later, she started the mental health program when she noticed the opportunity to improve upon internal resources to support employees that might be struggling. Laura began a program for employees around the globe to be trained in Mental Health First Aid, and soon after, became an MHFA instructor. She continues to host mental health workshops for all employees and was recently promoted as the company’s first Wellbeing Specialist where she has helped launch a wellbeing site and global partnerships with wellbeing companies”.

Rachel Pears, Inclusion & Diversity Lead, Internal Employment Council, RPC Law Firm

“Rachel has been pivotal in initiating and improving company-wide wellbeing. She has passionately extended this beyond her own firm, RPC, to inspire and share with others outside of the organisation. As an example, she organised and developed and initiative called “Beyond Fruit and Yoga” to challenge what counts as a true wellbeing strategy. She also extended this to people beyond her own firm. She has researched evidence-based, measurable provisions and has diligently worked to achieve senior buy-in and make substantial changes to the whole culture of the firm. It now proactively supports its employees and is a human place to work. Rachel has not stopped innovating and driving positive change. As soon as something yields success – she’s off on to her new focus! She’s also a very lovely person.”

B: True Leader

The shortlist of nominees for the True Leader category (listed in alphabetical order by first name) is:

David Henderson, Managing Director, Tobermore Concrete

“David as our MD always thinks of his people first. A true Leader, one of which we are extremely grateful to have. During the COVID 19 pandemic he went over and above to ensure his employees have felt as secure as possible in these difficult times. At the beginning of the pandemic when employees were furloughed, he paid everyone 100% wages as he didn’t want employees having financial worries at an already stressful time. He ensured on everyone’s return employees felt as safe as possible both at home and in work with safety measures put in place and an emphasis on Wellbeing when working from home. He implemented a full pay COVID sick pay scheme if employees were self-isolating or off sick due to Covid, again to eliminate financial worries and to keep everyone safe by not attending the workplace if they had symptoms. A Health and Wellbeing app was also introduced to employees which offers 365 days a year counselling, confidential helpline, Virtual GP appointments to name a few. Virtual team events have taken place such as cook alongs and team quizzes to keep employees connected”.

Guru Gowrappan, CEO, Verizon Media

“As Verizon Media’s CEO, Guru Gowrappan has made support for mental health a hallmark of how Verizon Media operates and participates meaningfully in the world. Guru believes that if we can shift how mental health is perceived within an organization, making it a clear business imperative, we can help normalize mental health and create a safe, supportive, inclusive workplace culture for all. He recently launched Mind Together, a mental health coalition to address mental health from the top down. Mind Together founding partners include Kellogg Company, Snap and Spotify, in addition to non-profit mental health advocacy group Made of Millions”.

Jonny Jacobs, Director Commercial Finance EMEA, Starbucks

“Jonny is unequivocally passionate about workplace mental health, using his influence as a senior leader in finance to drive the agenda at a corporate level, but also as an advocate and ambassador. In his previous roles as Strategy & Transformation Director at pladis he was the Executive Board sponsor for mental health, leading the employee mental health and wellbeing initiative, which led to the national ‘Let’s Talk’ partnership between McVities and the mental health charity, Mind. Over the last year at Starbucks, he has led the employee wellbeing group and played a fundamental role in the development and rebranding of the employee offer around wellbeing, which is branded, ‘Wellbeing Blend. An extra shot of wellness’, encompassing a range of initiatives including training and support both within and external to Starbucks. Jonny has been very generous with his personal time and is currently a trustee of the Mental Health Foundation and Mental Health at Work CIC. His combination of commercial perspective, along with a passion for the mission of these organisations to drive good mental health for all, is invaluable in ensuring broader reach of both message and impact”.

Click here to find out who won and register for the free to attend Make A Difference Insights Awards webinar on 15th June, 4.00pm-5.00pm (UK time).

* The voting form asked you to give your email address. This was so that we could ensure each person only voted once. You can view our data privacy policy here.

What the Make A Difference Awards are all about 

March 2020-21 has been a year like no other – filled with challenges, change and uncertainty. Yet it has also been a year when kindness, generosity and collaboration have shone through. This is what we want to celebrate.

The Make A Difference Awards are an opportunity for us to stop, think and thank the individuals and employers who have really made a difference to workplace mental health and wellbeing over the past year; those who are leading the way, and inspiring others to follow their example.

Thanks to our co-sponsors (Royal Mail and Optima Health), we’ve been able to make the awards accessible to everyone. It was quick, free and easy to make a nomination and the Make A Difference Awards virtual event will also be free to attend.

Meet the Make A Difference Awards Judges

Click to view biographies.

Dr Shaun Davis, Global Director of Compliance & Sustainability (Safety, Health, Wellbeing, Security and Compliance)

MA, MBA, MA, MSc, MA, Chartered FIOSH, FIIRSM, Chartered FCIPD, MIoD

A Chartered Fellow of The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, a Fellow of The International Institute of Risk and Safety Management, a Chartered Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a Member of The Institute of Directors Shaun has a wide portfolio of responsibilities across the Royal Mail Group; his responsibilities include safety, health, wellbeing and sustainability.

Joining Royal Mail Group in September 2012 Shaun has led a number of improvement programmes across a range of areas – contributing to improvements in accident prevention and a reduction in road traffic collisions. Shaun has led an organisation wide attendance improvement programme as part of a broader wellbeing and health promotion agenda, with particular attention being paid to mental health, musculoskeletal issues and issues affecting an ageing workforce.

Prior to joining Royal Mail Group, Shaun worked in the construction, refurbishment, infrastructure and waste management sectors and led organisations to achieve significant improvements in performance – most notably achieving ISO:9001, ISO:14001 and OHSAS:18001 alongside British Safety Council ‘Five Star Occupational Health and Safety Audit’ across two FTSE listed organisations. Shaun has also led culture change programmes and achieved a variety of awards and accolades for the organisations he has worked in.

Shaun holds five Masters Degrees; an MA in Leadership & Culture Change, an MBA, an MA in Marketing & Innovation, an MSc in Workplace Health & Wellbeing and an MA in Strategic Human Resource Management. He also holds a Doctorate in Coaching and Mentoring his research having explored the relationship between coaching, well-being and organisational culture. Shaun is currently studying towards a Master of Laws (LLM).

Shaun is a trained and experienced Board member, Chair, Trustee, and school governor.  He is currently a Trustee of three charities; The Men’s Health Forum, The Rowland Hill Fund(Deputy Chair) and The Society of Occupational Medicine. He is also a member of the Business in the Community (BITC) Workwell Leadership Team and a Member of the National Forum on Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace.  Shaun also acts as Vice Chair and Director of Strategy for the pan-European mental health campaign ‘Target Depression in the Workplace’.  Shaun was appointed as Honorary Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, School of Medicine in February 2018.

Voted as one of the 15 most influential in health and safety and a winner of The Institute of Directors ‘Director of the Year – 2018 ‘ award Shaun regularly contributes to contemporary debates and campaigns.

In 2019 Shaun was awarded The REBA (Reward & Employee Benefits Association) Vanguard Award for outstanding contribution to health and wellbeing.

Simon Arnold, CEO, Optima Health

Simon is an experienced leader in the healthcare arena, having operated across the UK and globally to design and support public and private healthcare delivery. Passionate about improving wellbeing in the UK workplace.

Simon has extensive board level experience in the strategic design and delivery of high-quality, technology enabled care and clinical support services, and has also served as a Commissioner on the Government’s Commission on Residential Care, which outlined the vision of health and care for the twenty-first century for older people. Simon is currently CEO of Optima Health, the leading occupational health and wellbeing provider in the UK, supporting organisations to drive a healthy high performing workforce.

Dr Kamel Hothi OBE, Non-Executive Director TLC Lions

Dr Kamel Hothi OBE has been breaking glass ceilings in the banking world for over 4 decades from cashier to Director as a Strategist and Architect of numerous initiatives that have changed the banking industry.

Following the banking crises increased trust and pride by developing business measurement impact for civil society partnerships including volunteering and causes such as Dementia and Mental Health.

However, these she has achieved despite the struggles, discrimination, and gender imbalance during her career alongside the challenges of running a traditional Indian household. She is now ranked in the top 100 most influential black, Asian, and minority ethnic leaders in the UK and was awarded an OBE for services to promoting diversity in banking.

Post-retirement in 2017 Kamel now supports several boards as an Advisor, Trustee including Lloyds of London Cultural Advisory Group for the Insurance Industry, The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust across 53 countries on social change for youth, Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Society and a NED TLC Lions supporting corporates on inclusion, leadership culture and wellbeing and chairing their Westminster Palace round table with UN Chair for Women in the UK

Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director, Business in the Community

Louise is an award-winning workplace health and wellbeing campaigner recognised by the Institute of Directors, the Society of Occupational Medicine and Reward and Employee Benefits Association.

At Business in the Community, Louise has campaigned to establish employee mental health as a strategic boardroom issue, on a parity with physical health.

Our wellbeing campaign supports and challenges employers across the UK to adopt ways of working that promote long-term positive mental health outcomes while also tackling the challenging issues of domestic abuse, suicide and bereavement.

Stacy Thomson, Founder, The Performance Club

Stacy Thomson has over 20 years of frontline experience working in roles within the NHS, and has owned her own performance consultancy for the past six. There is nothing she has not seen or worked with, and her continued learning and development demonstrates her passion and drive to understand the human condition, in order to educate, contribute and support both organisations and individuals.

She is a trusted coach and trainer, and enjoys partnering with inspiring individuals and companies to create bespoke solutions which work for them. She has designed and delivered a mental health training programme amongst her clients, and is seen as the in-house expert in mental health in a magic circle law firm.

Stacy also provides 1:1 mental health and performance coaching to high performing executives, entertainers and sports professionals.

Stacy currently sits on the advisory board of MAD World Summit, and has been a selection panel member and leadership mentor for the Inside Out Leader board. She is regularly asked to contribute to articles in industry publications and she enjoys writing articles for her blog and LinkedIn followers.

Claire Farrow, Partner & Global Head of Content, Make A Difference Media and the MAD World Summit

Claire is on a mission to help every employer – large, medium and small – get the insight, inspiration and contacts they need to make real impact on workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing in their organisation.

As a forerunner of the gig economy, Claire has been freelance for more than 15 years. During that time, she has had the honour of working with many leading publishers, including the New York Times.


The Make A Difference Awards are an opportunity for us to stop, think and thank the individuals and employers who have really made a difference to workplace mental health and wellbeing over the past year; those who are leading the way, and inspiring others to follow their example.

Nominations are open until 15 April. When drawing up the shortlist of nominees, the judges will assess the nominations of individuals and employers according to the following criteria:

  1. 1) How far-reaching and inclusive impact has been
  2. 2) How holistically wellbeing has been supported as a result of the person or employer's initiatives
  3. 3) How innovative initiatives have been
  4. 4) The extent to which initiatives can be scaled up
  5. 5) How sustainable the change created is (ie. embedded into culture)
  6. 6) The extent of the benefits delivered and the business case for wider benefits realisation

1. What is the name of the person you would like to nominate for the Make A Difference 2020/21 Award?

2. In no more than 100 words, please explain how this person has had the most positive impact on workplace mental health and wellbeing in 2020/21.

3. What is the name of the organisation you would like to nominate for the Make A Difference 2020/21 Award?

4. In no more than 100 words, please explain how you believe this organisation has had the most positive impact on workplace mental health and wellbeing in 2020/21

5. Please enter your contact details

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