Profile: Amanda Mackenzie OBE – Why Better Work is the Key to Achieving Wellbeing

Amanda Mackenzie_BITC (1) (1)

Amanda Mackenzie OBE is Chief Executive of Business in the Community (BITC) – an organisation which continues to make a huge difference to workplace mental health and wellbeing as part of its wider role as the Prince’s Responsible Business Network. We are honoured that Amanda will be ending this year’s MADWorld Summit on 21st October on a resounding high, Chairing a panel which will explore the notion: “What if your job was good for you?”

In this profile interview Amanda shares insights into why she believes better work is the key to achieving wellbeing. She reminds employers that they need to be prepared to be flexible, aware that the needs of their people may change overnight and willing to adapt to respond that.

First, can you tell us a bit about how and why you became interested in driving forward workplace mental health and wellbeing as part of your work as Chief Executive of BITC? 

If our role as an organisation is to work with business to help them in their responsible business practice, you have to include such an important topic as mental health. Creating a workplace that is good for you is surely what we should all aspire to? So, I am only delighted to help champion our efforts and convene businesses to create and share best practice.

Our Responsible Business Map, based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or Global Goals), guides our members on a journey of continuous improvement, working across the whole responsible business agenda. Starting with purpose and values, we campaign to drive mental health by considering wellbeing through the combined lenses of diversity and inclusion; employment and skills; and the environment.

How long has BITC had initiatives in place to support colleagues’ mental health and wellbeing? 

In 2008, BITC launched our national business to business campaign, with the objective of elevating mental health as a boardroom issue, on a parity with physical health. Our Workwell Model takes a whole person, whole organisation, holistic approach to embedding wellbeing into organisational culture.

At BITC, we have a wellbeing champion network which gives our employees a voice that is actively listened to. We have wellbeing initiatives that support physical, mental, financial, social health and wellbeing. We also report internally to track our progress through staff engagement, inclusion and happiness surveys.

What would you say has been the most effective aspect of your workplace mental health and wellbeing programme (in general)?

Most of the FTSE 250 companies are amongst our members and our convening power is powerful and effective. We take the lead and set the responsible business agenda to take action, mobilising our membership to work together to bring about change on a national scale. 

To improve employee mental health and wellbeing, BITC is calling on employers to take two actions:

  1. Make the Mental Health at Work Commitment – a public declaration of putting mental health at the heart of post-pandemic recovery, underpinned by 6 standards.
  2. Tackle the systemic root causes of work related poor mental health – Achieve good work that supports mental health and standard 2 of the Commitment, by implementing BITC’s ‘Better Work’ framework, featured in our What if your job was good for you? report.

The pandemic has forced mental and physical health to the top of organisations’ agendas. Our goal is to make sure it remains a priority and becomes embedded as business as usual post-COVID. Can you share practical tips for those who are struggling to get or keep C-Suite buy-in?

The pandemic has demonstrated that change can happen very quickly and impact on ways of working in an instant. KPIs that your company has in place now might not be appropriate in a year’s time. C-Suite leaders need to remember that the key to retaining staff is by regularly reviewing your policies, procedures and working patterns to see how they support colleagues’ mental health and wellbeing. Be prepared to be flexible and aware that the needs of your people may change overnight so be willing to adapt to respond that.

We are delighted that you will be joining us to Chair a keynote panel at this year’s MADWorld Summit on 21st October in London. Is there anything you’d like to share with readers about your keynote panel session “What if your job was good for you”?

Thank you, I’m looking forward to chairing the panel.

We recently launched our What if your job was good for you? report which highlights a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform mental health and wellbeing at work. 

The report highlights that 41% of employees have experienced work-related poor mental health in the past year. Can you imagine how entirely unacceptable it would be if nearly half your employees had experienced physical harm from work in the last year?

There should be no dichotomy between physical and mental health. Risks and hazards must be managed in the same way and employees encouraged to call out all risks to health without fear. One of the topics we will be discussing is how to achieve parity between the management of physical and mental health and safety with an open and accountable culture.

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Better work is the key to achieving wellbeing as evidence shows that most health promotion interventions don’t address the issues of poor job design.

Remote and hybrid ways of working have created the exciting opportunity to enhance wellbeing at scale by enabling employees to co-create their own ‘good jobs’ within organisational parameters, so employees have true flexibility and choice in how, when and where they work to achieve work/life balance and be most productive.

Potentially, the sky’s the limit in terms of reimagining ways of working that transform mental health and wellbeing.

What are you looking forward to most about the MADWorld Summit?

I cannot wait to hear insights from all of your exceptional speakers and what they have achieved and learned over the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an instrument for acceleration and change in so many ways. I will be interested to see how these businesses have stepped up to the challenges and how they have risen above them, to better support both employee and organisational resilience. 

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