MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

@MADWorld Preview: Debbie Bullock, UK Wellbeing Lead, Aviva – Wellbeing Is No Longer Just A Nice To Have

In the run up to this year’s MADWorld Summit, which is taking place in-person in Central London on 21st October, we’re running a series of profile interviews with some of the key speakers.

In this interview, Debbie Bullock, UK Welbeing Lead with insurance company Aviva, shares her take on what works in wellbeing, why it’s no longer simply a “nice to have” and how she would like to see workplace wellbeing evolve.

First, can you tell us a bit about your professional background at Aviva. How did you come into your role looking after workplace mental health and wellbeing? 

I’ve worked for Aviva and its predecessor companies since I left school at 16 – quite a few years now! Being a large company enables you to have many roles without changing employer, and I’ve worked in Marketing, PR, Corporate Responsibility and currently the People Function.

To deliver and evolve the wellbeing programme, which was launched in May 2017, it was decided to have a Wellbeing Lead and team to drive engagement and change in the organisation. I’d been involved in project delivery, and employee engagement in my previous roles – this combined with my beliefs that our people are our greatest assets and my strong care, compassion and commercial focus led me to the Wellbeing role.

How long has Aviva had a support programme for staff mental health and wellbeing? Is this a national or international programme?

Employee wellbeing has been something Aviva has delivered for many years, but the programme we now call Wellbeing@Aviva was officially launched in May 2017. It brought together all the things we already were doing for colleagues, and added additional resources and support for all aspects of wellbeing. I manage a UK programme, but similar programmes exist in our other markets, and where appropriate we share resources as well.

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

There are three key parts to any wellbeing programme – the culture, the benefits and the individual engagement. You need all three for it to be successful.

However, I think what truly underpins wellbeing in an organisation, and therefore is the most important aspect, is a culture of psychological safety and inclusion. This, combined with roles that have purpose and give colleagues autonomy, clear accountabilities and the ability to grow, really influence how an employee feels about work which directly impacts their wellbeing.

With these bed rocks in place you can start to add the additional benefits to support prevention and intervention in the wellbeing space. Of those benefits, none are more important than the other because each employee is different and potentially facing different wellbeing challenges.

Since COVID-19 what has been the most effective aspect of your workplace mental health and wellbeing programme?

Having a well-established and well communicated wellbeing programme already in place when the pandemic hit put us in the best place to support our colleagues. It meant colleagues already knew where and how to get any support they might need as a result of COVID-19.

After that, supporting our people leaders and helping them understand the new remote working dynamic was the next most effective aspect. Giving them training and support so they were best placed to recognise and support their teams’ wellbeing challenges was crucial.

During the height of the pandemic our employee pulse survey told us we were getting it right. 84% of employees said Aviva was supporting their health and wellbeing at that time.

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. How can people driving this agenda within their workplaces achieve this?

Wellbeing is no longer a nice to have, it’s an essential tool to mitigate business risk – this doesn’t end as the pandemic eases and society starts to return to some sort of normality. Organisations rely on their employees and they are one of their greatest assets. It makes commercial sense to consider their wellbeing as part of the operation of the business.

Helping senior stakeholders to understand the impact of not addressing wellbeing is key. Employees with low wellbeing will be less productive, have increased absence, and lower engagement and morale. Not considering wellbeing of the workforce can also impact the ability to attract and retain talent, particularly important in the current employment market.

We are delighted that you will be joining us as a key speaker at this year’s MADWorld Summit on 21st October in London. Is there anything you’d like to share with readers about your panel session “Fast forward: future-proofing workplace wellbeing”?

I’m looking forward to debating with other panel members how we make sure the acceleration and focus we’ve seen on wellbeing during the pandemic isn’t lost as we move forward; to understand how we can understand better how we measure workplace wellbeing in a meaningful way; and how instead of looking to intervene when employees suffer poor wellbeing, how we can make sure work is good for you in the first place!

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

I’m looking forward to being back in the room with people who care about employee wellbeing, understand it’s importance and are at the forefront of driving this agenda. To be honest, I’m also just looking forward to being at an in person event again!

There’s a great range of sessions addressing key issues organisations are facing. As well as sharing my knowledge, I’m looking forward to taking on board some learnings of my own to feedback into what we’re doing at Aviva.

The MAD World Summit is on Thursday 21st October, in-person at 133 Houndsditch in Central London. The Summit is the go-to event for employers who want to Make A Difference to workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing. For more information visit the event agenda or to book visit the booking page