Network Rail becomes a Personnel Today Health & Wellbeing Finalist


Dr. Samuel Jackson

About the organisation

Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the rail network in England, Scotland and Wales. To cope with quickly rising passenger numbers, Network Rail is currently undertaking a £38 billion programme of upgrades to the network, including Crossrail, electrification of lines, upgrading Thameslink and a new high-speed line (HS2).

The challenge

The Everyone Fit for the Future (EFFTF) strategy was set up in conjunction with Robertson Cooper in 2013, but there were still improvements needed. National Rail wanted to truly engage the largely male, disparate workforce, ranging from office staff to frontline shift-workers, demystify wellbeing, and encourage employees to take ownership of their wellbeing and improve their “mental fitness”. Other challenges included the fact that frontline workers did not have access to computers, and the workforce was predominantly male and therefore less open about health issues.

What the organisation did

  • Commissioned psychological wellbeing specialists Robertson Cooper to design and implement a data-driven, holistic approach, which connects wellbeing with positive outcomes, such as productivity gains.
  • Recruited 65 wellbeing champions across all sites to advocate the strategy at a local level.
  • Provided compatible iPads and started to develop a mobile app for frontline workers without computer access.
  • Introduced a bespoke online assessment tool, Wellbeing Snapshot, and tailored the language and communications to suit different audiences and levels of understanding, and made it available 24/7.
  • Delivered ongoing, consistent communications highlighting benefits to employees’ own wellbeing, along with incentives, including a personalised report with a “wellbeing age” to provide understanding of how behaviours impact an individual’s lifestyle and age, with tips to be happier inside and outside of work.
  • Enabled peer-to-peer support to combat the issue of a male workforce being reluctant to discuss health issues.
  • Installed health kiosks in offices (and rotated around track-bases) for employee medical checks.
  • Provided free access to Validium, an external service, offering 24/7 helpline, counselling and therapy for those who need it.
  • Organised talks on mental health and safety, and introduced a dedicated health and wellbeing portal.
  • Produced articles/advice on the intranet, with many specifically about men’s health, and a printed magazine for frontline staff.

Benefits and achievements

  • Employee wellbeing levels increased from 52.9% to 66.1%.
  • Perception of Network Rail supporting employee health rose from 56.5% to 78.9%.
  • EFFTF achieved board approval – one of only five board-approved strategies across the business.
  • After the training, managers’ confidence in their ability to spot the signs of stress increased by 18%; in having the knowledge and skills to support their teams through change increased by 15%; in their ability to host wellbeing conversations in their teams increased by 14%.
  • Data indicates that the company connected wellbeing to potential productivity gains of £7,304 per employee and by supporting employees with low wellbeing levels, it could save an estimated £1 million/year in productivity.
  • Improved employee trust and understanding, for example, a project director who became a wellbeing champion said: “I was initially sceptical, but it wasn’t complete nonsense – it makes sense.”
  • Network Rail continues to improve engagement and outcomes, including a mobile app, with other incentives being considered, such as free gym sessions.

Judges’ comments

“Very interesting that the organisation have chosen not to do the ‘norm’ and hasn’t been frightened to try different things.”

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