Mental wellbeing at Western Union Business Solutions

10th May 2021

According to the mental health Charity Mind, 1 in 6 workers experience problems such as low mood, anxiety and stress at work, and poor mental wellbeing costs the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion a year. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a host of challenges to add more pressure, so it is vital that employers recognise the issue and take responsibility for ensuring that workers have access to information and support during these difficult times.

Jodie Battson, FX Dealing Team Manager, Western Union Business Solutions

Mental wellbeing at Western Union

The great thing about working at Western Union Business Solutions is that bottom-up innovation is actively encouraged. It was this forward-thinking culture that allowed first line employees to identify a need for Mental Health First Aiders and put together a proposal to secure funding for ten UK employees to attend a two day accredited Mental Health First Aid course. Alongside their usual role, this group has been connecting weekly on Zoom, to discuss and plan how best to offer support to our people during these tough times. This has included delivering Mental health presentations, hosting drop-in sessions, facilitating a “walking for wellbeing” challenge and providing signposting to additional support and resources where needed. The group aims to keep the mental health conversation going, and foster an environment where people feel safe and comfortable sharing how they are feeling. Karen Penney, Vice President Payment Products is one of our Mental Health First Aiders and commented “The Mental Health First Aider training has given us the knowledge and confidence to support our colleagues and regular catch ups within the Mental Health first aider group have enabled us to identify developing mental health and wellbeing themes and quickly address them.”

This focus sits alongside Western Union’s overarching commitment to the physical and mental wellbeing of our employees which has in turn guided our global pandemic response. After a seamless transition from working in the office to working at home, employees’ views on the future of work have been, and continue to be captured via a monthly employee engagement survey and communicated using regular, virtual Town Halls and email updates. This valuable feedback is being used to drive the forward-looking strategy, and gives us reassurance that we have a voice, and that the reimagining of the workplace will be done with employees’ views and needs in mind.

We already had access to Employee Assist, which provides confidential information and support on a range of issues including health, legal and financial challenges, and also offers a counselling service. In addition, we can now benefit from free access to the premium content on the award-winning Headspace, mindfulness app, and this has recently been extended to include family members. The app offers a vast range of guided meditations on subjects including sleep, fitness, change and combatting anxiety, to promote positive wellbeing as we adapt to the challenges and changes that Covid-19 has presented us with. 25 published studies show the impact of Headspace on outcomes such as stress, focus, and compassion, including 14% less burnout after 4 sessions and 32% less stress after 30 days. We currently have around 1,300 team members enrolled globally and I personally use Headspace almost every day; it has helped me to cope better with the pressures of juggling working from home with the needs of my 3 children who have been at home with me, completing their schoolwork virtually.

One of the problems posed by lockdown was how to ensure that our culture of working collaboratively and sharing best practice could continue whilst working remotely, to make sure that we could offer the same excellent level of service to our customers that we pride ourselves on. Every day starts with a virtual, UK wide morning brief, to make sure that we are armed with the information and updates that we need and to hear news and achievements from colleagues in other departments. This helps to start the day feeling motivated and positive and reminds us that we are connected to others by a shared purpose, which helps to stave off the feelings of isolation that working at home away from our colleagues could foster. Face to face team huddles have been replaced with virtual ones, classroom training has been adapted and provided either online or on Zoom, and our Leadership team have committed to “Office Hours” sessions which are used to share information and updates on a range of topics, so that we can continue to learn and develop together.

From the very start we have been encouraged to stay connected in fun ways too, to replicate the feel of the office and enable us to keep in touch with colleagues across all teams and departments. David Prendeville, Head of UK FXS has been hosting virtual drop in “coffee mornings” and has facilitated photo competitions for employees. He told me “The demands on staff are apparent, from dealing with clients who are struggling to keep their business trading; often being counsellor in unprecedented times, to being a quasar teacher to their children the next minute. The importance of these interactions can never be underestimated.”

This support has also extended to our valued customers, who have shared their own challenges as they have adapted to the huge changes that the pandemic has brought to their doors. Our go to market teams were actively encouraged to continue to reach out to clients, to offer virtual coffee catch ups, even when there was no business to be done, and to offer appropriate support. We have hosted online events for our customers, including fun opportunities to take a tea break and enjoy some light entertainment, along with opportunities to connect and network virtually. Alongside this, we have sent invites to attend topical, targeted webinars and market updates to help make sure that our clients have what they need to make informed decisions and navigate the challenges and changes that Covid-19 has made necessary. Regular training for front line teams has been designed to ensure we can continue to provide the best level of support for our customers, to give peace of mind that they are in safe hands when partnering with us.

There is no doubt that Covid-19 has presented situations and setbacks that I previously could never have imagined possible, however working for a company that has put Mental wellbeing at the top of the agenda has equipped us to navigate the new normal and to be part of shaping our future flexible work model moving forwards. WU is committed to balancing the needs of our people alongside our business needs, whilst ensuring our customers remain at the centre of everything we do.

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