ESB: Developing a programme for staff on mental health issues

Business in the Community Ireland

Company Description:
ESB is Ireland’s leading energy utility. We generate, distribute and sell (through our retail company ESB Electric Ireland) electricity to customers throughout Ireland.

Business Issue:
ESB is committed to promoting health and well-being among our 6,000 staff. We run an extensive health and wellbeing programme and have well-established equality and diversity policies. In 2010 ESB developed a staff programme focused on mental health issues in order to support staff in managing stress and to publicise the role of our Employee Assistance Programme in providing support for individuals in time of difficulty. By focusing on the positive promotion of mental health, we believe we can encourage people to develop the skills needed to manage stress effectively. This in turn will lead to their greater enjoyment of life, both at home and at work and to their ability to make a greater contribution in all aspects of life. ESB recognises the role that the workplace has to play in the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and as a place where people can receive useful practical information that can have a positive impact on their own life and on that of their wider family and community.

Solution Applied:
Our Equality and Diversity Team, working with staff from the Health and Wellbeing Team and experts, developed the “Talk it out, Let it out, Sort it out” pack, to provide tips and advice for people on how to look after their mental health. A pack was sent to each staff member. The pack contained a series of cards on which people with whom ESB staff could identify were profiled. Included with the profile of each person was a focus on a particular aspect of depression, together with information on that topic and advice as to how best to get assistance and support (both inside and outside ESB).

Company Benefits:
ESB understands the role that a positive and supportive working environment can have on a person’s overall mental health and wants to maximise its own efforts in this area. According to Joyce Farrell, Equality and Diversity Manager: “By providing clear, accessible information on issues relating to mental health, we hope that we can ensure that where people do need support they know how to access it quickly, either for themselves or for others in their care”.

Stakeholder Benefits:
The very fact of communicating about mental health, an issue more often not spoken about, may make it easier to have future conversations in the workplace about stress. According to Mary Mangan, EAP Dublin / East Region: “We want staff to be aware that the ESB is there to support them, through any difficulty they may have. The circulation of the mental health pack has been very positive in letting staff know what resources are there, if they need them”.

There are vast amounts of material available on the issue of mental health. The key challenge in preparing our pack was to develop something succinct and accessible that staff could immediately relate to. By developing profiles of people that staff could readily recognise either as themselves or colleagues we ensured that the packs were user friendly and relevant.

The pack contains contact information for a range of services both inside and outside ESB so that where people feel that they may need support, they are directed as to how to get next stage help. This has ensured that the pack is being retained by staff and continues to serve as a valuable and valued resource.

Solution Champion:
Joyce Farrell, ESB Equality and Diversity Manager. Tel: 01 7027534