The wellbeing of employees should be a critical concern to all organisations, whatever the industry. Physical and mental health concerns can have the same devastating impact as a workplace injury, and for this reason the RailStaff Awards celebrates those who seek to protect and support their colleagues.
The Health & Wellbeing Award is for those who have gone the extra mile, and more, to promote good practice in this area. It rewards the innovative and proactive activities that enable rail staff to lead healthier and happier lives.
Health at heart
This year, the Health & Wellbeing Award is proudly sponsored by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the UK’s largest rail company, which operates Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern, and Gatwick Express services. Health & Wellbeing is at the core of its values.
“GTR employs 7,500 staff and connects with many passengers and communities. It’s a real people-focused organisation,” says GTR’s health, safety, and security director, Samantha Facey.
“Health and wellbeing is critical to our organisation – it’s at the heart of everything we do. Mental health and wellbeing initiatives are vital to the happiness and prosperity of our staff, and to the operation of our network.
“I believe GTR leads the way in this area. For physical health, we have an occupational health team and dedicated physician and offer help with diet and lifestyle choices to avoid conditions such as diabetes. We also give all employees access to Care First, which can help to provide counselling and therapy where needed. In addition to this, we have a wealth of free resources available to employees at all times, such as practical tools and guidance for mental health and wellbeing.
“We strive to deliver continual learning to all of our staff. We’ve just completed a six-month programme working with an expert to provide webinars on personal resilience. Initiatives like this help to ensure our staff are set up for success.
One of the hazards of working on the railway is the risk of being involved in a traumatic incident. That may involve abusive behaviour from members of the public, or witnessing a workplace accident. GTR ensures that its staff are well cared for in any event, Samantha says.
“We recognise the long-term impact these scenarios can have and employ trained practitioners who can provide trauma support for staff who have experienced these types of situations – that’s whether the event took place within the workplace or outside of it.”
But all this good work would be for naught, if employees were not made aware of the support available to them. Highlighting the help on offer is critical, and GTR takes pride in communicating this message.
“We have a very mature internal comms programme, where health and wellbeing is a constant feature throughout the year. We use this to signpost seasonal events that may impact on our employees’ wellbeing.
“As an example, as we enter autumn and winter, we’ll be reminding staff how they can keep themselves healthy. The shorter days can exacerbate mental health issues, which can also impact physical health. We’ll be letting our staff know how they can keep themselves fit in both body and mind.”
Samantha Winfield from Great Western Railway took home the Health & Wellbeing Award in 2022, and she embodies everything that makes a worthy winner. Samantha had volunteered to become a wellbeing champion during the Covid pandemic, so she could help support her Cardiff depot throughout lockdown. She helped her team stay physically and mentally active and was responsible for keeping the team connected during the challenges of that time.
Samantha also realised that much more could be done beyond the depot and focused on supporting people who were suffering from domestic violence. She engaged with Domestic Abuse Stops Here (DASH) a charity that was working in the Cardiff area to address the increase in domestic abuse cases created by the pressures of lockdown.
Samantha looked beyond her colleagues every-day roles, taking a holistic approach to their wellbeing. She is a true RailStaff star.
The RailStaff Awards are a celebration of the superb staff who keep the network running day-in, day-out, whatever the conditions. The individuals and teams who ensure that employees are cared for and supported through any event are a key pillar of the workforce and deserve our highest gratitude.
“It’s wonderful to recognise the great work that’s going on across the industry to make our railways better, safer, and happier places to work,” says Samantha.
“Through our staff, our organisation touches many people’s lives, and recognising the unsung heroes who support our employees is a great honour. They make a tangible difference to the experience of everyone on the network and deserve to be rewarded.
“We at GTR are proud and privileged to sponsor this category.”