Our wellbeing self-scoring system driving work allocation

Matt Bithell, Programme Principal Engineer
18 May 2018
image of two Amey employees sharing a conversation.
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Smart Motorways Programme Principal Engineer, Matt Bithell, was shocked when he saw the latest mental health statistics and started thinking about how he could positively impact his team’s wellbeing. He came up with a ‘check in – check out’ system, where team members self-score their wellbeing and work is allocated accordingly.

Mental health issues touch all of us. On a personal level, I grew up with a mum who suffered with anorexia nervosa and panic attacks and it had a lasting impact on our family. Some of it was positive, because we worked together to help out for example, but of course there were some dark times too. As a lasting positive, mum is now mentally stable, fighting fit, healthy…and still telling me off.

Fast forward a few years, I was surprised to read a statistic from a Mind Matters survey stating that more than half of us have experienced mental health issues and a shocking one in four people have considered taking their own life. As a team leader on the Smart Motorways Programme, I wondered what difference I could make to my colleagues.

Five-minute team wellbeing snapshot

My family definitely benefited from being able to talk, so I wondered what we could do to lose stigmas associated with mental health in the workplace, and make it something we could discuss, like sprained ankles, coughs and colds.

The trials and tribulations of daily life affecting us all outside work aren’t left behind when we swipe our passes. On the Smart Motorways Programme, I wanted to develop a simple five-minute ‘check in’ for our team that would give everyone a snapshot of how we all are, but more importantly an opportunity to self-reflect.

With knowledge of other workloads, external pressure and my colleagues’ mental health, I could then share work for the week differently and assign resource where most appropriate. The meeting is a safe space to air thoughts; what’s said in the room, stays in the room.

Self-assessed wellbeing score drives resource allocation

The ‘check in – check out’ system was implemented at our weekly highways team meetings and was really well received. Our team relationship was already open and chatty, so people were willing to share. It works like this:

  1. All attendees score themselves on arrival, rating their wellness between 1 (well) and 10 (not so well) taking into account health (I've got a cough/I'm fighting fit), workload (too much/too little/just right), home life (sleeping well/moving house/planning an extension/writing a best man speech), stress and mental wellbeing
  2. We discuss the higher numbers and the reasons behind them, with team input as appropriate
  3. We continue with our meeting (with an awareness of high and low scores) and re-assign work, responsibilities and resource as appropriate
  4. At the end of the meeting we all assess our wellness again, with a ‘check out’ score, the hope that a problem shared is a problem halved and that by helping out with additional resource we have positively influenced wellness.

These five-minute pauses also give me the opportunity to remind the team of all the great support available to Amey employees - including our growing national army of over 100 mental health ambassadors and mental health first aiders and our 24/7 Employee Assistance Programme phone line - or flag up the need to chat with individuals away from the meeting environment.

Spreading the word

After being in the spotlight at the business-wide Amey a*stars awards at the start of this year, the initiative has gained considerable uptake on other contracts. It’s now used in meetings on our Birmingham and Sheffield Highways contracts and I’ve had discussions with the team at Highways England Area 7.

At our project managers team meeting, we’ve adopted the initiative. Here, we simply ‘check in’, but have adapted the process to share high and low numbers. This enables managers to share a little good news and tips on how they are keeping their wellness positive.

What does check in - check out do for us?

I think the system gives us a snapshot of how well our employees, friends and colleagues are. It deepens friendship bonds between teams. It encourages an open and honest environment and breaks down some barriers to mental health awareness.

Externally, Highways England completed a recent HELMA audit (Highways England Lean Management Assessment) and were invited to our highways team meeting, where they saw the initiative in action. Afterwards, we were encouraged to write it up and submit it to the Highways England Health, Safety and Wellbeing Awards.

While another positive initiative took the award on the evening, it’s great to see that our clients take wellbeing seriously and value our contribution to mental health wellness.

For more information on how this works for us, feel free to contact me: matthew.bithell@amey.co.uk

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