Gleeds was recently named as one of the best workplaces, ranked 28 out of 57 in the super large category. While as CEO I’m obviously thrilled to get that kind of recognition, what means the most to me personally is hearing that over 90% of our employees agree that the business is committed to treating everyone fairly and respectfully. Plus 87% feel they can be themselves at work. Those numbers resonate with me personally because mental health and wellbeing has long been a topic close to my heart.
It’s Mental Health awareness week, and at Gleeds we have combined it with our popular Wellbeing Week activities. Over 135 years ago, Gleeds began as a family firm where people cared about each other… and remains true to this. An ethos of decency and looking out for one another was one of the aspects that encouraged me to join almost 30 years ago. However, everything evolves. What constituted as a great workplace when I started out is different to now; back then a good salary and benefits package, the opportunity to work on the best projects and travel around the world, all took priority. To be considered a great workplace today requires something else.
What we used to perhaps view as the softer side of business is now as important as revenue targets – and is in fact contributing to these targets. The statistics are startling: one study by the WHO found that anxiety and depression alone costs the global economy US $1 trillion. A 2022 survey found 92% of employees experience mental health challenges that affect their work. Thankfully, this same survey showed that 40.1% say that the overall trend of mental health conversations in the workplace are improving. At Gleeds we have 54 trained mental health first aiders, including board members who undertook an intensive 4-day training course. Every single one I’ve spoken to has learnt new life skills, and I’m so proud of their work as our Wellbeing Champions.
So, what else makes a great workplace? We want to be our authentic selves at work, unapologetically. Proof that a business is prioritising and investing in mental health and wellbeing, and cares about equality, diversity and sustainability all contribute hugely to how happy people feel at work. Statistics show that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions so, quite rightly, we need to show our employees every single day that we genuinely hear them on mental health.
But I’m often asked, how do you retain this culture as you grow? Well-considered policies, making sure everyone is heard, authenticity and accountability. We’ve done considerable work on our wellbeing and flexible working policies in recent years and feedback says our colleagues feel empowered to prioritise their mental health, which is music to my ears. Over time we have embedded initiatives such as our Fairness, Inclusion and Respect strategy and our Allies groups for gender, race, diversability, carers and LGBTQ+, and we remain independent and agile enough to support these networks as we grow. Calling out the wrong behaviours is vital too. I feel confident that our people would call us out if we didn’t uphold our values, and they thought we were simply paying lip service to these things. In fact, I would urge them to do so. If that means difficult conversations, I welcome that. How else do we grow? We genuinely want to do the right thing. Wellbeing for us isn’t just a week – sure, we’ve had yoga and self-defence classes, posture clinics and resilience training over the last few days – but this isn’t a quick fix. We’re in it for the long haul.