Pioneering ‘happiness’ programme wins water award

Lanes Health & Wellbeing Initiative of the Year MED

Lanes Group plc has won the Health and Wellbeing category in the Water Industry Achievement Awards for its pioneering work to support its people in the workplace.

It has developed a wellbeing app for measuring happiness at work combined with a practical support programme led by a qualified wellbeing and mental health practitioner.

The initiative, developed by Lanes Utilities, the wastewater network services maintenance partner for Thames Water, was recognised at the Water Industry Achievement Awards held in Birmingham on 21st May 2018.

Guests at the ceremony were told judges had been so impressed by the strong submissions that they split the Health and Safety Initiative Award, giving the Health and Wellbeing Award to Lanes and the Safety Award to Affinity Water.

Judges were impressed by the way Lanes combined novel digital app technology with determined practical support to transform the lives of many colleagues.

The initiative aims to give genuine help to colleagues in need. For the company, this has the beneficial effect of underpinning high customer service standards, and retaining skilled and experienced colleagues, significantly reducing recruitment and training costs.

Lanes Utilities Director Andy Brierley said: “We’re delighted that the people delivering our wellbeing programme have been recognised with this prestigious award. There are no boundaries for us when it comes to finding new ways to support our staff and deliver excellent and safe customer service.”

Lanes Utilities, based in Slough, Berkshire, employs more than 1,400 people and operates 390 specialist vehicles to maintain 70,000 miles of sewers and drains on behalf of Thames Water, completing more than 1,100 jobs per day.

Field workers must answer the wellbeing app’s question – How Happy Do You Feel? – at the start of every shift. They are also asked if they want to talk to someone about any concerns. If they do, they are contacted by the wellbeing practitioner.

The combination of the app data, and the practitioner’s work, is tackling an otherwise largely hidden issue of colleagues struggling with significant worries that can affect their performance at work and blight their lives out of work.

Most of the causes of unhappiness are not related to work. In some cases, they are associated with mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

Through the wellbeing practitioner, supported by the management team, Lanes Utilities is now building links with external wellbeing and mental health providers including MIND, deliver long-term support to its people. In recent months the scheme has been extended to office workers.

Since the wellbeing app was first introduced, the number of colleagues identifying themselves as unhappy or very unhappy through the app, has fallen from 8 per cent to around 1per cent.

Dozens of colleagues have been helped with often complex wellbeing and mental health problems, greatly improving their lives. The employment churn rate has fallen.

Learning from the initiative has also informed the development of a wider wellbeing strategy, called Well.Me. It has led to additional people skills training across all staff groups and has helped introduce a new pay structure and careers pathway for all colleagues within Lanes Utilities.

Andy Brierley said: “The wellbeing app came from a discussion one evening about how happy people deliver better customer service. That has mushroomed into an initiative that’s transforming our whole organisation, both in performance and culturally.

“I’m proud that our teams have been brave and open-minded enough to start this exciting journey.”

The Water Industry Achievement Awards are organised by Water and Wastewater Treatment magazine, Water Effluent and Treatment News, and Utility Week Live.

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