In the past few years, the Scottish waste industry has been witness to a new way of doing business thanks to an innovative project from Binn Group and Speak.
With a focus on employee health and wellbeing, the company has experienced remarkable changes such as decreased absences, improved health and safety and increased employee loyalty. Companies across many different sectors are now looking to the project as an example of how to better their workplace.
The mental health charity Speak was founded in 2017 by Rosie McKearnon, who was a student of psychology at the time. After struggling with mental illness for a large proportion of her life she wanted to change the system of flashy campaigns and long waiting lists by going into communities and being face to face with people who needed help. One of the main aims of the charity is to provide a place where people could not only be supported by professionals but also come together to support each other through lived experience.
During that time, Speak was being set up by the then HR manager of Binn Group, Danny McAtear, who had noticed a significant rise in the number of employees experiencing issues with their mental health. This was raised with the directors of the company who recognised that they were not equipped to give these individuals the support they needed and as a result Speak were brought in to change the internal system.
The matter was tackled from all angles while being faithful to the needs and targets of the business. For example, on-site, one-to-one support was set up immediately which allowed employees to attend sessions during the working day, thereby maintaining productivity and efficiency due to less time spent away from work to attend external appointments.
Workplace research was also conducted so as to gain insight into attitudes, needs and issues, the results of which lead to the introduction of a mental health policy, mandatory mental health training for all supervisors, managers and directors, optional training for all employees, links with local counsellors, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, new health and safety measures and fundraising opportunities.
To date, approximately 20% of the workforce has used the new mental health system and employees have presented with issues ranging from stress and bereavement to PTSD, Bipolar Disorder and suicidal thoughts. Of this 20%, 86% are still employed by Binn Group, 23% were referred for specialist treatment and diagnosis and only 4.5% (1 employee) took sick leave. However, perhaps the most important statistic is that 100% of the individuals who sought help through the system are alive and doing well.
Audrey Duckworth, Group Compliance manager commented:
“Working with Speak has been groundbreaking for our company. The great mental health campaign has enabled a difficult to reach section of society, working class men, to come forward and ask for help and receive counselling through our partnership initiative. We have a legal responsibility to help colleagues with their mental health, whether that be work related or not, and by engaging with Speak we have been able to assess, reduce and in some cases remove that risk. A key objective of our business and indeed the HSE is improving workplace wellness, and by improving the mental health of our workforce this can only have a positive outcome on the health & safety of our colleagues. Binn is a family business with family values, and by leading the way with our mental health strategy we have been able to demonstrate these values in action to great success.’’
In a male-dominated environment, the changes Binn Group has experienced are particularly important due to a strong stigma and high suicide rates among males. The workplace has seen employees now talking to each other about their mental health, supporting each other and encouraging each other to take advantage of the mental health system. It has also been found that many of the individuals who have used the service now act as advocates and look out for people who may be struggling, initiating conversation with them about their own experiences and being there to listen if they need it.