Written by Sara Thompson, Group HR Director at Phoenix Group
Over the last year, the cost-of-living crisis has put a tremendous strain on people’s finances, but also on their mental health.
This follows the devastating impact of the pandemic on mental health levels in the UK and around the world. For many people, this pressure manifests in an increase in their anxiety levels.
At Phoenix Group, we are extremely conscious of the impact the current economic environment is having on many people, and that is a key reason why we’ve continued to make our wellbeing initiatives a priority.
Alongside the specific initiatives we have put in place to support our colleagues and customers during this difficult time, such as offering free personalised financial coaching and planning for Phoenix employees, we also believe that our long-term mission to engage people in their financial futures can play a key role in tackling finance-related anxiety across society.
We are aware that many of our customers may be struggling with their mental health at the moment and we are working to ensure we are as responsive as possible to their needs. Our industry-leading vulnerable customers strategy provides support for those at most risk of harm and aims to drive up standards for the treatment of vulnerability across our Group as a whole. We recently held our first Vulnerability Summit which brought together leaders from the business alongside industry experts to raise awareness of societal challenges and the impact vulnerability has on our customers.
We are working hard to encourage these standards to be adopted across the pensions and insurance industry, by sharing our insights and best practice with our peers.
To support our colleagues we have added 51 additional Mental Health First Aiders and 45 Wellbeing Champions in the past year and we have offered a series of mental health training sessions, which were attended by over 500 colleagues. We have also been working with behavioural science experts, using accessibility simulation aids and creating innovative and immersive experiences through virtual reality that brings the vulnerable customer story to life for our colleagues.
The positive impact of this is clear, as 98% of managers felt that this training made them more confident and aware of how to support their colleagues, and over 80% of colleagues felt more confident about speaking up about their mental health. This is encouraging progress, but we know there is still a lot more that can be done to help colleagues in this area.
Our colleague networks are a vital part of this process, with our Mind Matters network providing a platform for support and sharing ideas on mental health. All of our wellbeing activity is underpinned by our Employee Assistance Programme, which includes a confidential 24-hour helpline for colleagues to share problems and receive actionable advice, and legal information services including debt and financial information.
We have also seen great benefits from our ongoing partnership with the Samaritans, which we have now extended into 2024. In the past year, our colleagues received training using the Samaritans’ listening wheel model, which its own volunteers use to support members of the public in crisis. This has been an invaluable tool to allow colleagues to help customers who need support to the best of their ability.
We are heartened by the positive impact our initiatives are having within Phoenix and beyond, and we are committed to going further in our mission to place mental wellbeing at the core of our relationships with all of our colleagues and customers.