Anglian Water on financial wellbeing: 'Offering support means that employees can take practical steps to change their situation'

Business in the Community's (BITC) Mental Health at Work 2018 report exposed the causal relationship between finances and mental health, with 34 per cent of employees reporting that their financial situation negatively affects their mental health. We spoke to Peter Simpson (pictured), CEO of Anglian Water Group, about how the company supports financial wellbeing.

A man wearing a suit smilesQ: How are you feeling about the recent award win at the Employee Benefits Awards 2019? Why do you think Anglian Water took the top spot for best financial wellbeing strategy – large employer?

A: We are delighted to be recognised by the Employee Benefits Awards for our financial wellbeing strategy. We have worked hard to ensure that our financial wellbeing programme meets the needs of our multi-generational workforce, and this award is recognition of the team at Anglian Water, but also our financial wellbeing partners, Neyber. 

Q: Can you tell us a bit about why Anglian Water have decided to focus on financial wellbeing as part of its overall wellbeing strategy? What has the response has been like from your employees?

A: We recognise the stress and anxiety that can be caused by financial worries, so our mental health programme has included a focus on this issue. Our wellbeing team has worked hard with Neyber to ensure we have a fully integrated plan. We have introduced education to help colleagues better manage money, offer low-cost loans, and a loyalty savings scheme to help employees make regular savings. Almost 30 per cent of our employees are in one or more of the schemes, with a total saving amount of £3.2m per annum. Since we launched these schemes over 300 applications have been made for loans, of which 60 per cent – more than 180 employees – were consolidating debt, helping them create better financial security. About 1,200 – more than 30 per cent of employees – visited the Neyber site for education, with 876 downloading podcasts and videos. We also launched a new employee benefits portal in early 2018 to allow employees more flexibility when it comes to their benefits, so they could make choices that better reflect their wellbeing needs.

Offering such support means that employees can take practical steps to change their situation, which helps with their feelings of anxiety. Often employees can make a big difference to their finances, and this can be a big relief.

Q:  At BITC we speak to a lot of organisations that are keen to do something to support employee financial wellbeing, but aren’t sure how to go about it. What advice would you give in terms of getting started? What do you think are the most important first steps?

A: No employee is the same and neither is their financial situation. A range of financial wellbeing benefits will be needed to be relevant to all of your employees. In doing so, you can increase productivity, job satisfaction, and significantly decrease stress.

Working with BITC we started to work on our wellbeing strategy as one whole proposition. We learned from other companies sitting around the table with BITC and began embedding really great ideas that have worked at other organisations into what we do as a business. We now take an approach that involves our entire organisation and include the mental, physical, social and financial aspects of our employees' wellbeing. We also engaged with our unions in our approach.

At Anglian Water, financial wellbeing isn’t a one-size-fits-all programme. We recognise that our employees have differing needs and our programme is tailored to offer a spectrum of financial support, from loans to pension workshops. Our workforce is so diverse we ensure that we use different communication vehicles to ensure we reach everyone.

Working with a financial wellbeing partner adds many benefits. We work alongside Neyber to ensure our financial wellbeing programme offers the support needed for a wide range of employee needs, and dealing with an external partner means that our people are less worried that we will know their financial issues. Many employees wouldn’t think of turning to their employer for financial advice – you need a clear and positive message to cut through the assumptions out there.

And, lastly, be bold. 

Q: Lots of companies struggle between the conflict of implementing wellbeing strategies simply because it’s the right thing to do to look after their employees, and wanting to measure a tangible return of investment for their business? Where do you stand? 

A: We have a fundamental belief that looking after our people is the right thing to do, but also from a business point of view if our colleagues are fit, well and safe they are likely to be more productive and deliver a better service to our customers.

Wellbeing is absolutely fundamental to how well Anglian Water is performing. It is about creating the right environment to set our employees up for success. 

Q: What steps do you think are needed to ensure Board-level buy-in for wellbeing initiatives? How important do you think their buy-in is to overall success?

A: Our senior leadership team drive our wellbeing strategy, having received independent training through our award-winning Transforming our Leadership programme, which includes a module focused on personal resilience and supporting teams. Leaders build health, wellbeing and safety into reviews during site visits and track findings on our Active Management app. Health, safety and wellbeing – known as Happier, Healthier and Safer – is the first item on every team meeting agenda.

Q: What are you planning to do next in terms of your financial wellbeing strategy and wellbeing more broadly?

A: We have regular reviews with Neyber to evaluate the support and programmes we have in place to support the financial wellbeing of our employees. This offers us valuable insight into the needs of our employees and allows us to better target initiatives base don employee need.

We have also undertaken a review of our in-house flexible benefits programme to look at the take up of flexible benefits since the programmes inception in early 2018, and to determine what additional benefits we can offer our employees to better suit their wellbeing needs.