Marks & Spencer - Mental Wellbeing Initiative

Marks & Spencer started a conversation with its colleagues about mental wellbeing to help create a workplace culture in which people can be themselves and to raise awareness of the support available.

Good for society
The Bupa Wellbeing at Work Award, Finalist, 2016
  • The M&S Mental Wellbeing Initiative has helped to create a workplace culture in which staff can be themselves, including creating a new employee Pride of M&S award for colleagues who champion mental wellbeing.
  • The initiative has raised awareness of the support available at M&S and equipped HR and managers to handle mental ill health with confidence, and this is being embedded into the company's wider learning and development offer.
Good for business

Marks & Spencer - Spark Something Good in Swansea


One in four people in the UK experience mental ill health at any one time.

As the first retailer to sign the Time to Change Pledge tackling mental wellbeing workplace stigma, M&S took action to act on an internal lack of awareness of the mental wellbeing support offered at the company and a lack of confidence in tackling the issue. It developed a three-pronged approach, focusing on awareness, signposting and upskilling. The Mental Wellbeing Initiative is comprised of:

  • Senior Leadership wellbeing champions from across the business leading a programme of wellbeing ‘Dare to Care’ principles, tackling unhealthy work habits

  • HR team trained in Mental Health First Aid to build capability and confidence dealing with mental ill health.

  • Communication campaign featuring posters, inflatable life size ‘elephants in the room’, and conversations on staff social network Yammer.

  • Hub of online support materials for all staff developed with internal and external experts.

The Mental Wellbeing Initiative has been launched across each of M& storesm, offices, and distribution centers, resulting in a better understanding of mental health and support available at M&S, and a more open and supportive workplace culture. 

Supporting managers

An internal survey by M&S revealed that mental ill health was the number one reason for referral to occupational health in 2014/15, yet half of managers reported that they didn't feel confident supporting their teams with mental ill health.

Now mental wellbeing is identified within the M&S human resources strategy as a key business priority under the company's objective of driving a high performance culture. Managers at all levels are receiving training, guidance, and resources to build their confidence and capability in supporting people experiencing mental ill health. 

Bringing leadership on board 

M&S created a development programme for their leadership team which included mental wellbeing as an example challenge. As part of the programme 20 senior leaders spent eight weeks working with specialist charities and organisations to understand the mental health agenda and challenge their own perceptions. 

As a result senior leaders have adopted principles for their areas to avoid unhealthy working habits, for example, reclaiming lunch breaks, highlighting the importance of speaking up and planning time away from desks and emails. 

Building a movement

The M&S wellbeing initiative is targeted at all employees either with experience of mental ill health or not. The company found that engaging with key groups – senior leadership, HR, CSR, communications, and employee representatives - throughout the development and launch of the initiative helped to spark an organic movement within M&S. 

In this way the mental wellbeing initiative is growing across the business at all levels and improving performance on attendance, productivity and customer service.

What Marks & Spencer's Executive Director said:

“Right now mental health is one of the biggest threats to our society It’s costing UK employers about £26 billion per year but  there’s so much we can do. Little things together that can make a big difference to our people and our business. Supporting our values in this way we can drive a high performance culture where people can flourish.” - Lesley Baynes, Head of Employee Engagement, M&S


Through training ,awareness-raising and the adoption of better working practices, M&S is building individual and team resilience, whilst influencing wider business planning processes such as their Smart Working programme
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