Creating a happy and healthy workforce

By Charley Maher, Managing Director, Bristol Wessex Billing Services

Charley Maher

I created a vision for ‘Health & Wellbeing’ for my business a year ago and since then, my team have exceeded my expectations in terms of what we have achieved.

BWBSL is jointly owned by Wessex Water and Bristol Water and are responsible for the customer journey for their 1.5 m customers across the South West. Their customers rely on BWBSL to provide them with an efficient and helpful service.

I knew that people were core to the success of the business and wanted to ensure that my team of 380 people were not only focused on providing an excellent service experience to customers but I also wanted to create initiatives to support a healthy and happy team to enable brilliant employee engagement.

Our health and wellbeing initiatives over the last year have touched everyone across the business.  Each month is themed and a key objective for the H&W charter is to ensure that my entire team are happy and healthy at work. Mental health is high on my agenda too.  Interestingly, I was really pleased to read that ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ in 2016 focused on highlighting the impact of relationships on our mental health. The charity has asked people to commit to maintaining good relationships with friends, family and colleagues, which they believe is fundamental to our health and happiness.

We took this objective to a different level at BWBSL and set about creating stronger relationships in the workplace both within teams and cross-functionally.  New working groups and project teams were set up to pilot and launch the monthly health and wellbeing initiatives and in our recent employee engagement survey, there was overwhelming feedback from team members talking about improved relationships at work and how well team members support and help each other more than ever.  I also asked my learning and development team to design and launch a mental health awareness training programme, making it available to all team members.  This has received great feedback and increased levels of empathy demonstrated across the business.

The last year has been full of great achievements, in 2015 the business won ‘Best Place to Work’ at the UK Customer Experience Awards and earlier this year we were recognised with a total of four awards at the UK Employee Experience Awards, however, a happy and healthy, engaged team is by far the best achievement of all.

Happiness and work?

Happiness: One word with so much meaning, possibility and emotion all held together with warm memories of great times. Work: Thought by many as the root of all evil; ‘the things I have to do’ or ‘the place I have to go’ because ‘that is life’. Surely these two concepts cannot coexist to create a sentence like: Happy and Engaged Modern Workplace. Or can they?

For those who attended (or viewed online) our February 2015 BridgeTalk with Nic Marks, you will recall that he gave relevance to this topic with his talk ‘Happiness is a Serious Business’. I personally found inspiration in this talk as Nic brought to life the power that this emotion can have on individuals and the benefits that it brings to organisational culture. It also made me positively reflect on the Bridge strapline ‘connecting your people to your brand’, as within this connectivity sits many powerful emotions; one of which is happiness.

It is now my extreme pleasure to bring more happiness to the Bridge stage and focus today’s spotlight on Paul Dolan who will facilitate an informative and challenging debate with our four panellists on what drives happiness in their businesses. Sharing the stage with Paul will be senior representatives from Google, TGI Friday’s, Home Group and Lush who will collectively give us behind-the-scenes access into their cultures.

The many different ways in which we define happiness affect what we can do to improve it. To create a happy and engaged modern workplace we must first define the experiences of pleasure and purpose that we want our people to have at work. Then as leaders we can begin to develop an environment that embraces the happiness and engagement that leaves a lasting impression on those that share our employee journey.

Paul is a leading authority on the subject, and off the back of his best selling book he will bring life to a topic that many take for granted. Many books and happiness experts make prescriptions about what to do in order to be happier, without defining what happiness is in the first place. Paul will take the panel beyond this by giving practicality to what is being pursued and the impact that this has on daily activities. Happiness can have many meanings and the exciting thing about this panel is where the topic may take them.

Bridge Talks: Nic Marks on Happiness

Nic Marks joined the BridgeTalks community on Tuesday evening, 24th February, to talk about Happiness in the workplace and why it should be taken more seriously by businesses and business leaders.

Nic began his BridgeTalk by explaining how his background as a statistician led him to pursue happiness in his company, Happiness Works. Nic is a numbers guy, and as such, he has made it his life’s mission to be able to provide business leaders with the numbers and statistics that prove that the happiness of their employees is of utmost importance to their businesses financially.

Emotions are a natural and evolutionary part of the human experience, Nic explained. Happiness is an emotion that we not only seek but that drives us forward as well.

When people are happy in their roles, happy with their colleagues and managers, happy with the work they do and the services and support that they provide, they are far more productive, effective and efficient in their roles than when they are simply happy with their earnings. Happiness impacts productivity far more than productivity impacts happiness, Nic explained, and he had the numbers to prove it!

Nic also offered five key ways that people can take control of their own Happiness, particularly in the workplace. “Connect with others, be fair to yourself and to others, be empowered by what you can and have achieved, challenge yourself and allow yourself to be inspired.”

“Turn the music on and dance,” Nic said, as Happiness is important – both to the individual and to the business – and it must be taken seriously! Unhappiness costs businesses millions of pounds every year and should therefore be monitored on a regular basis.

How can you measure happiness in your workplace? Happiness Works, “can provide the measurements necessary to kick start positive change.” This is how Nic described his latest work, an online system that asks one question every day – How happy were you at work today? Using this tool, business leaders can begin and maintain an active dialogue with their employees so that they may ensure they are getting the most out of their workforce. (To learn more about this programme, visit

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