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Employee wellbeing and good mental health are key at AECOM

 June 24, 2019

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We all have mental health, which exists on a continuum. Just like our physical health, our mental health can change throughout our lives. And, like our bodies, our minds can sometimes become unwell.

According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that globally one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

Recognising that mental health can affect everyone, either indirectly or directly at one time or another, AECOM is an employer who is actively shining a spotlight on the topic.

From supporting conversations around mental health through to signing the Time to Change pledge, AECOM has undertaken a range of activities across its business to create a greater understanding around the topic of mental health and wellbeing.

AECOM pledge wellbeing

“Our objective is to create an environment where our employees can bring their best selves to work, by knowing that its ok to openly talk about mental health in the workplace,” says Karen Barrow, Talent Lead, Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA).

“We recognise that we are on a journey to achieving this, but hope that the various measures we are taking in this space will contribute to reducing the stigma surrounding the topic and encourage an environment where people feel safe and comfortable to talk about their mental health at work.”

So, what exactly is AECOM doing to help colleagues think differently about wellbeing and strive to make a difference? In this article, Where Women Work takes a closer look at AECOM’s wellbeing efforts.

Enjoying company-wide wellbeing activities every June

AECOM wellbeing

Every June, AECOM’s offices across the world seek to educate their employees on the meaning and importance of wellbeing, and encourage both them and their families to take action to improve their own wellbeing. Initially launched as a week-long series of activities, Global Wellbeing Week was received so positively that AECOM expanded the event to Global Wellbeing Month.

Throughout the month the business focuses on weekly themes which are aligned to AECOM’s five pillars of wellbeing - Physical, Emotional, Financial, Social and Planet - and provides colleagues with the opportunity to take part in a variety of activities and initiatives all designed to promote positive wellbeing. Some of this years’ events included:

  • a global wellbeing challenge, dubbed ‘Mission Possible’, where colleagues could compete against each other to win prizes. One of the wellbeing challenges set was to ‘Get Moving’ through physical activity
  • wellbeing webinars on topics from managing stress to helping colleagues’ set goals for their children
  • onsite events for employees at nearly 100 locations across 27 countries
  • ‘Manager of the Month’ recognition award, allowing employees to nominate managers who demonstrate a strong commitment to wellbeing
  • ‘Manager Pledge to Wellbeing’ giving managers across the business the opportunity to highlight how they will support the wellbeing of AECOM employees
  • local technology recycling drives enabling employees to recycle old electronic items such as mobile phones and laptops
  • a library of articles, assessments, videos and more to help colleagues set and reach their wellbeing goals

Aecom Mission_Possible

One such on-site event took place at the Basingstoke, Hampshire office. Employees in the Basingstoke office had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Scottish Widows and talk about pension wellbeing.

“What have I got?” and “Am I on track?” were just a couple of the questions discussed. Becky Spencer, Benefits Specialist, arranged the event which was attended by approximately 100 people.

AECOM women

One of the most popular events from AECOM’s 2018 Global Wellbeing Week was the ‘Stress Block Challenge’ which asked AECOM employees all over the world to use colourful stress blocks to build impressive structures.

AECOM received more than 230 submissions for the Stress Block Challenge and winning teams received various wellbeing prizes – from a three-month wellbeing reimbursement to a lunch celebration, office massages and water bottles.

AECOM wellbeing wellness mental health

Paul Comerford, Director at AECOM, created the above structure along with the help of his daughters.

“The stress block challenge was a great initiative that highlighted the global reach of AECOM in terms of the built environment even if, as with Halley VI, it is the only building for hundreds of miles,” comments Paul.

AECOM Stress Block challenge

The above structure was created by AECOM employees in the Rocky Hill office in Connecticut. “After an initial meeting to discuss how the structure should be built, we invited all Rocky Hill based staff to build or add to it throughout the week, either at lunch or for a quick de-stressor in between work tasks, so there were a lot of hands on it at various times,” says Stacy Schoen (Administrative Supervisor).

“It was great having Jim Platosh, Vice President, Transportation, Northeast Region, there to guide us in the beginning. Jim was the Project Manager at the time of the design of the actual bridge. Even after the competition was over, people were still adding small details with mini cones and road signs. It brought people together that work in different business lines who wouldn’t normally work together, which I think was the biggest success,” comments Stacy.

At a local level AECOM also supports nationally and internationally recognised days highlighting the topic of mental health – such as February’s Time to Talk Day, May’s Mental Health Awareness Week and October’s World Mental Health Day.

It’s time to get everyone talking about mental health

AECOM’s focus on wellbeing is an on-going journey, which seeks to support the company’s objective of creating a culture of caring and their Safeguard core value.

As a result, there is plenty of support available for colleagues all year-round.

A useful wellbeing site on AECOM’s Ecosystem (an internal online resource) is home to a range of resources to help create a greater awareness around the topic of wellbeing and encourage staff to develop the confidence to start conversations. In addition, the site also hosts tools and guidance to help staff recognise signs of mental ill-health and provides links to available support.

This includes AECOM’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which is a free service providing confidential support to employees, their immediate dependents and family members living in the same household across a variety of areas including financial information, legal support and confidential counseling. The service is accessible online or by telephone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

AECOM’s external EAP provider also offers a range of health and wellbeing webinars, which focus on topics designed to promote and support positive wellbeing. These webinars are held on a periodic basis and made available to all staff who wish to register for them.

To help colleagues keep talking about mental health and wellbeing, AECOM has also created a number of ‘Health and Wellbeing Moments’. The 11 ‘off-the-shelf’ moments which focus on a range of wellbeing related subjects are accessible to all employees for use at the outset of meetings, and are designed to help the business continue to embed awareness of the topic and offer simple suggestions about how to consider wellbeing in everyday activities.

For example, one of the wellbeing moments is titled ‘I’m Fine’ and looks to explore the true meaning of the words ‘I’m fine’. It explains that research suggests the average adult uses the phrase 14 times a week, but only 19 per cent of people truly mean it. It also looks at how people can see beyond the words and help each other to truly feel okay.

AECOM mental health support

Awareness Posters are available for display across offices, as well as a Menu of Activity which offers managers and office leaders a selection of items to choose from on an as and when basis, when they wish to promote wellbeing related initiatives at a local level. In addition, a Manager Guide to Mental Wellbeing has also been developed to help managers promote positive mental wellbeing within their teams, recognise the signs which may suggest an individual is mentally unwell, and offer guidance on how to approach and support them.

A pioneering Mental Health Allies Network

Perhaps most significantly in the UK and Ireland, AECOM has established a network of Mental Health Allies to act as one of the first points of contact for employees and managers to reassure and offer support if someone is showing signs of mental ill-health or distress. Contactable via a dedicated email address as well as directly, the allies are responsible for guiding individuals towards appropriate treatment and other sources of supportive help.

“My role as a mental health ally involves being the point of contact in the Wimbledon office for staff to come and talk to me if they are struggling or finding things difficult. I am not there to solve all problems, but to give pointers to the employees on what they could do. Maybe some changes they could make to their everyday lives; or suggest who they could speak to, maybe their line manager, or a friend, or someone external if needs be,” says Kat Lees, Associate Director at AECOM.

Kat Lees, AECOM

Team members putting themselves forward to become allies proactively champion activities to increase awareness of mental health in the workplace and help reduce the stigma around the topic. The allies are also encouraged to use their Mental Health First Aid principles to inform their daily interactions with colleagues and their line management responsibilities if applicable. Those employees who have volunteered to become allies have all attended a 2-day Mental Health First Aid course.

“I volunteered to become a mental health ally because it is very important for people to talk about things that are bothering them. A lot of the time issues do escalate when people bottle things up, especially in the working environment which can be stressful,” comments Kat.

AECOM leaders share their thoughts on mental wellbeing

At the heart of AECOM’s journey is visible support from the businesses senior leaders. In the EMEA region a number of internal videos have been created which capture members of the Executive Team sharing their own personal thoughts on the topic of mental wellbeing, further normalising the subject. These internal videos are another great resource for managers to use in their team meetings to get the conversation started.

In one video, Lara Poloni, Chief Executive, EMEA, AECOM, is asked what personal commitment she makes to support mental health at AECOM. “I commit to more regularly checking in with all our team members and just asking a simple question: ‘How are you doing? Are you ok? And how can I help?’,” she explains.

When asked what mental wellbeing means to her, Lara said: “Mental wellbeing means that we are taking conscious time out of our normal day to ensure that our mind is just as rested as our physical bodies and that we allow enough time for mindfulness and a sense of tranquility in our everyday and very busy lives.”

Lara Poloni AECOM

Lara was also asked to describe the current culture in the industry towards mental health, and replied: “Just like we have increased the focus on safety in our industry I think that it is now well-recognised that we need to have more conversations around mental health and wellbeing. Particularly in professional services there is a growing recognition of the importance of this to the health and wellbeing of all our employees and I think there has been de-stigmatisation of this issue and a greater recognition that we need to check-in with our team mates and see how they are doing from a mental health standpoint more regularly.”

AECOM’s Senior Vice President, Human Resources, EMEA, Shirley Adams, also took part in a video interview. When asked what personal commitment she makes to support mental health at AECOM, Shirley said: “I think all our HR professionals should be encouraging leaders to talk openly about mental health in the workspace. Furthermore, I think my HR teams should be approachable and visible, encouraging people to talk to us and to have that very important first conversation.”

AECOM Senior Vice President Human Resources

Referring to the current culture in the industry towards mental health, Shirley added: “I think we have a culture in our industry of fear of failure and people are not happy about admitting weakness. What we are doing here at AECOM to counter-balance that is to talk more openly about psychological safety. It is about being comfortable in the environment in which you work, and feeling that you can talk openly about anything.”

Join an employer which is truly supportive of mental wellbeing

AECOM continues to take mental health seriously and encourages its team members to do the same.

If you like the sound of working for an employer that truly values and supports employee wellbeing, search and apply for opportunities with AECOM today.


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