In 2017, two housing associations merged to form Vivid, a not-for-profit business focussed on creating safe, secure homes and communities.

With the clear mission of “creating a more equal society where a good home, a good neighbourhood, good wellbeing and life chances are within everyone’s reach” by, in part, “providing support when things become difficult”, its HR team knew for its ambitions to be realised, these core values had to first be applied internally.

Faced with the same issues and opportunities that occur when any organisations come together – duplication of services, inconsistent processes and some cultural misalignments – the Vivid 2020 people strategy was devised with improving employee wellbeing at its heart.

Top of the priority list was addressing the increase in people off sick. At its peak, 42 per cent of sickness absences were mental health related, suggesting the merger and associated restructure plans along with the associated change in processes were causing real problems for many employees.

A ‘Time to Change’ pledge initiated the creation of a ‘stigma busters’ team as HR felt “part of our issue was that people hid problems, which ultimately exacerbated them.”

Aligned to the desired adult-to-adult culture wherein people are given access to the tools they need to help themselves, regular events were raised to raise awareness, personal blogs from team members spanning all levels of the company were shared on an intranet populated with useful information and advice.

Managers were trained to recognise the signs someone is struggling and an online wellbeing app called 87% was introduced. Now used regularly by around 70 per cent of the workforce, it includes more than 300 programmes and activities to help improve an individual’s mental health that can be accessed any time, anywhere.

HR also turned to employment terms to further embed this people-first culture. “We wanted to create a package of measures that supported our values, supported our employees and would make the organisation a sought after place to work,” the team explained.

They decided to become a Real Living Wage accredited employer, with 94 per cent of people paid above this, and developed a bonus scheme for all. A formal recognition awards scheme paired with success stories on the internal wire and daily feedback further motivates the workforce.

The highly successful Vivid 2020 people strategy has seen mental health sickness fall for nine months consistently, with the days lost to mental health reducing from 335 at its height to 137. As a proportion of overall sickness mental health has fallen from 32.4 per cent to 19.6 per cent.

Significant research evidence also suggests the scheme has increased employee engagement, and they also succeeded in the strategy aim to “create a clear line of sight for everyone to our vision and to the wonderful truth that they help improve lives.” Data suggests people’s belief in the company vision increased by 24 per cent in the past year to 88 per cent.

Beyond the unmistakable individual benefits, it has also had a positive impact on the business. Having more people spend more time at work reduces pressure on others, and there has been a notional financial saving of £100,000 from not having staff away from work.

Notably, the approach of treating employees as adults has paid dividends during lockdown by equipping them with the resilience and tools needed to adapt to rapid change, and as wellbeing “has no end date” the team are dedicated to building on their success.