With a 27,000-strong workforce, Transport for London (TfL) is eager to ensure no-one gets left behind when it comes to mental health. That’s why it has teamed up with Able Futures to widen the amount of support available to staff.
Able Futures offers the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service, funded by the Government to give nine months of support to working people. No medical diagnosis is needed, and participants can access appointments with a mental health expert over the phone, online or in person.
TfL’s employees work at locations all over London, including stations, bus and train depots, on the streets and across the transport network, in both operational and non-operational roles. These range from Tube drivers, engineers and signal operators, to administrators, communications teams and many more office-based roles.
The transport authority signed up to Able Futures in September 2020 after Business Account Manager Koreen Samuel explained how the free service could benefit TfL and its workforce. Fernanda Siusta and Tina O’Donnell, both Wellbeing Programme Managers for TfL, have been instrumental in rolling out the scheme.
“We are a small team of two who project-manage the implementation of health and wellbeing campaigns and interventions for employees across TfL. Our projects are run in line with Public Health England and Nice guidelines with the aim to provide tools and opportunities for employees to improve their physical and mental health.” Fernanda Siusta, TfL Wellbeing Programme Manager.
After joining forces with Able Futures, Fernanda and Tina delivered a launch presentation to line managers, HR and health and wellbeing champions before promoting the programme across the organisation.
“There has been a really positive response to these initiatives – following presentations where we have promoted Able Futures there have been comments and requests for further information,” says Fernanda.
The offer from Able Futures complements other support structures in place at TfL, such as the Employee Assistance Programme. Able Futures provides help with mild mental health issues that may be affecting staff at work. Employees are given coping mechanisms to help them avoid the need for long-term sickness leave in the future.
“The programme from Able Futures offers advice and new ways for staff to manage their mental health. It provides a different type of support to our Employee Assistance Programme as it is aimed at low to mild mental health issues where counselling may not be required.” Fernanda Siusta, TfL Wellbeing Programme Manager.
Able Futures has assisted in promoting the scheme to staff by delivering talks on a variety of topics. These included Resilience; Coping with Change; Stress; Burnout, and Supporting Mental Health at Work. “These talks have been welcomed by teams across TfL and meant that colleagues are better aware of what help is available,” says Fernanda.
She adds that TfL follows the same trends as other rail organisations where mental health and musculoskeletal issues are the main reasons for sickness absence. “As per the HSE management standards there are six key areas (Demand, Control, Support, Relationships, Role and Change), which if not properly managed, are linked with stress, and could lead to poor health and wellbeing, lower productivity and increased sickness absence.”
After receiving such a positive response to the programme, TfL has recommended Able Futures to other rail industry employers.
“Products and services like these can provide a unique service to businesses, offering a high standard with no financial outlay,” says Fernanda. “The level of practical support that you can access is amazing, you can really put it into practice in the workplace.”
TfL supports and promotes many other mental health initiatives including Time to Talk Day, Mental Health Awareness Week, and World Mental Health Day. The transport authority backed the national Time to Change campaign to end the stigma surrounding mental health problems. After the campaign finished last year, TfL signed up to the Railway Mental Health Charter. This was drawn up by railway companies with the Rail Safety and Standards Board to provide a framework for improving mental health in the absence of Time to Change.