Case study

From grassroots initiative to business priority: mental health at pladis

Jonny Jacobs, Pladis
Jonny Jacobs

Strategy and Transformation
Director, UK & Ireland,

5 mins

Mental health and wellbeing has been on the agenda for a while now at pladis, the global snacking company behind some of the UK’s most loved brands such as McVitie’s, go ahead! and Carr’s. Its grassroots mental health initiative has now become a company-wide engagement programme supported by the senior leadership team and over a hundred mental health and wellbeing ambassadors.

Jonny Jacobs, Strategy and Transformation Director at pladis UK and Ireland, has been a key driving force behind the programme. “Our aim was to recognise the importance of good mental health and the positive impact it could have on all aspects of life. What started as a small group of five ambassadors has now grown to over a hundred in the last year. It’s an incredible achievement and we’re so proud of everyone involved”.

What started as a small group of five ambassadors has now grown to over a hundred in the last year.

Positioned internally as #PositiveMinds, the programme is spearheaded through senior stakeholder involvement, leading by example from the top, and has support from all levels across the business. “People are coming on board, sharing stories and offering support. It’s the energy that the ambassadors have to genuinely change the culture that is so powerful for our business. I don’t think we would have received this traction five years ago.” Encouragingly, this seems to reflect current attitudes towards workplace wellbeing, as evidenced in Business in the Community’s report, ‘Seizing the momentum’​Mental Health at Work Report 2018: Seizing the Momentum PDF This report follows a third annual survey conducted by YouGov into employee mental health. It reveals that financial insecurity is a major factor in poor mental health for UK workers, and presents calls to action for employers.Free By: Business in the Community View resource, which found that despite there still being a long way to go, progress is being made in this space.

Off the back of the Thriving at Work recommendations​Thriving at work: the Stevenson / Farmer review of mental health and employers PDF An independent review into how employers can better support all employees' mental health, including recommended core standards.Free By: Department for Work and Pensions / Department of Health and Social Care View resource, pladis decided that mental health needed to be much higher on their agenda. The committee behind #PositiveMinds looked at the core of the organisation – at its culture, value and purpose – to figure out how they could really make a lasting impact on employees. The company’s organisational purpose is to bring ‘happiness to the world with every bite’ and this really resonated with the team in how they could bring mental health in the workplace to life. They decided to adapt their purpose into their own mental health and work ethos: ‘bring happiness to our employees through proactive mental health and wellbeing support.’

Four employees at Pladis, wearing factory uniforms, smiling around a table of leaflets and posters about mental health

Jonny says that the challenge with an organisation like pladis is to create inclusivity when there is such scale and diversity within the workforce – the company has operational sites up and down the UK and several offices with over 4,500 employees altogether. “We have sites where people work many different shifts, and making sure everyone is engaged and feels involved is key.”

Bringing together employees across the UK is no mean feat, and yet pladis really showed how it could be done when its World Mental Health Day culminated in activity across all sites, from Glasgow and Halifax to Manchester and London. Crucially, this included a Time to Change pledge re-signing to reaffirm their commitment to a mentally healthy workplace and reflect on how far they’ve come in the last year. Ambassadors also created a video of senior managers within the organisation talking about their own experiences of mental health, held mindfulness taster sessions, distributed mental health at work booklets, organised a Time to Change quiz, hosted talks from experts and much more. The week proved to be a huge success, with the shared content from across all sites gaining the most internal engagement ever recorded on pladis’ communications platform.

For us, this is not a perfect linear journey. We’re learning as we’re going and we want to share that with others. We’re all human in this space.

So, what’s the ambition for pladis UK and Ireland? “We want to create an environment where all our colleagues feel they can have these conversations. We want to be able to support people in challenging times and have a culture where mental health is just as important as physical health”. The company has committed for all 300 of its line managers to be trained in the next year in mental health awareness, as well as offering education to all employees. It will be using training providers such as Mental Health First Aid​Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England one day workplace training Web page Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England offers a variety of training for employers across the UK. This one day workplace course will qualify you as a Mental Health First Aid Champion.Paid forRequires pre-booking By: Mental Health First Aid England View resource and Mind​Mind’s training and consultancy Web page Mind offers a variety of training courses to suit a wide range of organisational needs. They can help to promote mental wellbeing in your organisation and at home.Paid forRequires pre-booking By: Mind View resource alongside resources for line managers​Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England Line Managers’ Resource PDF This resource is regarded as highly valuable by line managers across private, public and third-sector organisations to help them create healthier workplaces.Free By: Mental Health First Aid England View resource. And to kick off Time to Talk Day next year they are also planning tea, talk and biscuit events. “We have already started getting the message out there. We’ve reached out to local MPs and the Department of Health to let them know what we’re doing in this area and are already seeing support coming in. For us, this is not a perfect linear journey. We’re learning as we’re going and we want to share that with others. We’re all human in this space.”

Jonny Jacobs, Pladis

Jonny Jacobs
Strategy and Transformation
Director, UK & Ireland, 


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