Breaking the glass ceiling on employee well being at Ardagh

Workers from Ardagh's Doncaster plant take part in a team exercise at one of the Inspire Days

Ardagh Group’s Doncaster plant has a large, predominantly male workforce, producing glass bottles and jars for major consumer brands, all year round. With increasing public awareness around mental health, and particularly men’s mental health, Ardagh Group has launched a wellbeing initiative in a move toward a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

Doncaster Plant Director, James Grant, understands that a healthy, happy and well-supported workforce is key to a successful plant. Having recognised colleague concerns including stress, anxiety, isolation, poor diets and lack of sleep, all of which are exacerbated by shift working, James and his team felt that a plant-wide wellbeing initiative would raise awareness and offer support and guidance to improve mental and physical health.

Inspire Days

James and his team planned a series of off-site Inspire Days to address colleague wellbeing. External support was brought in from Leeds Rhinos and Durham Business School, and internal subject matter experts led each of the sessions on Mental Health, a mindful approach to Health & Safety, Health, Nutrition, Trust & Leadership and Sleep, Relaxation & Mindfulness. Sessions were tailored to be particularly relevant to shift working.  Colleagues then strengthened their relationships through teamwork exercises and discussions to close the event.

Deborah Wright, Mental Health First Aid Instructor commented:

"It was a privilege being asked to deliver short workshops around mental health at the Doncaster Ardagh Glass Inspire Days.  When attendees were asked "What is Mental Health?" there was often a heavy silence followed by a variety of responses - many negative.  To clarify that we all have mental health, and to discuss the risk and protective factors that can affect our mental wellbeing, was rewarding.  It took courage for a number of men to address the negative comments.  I truly believe that the Inspire days have started to change the culture and misconceptions around mental health within Ardagh Doncaster.  It is ’Time to Talk’ and to be ‘In our Mates’ Corner’.

James Grant says:

 “By discussing mental health openly, with all colleagues, you’re removing the stigma associated with admitting you need help – particularly in a male-dominated workplace. Using the support structure we’ve put in place, people can begin to see a solution and the weight of worry begins to lift.”

Changing workplace culture

Senior managers have undertaken stress and mental health awareness training to greater understand the effects of stress on the business.

Leanne McCluskey, Environment, Health and Safety Manager at Ardagh Group explains:

“Involvement from the directors and senior managers has led to a culture change across the four UK glass manufacturing sites; each site is proactively addressing the positive mental health of their staff.”

“Support from higher management, coupled with our Occupational Health team’s knowledge and the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance, means we can recognise, support and minimise stress.”

A positive impact on the workforce

Outstanding feedback has been received from all departments at the plant.  Colleagues appreciate that everyone, including senior management, participated as delegates, demonstrating openness to try new approaches and that our wellbeing is paramount. The plant is also experiencing significantly improved camaraderie and communication. Colleagues across the business have volunteered to undertake a Mental Health First Aid course to learn more about supporting others and they now have six Mental Health Champions.

Colleagues dealing with mental health challenges particularly valued the experience, feeling they can open up, knowing they will be understood and supported. 

Following the Health and Safety session, accident rates involving returning shift workers are being monitored - initial results show colleagues are more mindful and focused on safety.

Paul Pearcy, EHS Adviser at British Glass said:

“Traditionally, when we think about health and safety, we’ve focused on physical safety in the workplace, but there is an increasing awareness of the importance of good mental health and the impact this can have on safety and overall productivity.

“Ardagh Group has developed a proactive culture and development programme aiming to minimise the effects of stress and the wider health issues that can follow. This in turn can minimise the chance of human error that can lead to potentially serious incidents in the workplace.”

Ardagh’s Inspire Days were also recognised at this year’s Glass Focus Awards where they took home the Health and Safety Action award, sponsored by Arco.

Health and Safety Action Winner Ardagh Group with Diane Julian and Leigh Hardie of Arco