Employee Testimonial

Meet Wendy Baines & Caylee O’Neill , from Slough UK

Let’s talk about it! It’s World Mental Health Awareness Day on October 10 – two of our colleagues in Slough, UK share their passion for helping people thrive and feel supported in the workplace.

  • from Slough UK
  • At Business Area AkzoNobel
  • Works in UK
  • At AkzoNobel since 2019

"“With one in four people suffering from mental health issues every year, we want AkzoNobel to be a place where our employees feel supported when it matters most.”"

“With one in four people suffering from mental health issues every year, we want AkzoNobel to be a place where our employees feel supported when it matters most.”

If there’s one thing to know about Wendy Baines, our HR Director for the UK and Ireland, and Caylee O’Neill, Knowledge Manager, it’s that they care deeply for the people they work with.

Starting the conversation

Wendy’s team is responsible for making sure they have the right people in the right locations with the right skills. She says mental well-being became an area of focus for her team in 2017, a time when the business was constantly changing.

“With one in four people suffering from mental health issues every year, we want AkzoNobel to be a place where our team feels supported when it matters most,” says Wendy.

She continues: “We wanted to improve resilience and make sure employees had permission to talk about their mental health in a positive and open way. When employees have what they need to thrive, we also thrive as a company.

“We’re pleased our Thrive Wellbeing initiative has been so successful over these past two years. We now have over 144 volunteer mental well-being advocates that help start conversations, champion better mental well-being at work and are trained to respond to signs of mental well-being issues.”

Thriving in the workplace

It’s not just about starting conversations, it’s also about making helpful information available to people when they need it. A dedicated Connect site called Thrive houses a wealth of information, articles, videos and real-life stories from colleagues focused on the mind, body, career and community. The Yammer site is also very active with colleagues sharing tips and updates.

Caylee O’Neill is the Knowledge Manager, overseeing the governance and accessibility of knowledge in the company and with our customers. She also co-leads the Thrive Wellbeing plans across the UK and Ireland. These include “Wellbeing Week” across all sites this month and a pilot of mental health first aid training before the end of 2019.

Caylee says the people are the part of the Thrive project that makes her most proud. “When we first broke the silence about mental health in the business, we had no idea what the appetite for change would be. It felt like a gamble. I stood on a stage and put my personal vulnerabilities on display for the whole business to see with no real idea what the response would be. But the positive response has been truly staggering.”

Making the “Time to Change” pledge

The work Wendy, Caylee and the team have done sheds light on the importance of mental well-being far beyond AkzoNobel. As part of their initiative, the UK businesses have made a public declaration which states: “We recognize that changing attitudes and breaking the stigma around mental health takes time, and that every one of us has a part to play. Our journey starts now.”

“Time to Change were impressed with our comprehensive action plan,” says Caylee. “They have even showcased AkzoNobel’s achievements to other businesses. And recently we received the Bronze ‘Achieving Change’ award from Mind. It shows that we’re on the right track and makes the team feel proud about what we’re doing.”