Hundreds of regional employers joining ‘Journey’ to help make the Midlands the place of choice to live and work

Date posted: January 10, 2023

More than 800 Midlands’ employers are working with the Midlands Engine’s Mental Health and Productivity Pilot (MHPP) to increase efficiencies and profitability by putting measures in place to better support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Many find it uncomfortable to talk about mental health, notice when others are struggling, or ask for help themselves but MHPP is working with organisations to support more than 600,000 of the region’s employees.

MHPP, funded through Midlands Engine and led by Coventry University with mental health charity Mind , is asking employers across the region to join the ‘journey’ to navigate what’s available and measures that can be put in place to establish a happier, healthier workforce – and subsequently enjoy the benefits that brings. MHPP’s work is bespoke to the specific challenges faced by local organisations of all sizes and sectors.

The team behind this game changing initiative consists of academic experts from regional universities who monitor and evaluate impact against productivity throughout the journey and beyond. So far, organisations are seeing a significant shift for the better.

Progress is being made in sectors like construction, manufacturing, and distribution, where workers are less likely to talk and reach out, as well as other sectors including education, retail, care and hospitality.

Vanessa Currie, Head of People, Learning and Development at Birmingham’s Millenium Point said:

“As an employer, we recognise the immense importance of ensuring that all team members can define what support they personally need or want for their own mental health and well-being.

Our Thrive team here at Millennium Point have worked hard to ensure that the focus on health and well-being is at the heart of our culture and a part of our everyday life.

It is positive to see that everyone is taking part in our mental health and wellbeing initiatives and benefitting from the variety of health benefits, support and training that we offer.”

Putting wellbeing at the heart of post-covid recovery and the cost-of-living crisis is clear.

  • The cost of mental health related sickness absence is at a record high of £53-56 billion per year (2020/21) – an increase of 25% since 2019*
  • Our research shows that employers are seeing a return of £5.30 on average for every £1 invested in staff mental health*

Sean Russell, MHPP Project Director from Coventry University said: “People matter, and we are passionate about our work and the insights we are gathering on the vast and complex mental health needs in the Midlands, particularly in the workplace.

“We’ve established a clear link to mental health and productivity through robust academic research, working with employers and employees across the region, from small independent organisations to large multi-nationals.

“Often unintentionally many shy away from broaching the subject of mental health, initiating conversations, providing, and asking for support. We’re helping organisations break down barriers to improve understanding, shifting attitudes and putting interventions in place to make positive change.

“We’re independent and non-commercial, which gives confidence in our work and the MHPP team are often seen as an extension of local workforces. Our offer is free to organisations within the Midlands Engine footprint as we are funded by the Government.  Our support helps organisations take the first vital steps to implementing an effective mental health at work strategy.

“At a time of great economic vulnerability, we need to look after each other now more than ever – embracing mental health and wellbeing in the workplace doesn’t need to be difficult and can make a world of difference.”

Graham Cowan, Quality, Health, Safety and Environmental Manager, of Telford-based Iconsys, a leading automation solutions provider said:

“Iconsys is a forward-thinking and people-focused organisation.  We put people at the core of everything we do – this is not just something we say, we mean it.  We appreciate that both physical and mental health and wellbeing hold equal importance.

“Iconsys has a predominately male workforce, which brings its own challenges when addressing mental health, as men can be less open with their feelings, so we wanted to put programs and policies in place where people felt they had the space to talk.

“We have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) where people can get access to professional counselling and support, and a management open door policy, so that our people can speak to us on a confidential basis, and importantly we also have our trained Wellbeing Champions, so that people can access their own colleagues for support.

“When COVID hit, we stepped up our support for mental health as we knew it was a challenging time for everyone, and we started to look for support from external bodies that could give us further guidance and support.  We reached out to Kate Wood one of the MHPP regional engagement leads for the East Midlands, which was a smart move for us.

“Kate is based at University of Derby and is a great listener.  She’s been a huge support in furthering the development of our health and mental wellbeing strategy.  She has assisted us in the delivery of mental health and resilience awareness sessions to directors, line managers and other colleagues.

“Kate has also helped us to identify and share further resources on our Wellbeing Hub which we launched on our company intranet last year as a key part of our wellbeing offer and to reinforce our message and commitment.

“As a result of this increased visibility and openness regarding mental health and wellbeing, there appears to be more conversations going on among our people.  Our colleagues are keen to share their stories and details of their hobbies and interests, to show how they relax and have fun outside of work.”

Graham added:

“The Iconsys Leadership and Management Team are hugely supportive when it comes to employee health and wellbeing and they give us the space and resource to develop our policies.  It’s a great place to work and we are now taking steps to launch our Iconsys Wellbeing Charter to formalise our Wellbeing Policy which will bring everything together.”

Kate Wood, MHPP Project Manager and regional engagement lead from the University of Derby said:

“Looking after people’s mental health and wellbeing is central to any organisation’s sustainability, particularly in these difficult times.

“We are seeing more and more organisations coming forward for support in this area, particularly around having the confidence to start these conversations with employees, nurturing an open and transparent culture in the workplace, and making mental health the golden thread that runs through an organisation.

“Organisations we have worked with so far, really value the one-to-one support they receive from their regional engagement lead.  It’s like having another pair of hands within the organisation driving this forward.   In industries, such as construction and engineering, it is great to see an increase in conversations about mental health, working to remove the stigma, in what have traditionally been male dominated sectors.

“By positively managing and supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing, employers can ensure that staff perform to their potential – and this allows the business to achieve peak performance.”

Led by Coventry University in collaboration with Mind, West Midlands Combined Authority and universities of Birmingham, Derby, Lincoln, Loughborough, Nottingham, and Warwick, MHPP’s work helps inform Government policy and is funded through Midlands Engine by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Health and Social Care.

Momentum is strong to put the Midlands on the map and to make it the place of choice to live and work. MHPP is asking for more employers to #GetOnBoard and join the #MHPPJourney. Find out more at

*Deloitte report – March 2022 – Mental Health and Employers: The case for investment – pandemic and beyond


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