Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace – a sustained pandemic approach

With the health and wellbeing of employees brought into sharp focus since the beginning of Covid-19 lockdown measures in March, there are a variety of initiatives taking place across the UK to ensure employers are supporting their staff, listening, collaborating and taking meaningful action. The Sigma Financial Group  are doing things differently – a high-profile and growing provider of ‘white label’ customer contact centre services working within the utilities, retail, financial services and telecommunications sectors.

Sigma, a multi-award-winning firm which has a head count of over 1,500 people in the West Midlands and South Africa, quickly unveiled their new Employer Assistance Programme as lockdown kicked in. 

Here in our latest short blog series, Sigma’s Chief People Officer Jo Regan-Iles talks us through the initiative, its successes, and the key next steps.


There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has brought challenges in every corner of every business. For us here at Sigma, those challenges were no different and we have had to work round the clock to look after our staff and constantly engage them. The Employer Assistance Programme we launched in April has been the catalyst for our approach to ensure our staff’s mental health and wellbeing is carefully looked after – especially with around 80% working from home.

Our initiative has been so important not only to support our people, but to make sure we do everything possible to keep the conversation going and give different channels for employees to tell us how they feel, what we should change, and where we are winning.

First and foremost, our initiative saw us partnering with a 24/7 helpline which gives our employees access to wellbeing professionals who they can speak and lean on if they’re struggling – an issue we have also sought to address by assigning those who are having a tough time a ‘buddy’ who stays in constant contact with them. As part of a menu of options, I also wanted to ensure we were going above and beyond to protect our staff at this time and we are now well on the way to training a dozen employees in mental health first aid – people who are trained to spot colleagues who may be in need of support. That has been a big moment for us and already I know of situations where even the smallest intervention has made a big difference, including making sure that those with an underlying illness, pregnancy or childcare issues are left in no doubt that they can work at home and have the flexibility they need.

I am still a relative ‘newbie’ here at Sigma but throughout my career I have seen examples of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to staff engagement. This experience was behind the launch of ‘Ask Jo’ which as part of the programme sees me checking in with staff on a monthly basis, the launch of live meetings with the HR team, regular staff quizzes, recognising a job well done, and regular emails on our position around Covid-19. For those who must come into the office for business continuity reasons, they are provided with free lunches, subsidised travel expenses and a comfortable, safe environment in which to work.

Importantly, and something that many have failed at, we have also maintained our external PR programme with the regional and industry media to ensure the business and its people continue to get recognition and profile. That has also helped to be a huge morale booster.

Overall, it makes me so proud to say that the programme has played a role in keeping absence down, staff now feel more engaged, they feel valued, and those who are continually loyal to the business have been rewarded. Of course, this is simply a snapshot of what we’ve done here at Sigma. We aren’t perfect, but we are making an impact. We are constantly reviewing what good looks like in terms of our staff engagement, and we are trying new things to keep people informed and most of all, supported.

Jo Regan-Iles joined Sigma as Group People Office in August 2020. Jo is an HR specialist, who previously held senior HR roles at Sitel Group, Ttec and global business service provider, Teleperformance, and is responsible for the Sigma’s HR strategy in the UK and South Africa.


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