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23 Sep 2022

The Aster Way to address employee wellbeing

Aster’s approach to employee wellbeing puts mental wellbeing at its heart to create a support culture

Aster’s approach to employee wellbeing puts mental wellbeing at its heart to create a support cultureAster.jpg


Wellbeing is about people’s experience of their quality of life, including their time spent at work. Aster recognises that it has an important role in creating an environment that enables colleagues to maintain a good level of health and wellbeing so they’re able to achieve their full potential.

Aster’s aim is to be a business that supports people to be the best they can be regardless of their stage of life. It wants to provide a place of work where people feel safe and valued and where they are part of a supportive work community, providing relevant information and a network of people who are willing to listen and act.

Education and training

There is a constant and relentless emphasis on training people and learning from colleagues at Aster Group. This widespread curiosity and thirst for development results in an environment where any initiative can be tried without barriers. 
It invests heavily in MHFAs, menopause champions, leaders, front-line managers and people throughout every part of the company ensuring a constant and ongoing programme of new initiatives. 

It achieves this by touring regions, giving presentations and adopting breakfast sessions. There are great free resources provided by outside organisations such as Henpicked, which Aster uses to its full advantage.

The induction of all staff and leaders is a great pathway early in people’s time in the company to introduce health and wellbeing concepts and start to convey messages. 

This year a leader development programme will launch which demonstrates the building blocks someone needs to become a leader at Aster and supports people to understand where their gaps are and how to fill them.

In 2018, Aster started to develop its approach to support mental wellbeing and wellness based on the increased demand and awareness across the business. Its ‘Time to Change’ pledge set out a commitment to improve the way they thought and acted when it came to mental health.

Aster launched various initiatives, driven by training and awareness programmes, breakfast learning sessions and through action plans endorsed by leaders. The colleague demand for mental health first aid (MHFA) training went from 16 in the first year to 163 in two years. There are now more than 100 fully trained MHFAs and this has encouraged colleagues across the company to come together to share their experiences.

Whilst mental health was becoming a more acceptable topic of conversation, female colleagues started to talk about the impact of the menopause on their mental and physical health. Recognising the support that was needed, Aster decided to address women’s health as a standalone wellbeing initiative. 

Health and wellbeing culture

The Aster Way is not just a set of words or a box ticking exercise. It is straightforward principles that underpin everything they do every day: how they lead and learn; how they collaborate, communicate and innovate. Listening to their colleagues voices is that the heart of their culture and is one of their most powerful tools in continually improving the experience they offer their customers and colleagues.

Aster takes great pride in having a people first culture bound by a shared understanding of the need for fairness and inclusivity. The commercial realities of high personal performance are balanced by the recognition that investment in people’s health and wellbeing will deliver the best result. This has lead to a strong focus on diversity and a proactive leaning towards inclusion that emanates from deep within the business. This results in a barrier free environment when it comes trying different approaches and trialling health and wellbeing initiatives.

Such initiatives and the use of digital communication channels has made the “it’s OK to not be OK” message to go viral and has quickly embedded mental health care and self-care into Aster’s culture. The unifying topic of mental health has unified colleagues from different parts of the business to get to know each other and to break down silos.

Aster’s people and the focus coming from leaders has created an environment where they care enough about each other to want to help. It has seen a real impact from activities such as volunteering and how this feel-good factor affects their employees while also improving its customers’ lives. 

Pandemic impact

When Covid-19 hit the response at Aster had to be agile. It focused on keeping people feeling well and maintaining their connection to the business. 

With poor mental health now widely considered to be the next pandemic, Aster launched its 2022 wellbeing campaign ‘Mentally Healthy’, providing the opportunity for everyone at Aster to be able to spot the signs of poor mental health in themselves and others, and to know where to get support. The campaign has also embedded external organisations into Aster who are on hand to offer support in many guises. 

Opening conversations

In the early days of the journey there was a lot of effort spent on getting the message out into the business to kick off the process of making these [mental health] conversations normal.

Some sections of the business became very engaged very quickly and others took more time depending on workload, personal circumstances and accessibility to other team members.

Encouraging male trade operatives to join the conversation was challenging and tailored sessions were initiated to encourage people to become part of the mental health conversation.

Now, the conversations at Aster Group are in full flow. There are Teams channels set up for communities to form around different issues, regional meetings to reach those people whose jobs take them out on the road, and Twitter and LinkedIn posts to keep the conversation alive.

What does the future hold?

There are a number of topics that will continue to challenge the health and wellbeing of Aster’s colleagues. Anticipating what those needs might be puts it in a better position to tackle them and improve its employees’ lives.

Key topics are:

  • endometriosis 
  • men’s health
  • diversity and inclusion
  • musco-skeletal issues
  • digital burnout
  • just in time training support. 

In partnership with Simplyhealth

Our health plans make it easy for people to maintain their health&wellbeing.

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