Darryl Hopper, Principal Health and Wellbeing Specialist at RSSB discusses the benefits of managers undergoing health and wellbeing training, both for themselves and the wider workforce…

Health and wellbeing training can be good for a manager’s career and provide them with the skills to be a better manager. What characteristics do the best managers possess? More often than ever, today’s manager is required to be a multifaceted collaborator – someone who can build as part of a team and understand and respect the varied personalities that can lead them to success. Collaboration requires empathy and understanding of the different types of people that exist within the workplace. There is a greater understanding that work needs to be done within the rail sector to enable managers to improve their communication skills and encourage the team disposition to change.

Some employees currently work under or with a manager who lacks empathy and struggles to understand and communicate beyond their own worldview. Reaching an understanding with all the different personalities there are in workplace is no small feat for a manager. This is where health and wellbeing training can help.

Health and wellbeing training allows a manager to understand employees better. It includes addressing the stresses and strains that people work under and the signs, symptoms and mental health challenges that it can present to colleagues. It can help with improved listening techniques – enabling a manager to listen to understand rather than to listen to respond and have better understanding of the unique needs of employees in their team.

There are training guides available to use from MIND and Samaritans (detailed below) as well as other training providers. MIND and Samaritans are recommended through a randomised control trial that RSSB recently conducted and through participation in the ‘Million hours’ charity initiative. The courses are manageable and are tailormade to fit easily into a manager’s day and can help to build and maintain a better relationship within teams and between collaborators. All of which ultimately helps to support a happier and more engaged team which will positively reflect in the service delivered to passengers on the GB railway.

MIND E-learning

Mental wellbeing training for line managers will increase understanding and promote the wellbeing of employees at work. Providing managers with confidence to support employees when they meet difficult challenges in life, at work and at home. There are five topics which should be included in mental health training for line managers:

• awareness of/knowledge about mental health

• supporting mental wellbeing through managing workplace risks

• responding appropriately to signs and symptoms

• communication skills, e.g. having conversations about mental health and handling disclosure

• managing absence and return to work.

This training material not only benefits direct line reports but has benefits for company productivity through potential reductions in absence due to mental health, decreased staff turnover, less ‘presenteeism’ and in managing subsequent risks associated with stress at work. When RSSB evaluated this training, the results indicated that both the face-to-face and e-learning interventions led to sustained changes in the line managers’ knowledge about mental health and in their preparedness to take action on mental health issues. Both methods of training offered by Mind – face-to-face training and e-learning methods, were equal in effectiveness, allowing rail companies to choose the method of delivery that suits their organisation without the risk of compromising effectiveness.

The work carried out by the Institute for Employment Studies, for RSSB, provides high quality evidence to support future investment in mental health training delivered either by face-to-face or through e-learning. For more information about what RSSB is doing in this area visit www.rssb.co.uk/Pages/mental-wellbeing.aspx

Key training elements for line manager training on mental health 

Samaritans Million hours challenge 

One million hours of volunteering, during CP6, will be provided by the rail industry which is working together to ensure that the Samaritans achieve their vision that fewer people end their own life. RSSB is one of the pilot organisations to participate, along with colleagues at Network Rail, the ORR, RDG and MTR Crossrail. These organisations are coming together because they want the rail industry to be an environment where colleagues, customers, and the community can all receive care and support.

The railway training covers:

Samaritans Active Listening Skills

Imagine you’ve got a colleague or friend who needs to get something difficult off their chest. Active listening is a way of listening which helps people talk through their problems, however difficult to put into words they find it.

Samaritans Wellbeing Toolkit

Understand how to manage your emotional health and look out for others, before they reach crisis point via this online learning tool.

Support on the Railway Learning Tool

Support on the Railway learning tool has a range of learning modules on suicide prevention. You can complete these as a team or on your own. The website requires you to register with your work email address as some of the content should only be viewed by rail staff.

Samaritans volunteers help people experiencing a range of difficulties, most are not suicidal, but need someone to talk to offering confidential, independent and non-judgemental support. Learning to listen and be non-judgemental is a key skill for managers. It is hoped that the training will also help managers look after themselves and their teams, giving them the chance to:

• gain skills and experiences that can help in life and in their career

• improve their own health and wellbeing

• feel a sense of achievement from giving something back to society and making a positive difference in people’s lives

• introduce them to the Samaritans’ work, starting with online learning.

For more information visit: 


Sustainable working practices

The drive to improve the health and wellbeing of the UK population has been gaining significant prominence over recent years. It is an area of great cost to people as well as to business. In the work environment there is much to be gained for the working lives of rail employees, the performance of the organisation and society through reducing both absence and presenteeism and improved employee capability and engagement.

Health also has a recognised impact on safety. Keeping a high performing team at its peak without burning them out will require a manager who is knowledgeable about health and wellbeing and how to listen to team members. Training in health and wellbeing techniques will help managers to sustainably manage their team and also reflects positively on their career.

Mental health and wellbeing are sensitive subjects which can often go ignored or are not given as much prominence as other areas. With the right training and processes in place to offer support for managers, mental health and wellbeing can become an area where the GB rail industry is leading the way in ensuring the satisfaction, happiness and mental wellbeing of its employees and ultimately encourage a happier, more satisfied workforce.

Darryl Hopper is Principal Health and Wellbeing Specialist at RSSB