Great Western Railway's Samantha Winfield won the CIRAS-sponsored Health and Wellbeing Award at the 2022 RailStaff Awards. Here we share Samantha's wellbeing achievements – which would work in other parts of the transport sector too.
Above: Comedian Ed Byrne (left) and CIRAS' Katie Healy (right) present Great Western Railway's Samantha Winfield (centre) with the Health and Wellbeing Award in the 2022 RailStaff Awards
The Health and Wellbeing Award recognises the incredible work of our colleagues across the rail industry in improving health and wellbeing. Award winner Samantha Winfield shows us just how much difference one motivated and determined person can make.
Cardiff-based Samantha works as a lead host at Great Western Railway (GWR), a role that involves looking after the health, safety and wellbeing of her colleagues and passengers day in, day out. So when her local depot decided to try out the idea of a wellbeing champion, she jumped at the chance.
Make it personal
Samantha recognised that the key to genuinely engaging her colleagues was to tell them real stories that they could relate to, rather than just distributing health and wellbeing information. So she started out by talking about her own experiences, including how she coped with menopause, in some blogs on GWR’s Yammer account.
Samantha was also proactive in spotting opportunities to engage her colleagues more creatively. For example, at Cardiff station she spotted three young men promoting the Oddballs Foundation, a charity which raises awareness of testicular cancer. Samantha started a conversation with them, which led her to run a campaign to raise awareness of men’s health issues and encourage her colleagues to buy Oddballs underwear as Father’s Day gifts.
Getting through lockdown
Samantha’s work really came into its own during the pandemic. She recognised immediately that staying connected would be vital to boosting morale and protecting the mental wellbeing of her colleagues. Many of them were used to working shifts in customer-facing roles and quickly felt the lack of physical and mental stimulation that their role provided.
Samantha realised that the key was to make it easy for people to get actively involved. She worked alongside GWR’s mental health first aiders to arrange weekly quizzes and online bingo to keep colleagues talking to each other, and help colleagues engage in mindfulness – a proven way to support mental wellbeing – by sharing 30 days of exercises that they could actively participate in.
Sadly, lockdown brought some serious wellbeing issues to the fore, including domestic violence. Samantha wanted to raise awareness of men affected by domestic abuse and worked with local charity DASH to achieve this – for example by organising a raffle sale, with prizes donated from colleagues across the company. She also shared details of the Bright Sky app, which signposts anyone who spots domestic abuse to support.
And once the end of lockdown was in sight, Samantha wanted to help her colleagues get fit and ready for returning to the physical job of pulling trolleys. So she arranged yoga sessions, did demos during coffee mornings and provided leaflets on how to do certain exercises.
Many of the initiatives Samantha introduced remain useful today. Even though lockdown is behind us, many people now work from home or in hybrid roles and the risk of isolation is as present now as it ever was.
The power of giving
There’s a strong body of research that shows that supporting charities makes people feel good and strengthens communities – especially if they are local! Samantha’s wellbeing programme included support for the Movember movement, which raises awareness of men’s health issues such as suicide, testicular and prostate cancer. Samantha set out a clothes basket and asked for donations of men’s clothes for a local charity. And she hasn’t stopped there – she’s looking at adopting the same model to donate to other local charities.
Keep it up
Talking about what comes next, Samantha said:
‘It’s so pleasing to see how wellbeing awareness has taken hold within the rail industry, especially with all the uncertainty colleagues feel right now. The need to keep everyone positive is paramount, so I’m looking for new opportunities all the time. For example, during this year’s Nutrition and Hydration week, I am setting up some friendly competition via a healthier bake contest while other wellbeing champions will be engaging colleagues through other methods, all keeping us connected.’
A key lesson Samantha has learned in her wellbeing champion role is that people need time to form new, healthier habits, so wellbeing support must recognise this. Doing something once and leaving people to pick it up won’t work.
Initially Samantha’s wellbeing champion role was a local initiative in her depot. Following her success, there’s now a company-wide network of champions for her to work with and share ideas and successes. Together, the champion network at GWR can also signpost their colleagues to other services such as GWR’s Employee Assistance Programme and the First Group Wellbeing Centre.
Donating to charity is a great way to do good and feel better. For Movember, Samantha asked for donations of men’s clothes for a local charity. Depot colleagues have since donated items
to other local charities.
What Samantha learned
- Make it easy for people to get actively involved.
- Keep messages fresh – don’t just do something once.
- Share personal experiences.
- It takes time to form new habits and learn new things.
- Mindfulness idea: spot anything blue on your way to work.
What about the others?
There were many great nominees for the award, highlighting all the great work that is being done across the industry. For more information on all the nominees, you can have a look at the RailStaff Awards site.
Find out more about Samantha’s work by contacting her on email.