Tesco: the importance of employee wellbeing strategies in the retail sector

Supermarket giant Tesco ramps up employee wellbeing and mental health support through continued uncertainty

Supermarkets and their key workers played a significant role in keeping the nation through the pandemic. Tesco recognised the heavy pressure put on their staff and decided to take action to support them, helping them to manage stress and anxiety. Emma Taylor, People Director, UK & ROI, explains more.

What steps is Tesco taking to prioritise mental health for their employees, particularly since the pandemic and the current uncertainty?

When addressing mental wellbeing within our workforce, we have three main priorities. These are creating a supportive workplace experience, using great interventions and resources that colleagues and managers are skilled to use, and making sure we are all equipped to respond effectively when a colleague needs support.

We provide a range of learning, services and resources to support our colleagues’ mental wellbeing, with compulsory training for new managers in all our stores. Our nationwide colleague wellbeing weeks help engage colleagues in the programme. As part of an event in May this year, colleagues across the UK got involved in a mental health campaign #imhereforyou, encouraging more conversations around mental health and reminding colleagues they are not alone when it comes to their mental health. We have continuous colleague listening channels, helping us respond and adapt our plans to colleague needs and the current situation.

What do you think are the most important elements of employee wellbeing strategies in the retail sector?

Many retailers will have a mixture of staff working in shops, fulfilment and offices, and wellbeing strategies need to talk to and meet the needs of all these staff. The pandemic has also reminded us of the need to be flexible and agile with these plans and strategies. In addition to this, creating a supportive culture that’s led from the top is crucial.


Do you think employers have a responsibility towards workers during this time and beyond?

In short, yes. The importance of wellbeing in the workplace is becoming more and more apparent – not just now but for the future. This isn’t just about the duty of care. If you want your business to thrive, you need to place appropriate focus on the wellbeing of your teams.

What does your employee wellbeing programme with Headspace for Work entail?

The pandemic has brought many challenges into all our lives. At a time when the nation was told to stay home to stay safe, many supermarket staff continued going to work. This wasn’t just the case in shops, but there was also a huge team effort from across our distribution and office network to ensure the supply chain of goods for customers, adapting to an ever-changing situation.

At a time when Tesco colleagues were so focused on helping others – going to incredible efforts in taking care of customers, playing their part in the communities we serve and taking care of each other, we wanted to help colleagues focus on themselves and support their mental wellbeing whilst building on the resources already available to them.  

Headspace for Work helps colleagues to do this, encouraging them to take more mindful moments both for themselves and their teams. Whether colleagues were looking to focus more, sleep better or stress less, Headspace gives simple, easy techniques to experience a calmer, clearer mind, all in just a few minutes a day, making it feel very accessible for everyone.

We were delighted to be able to offer this across the Tesco Group to over 400,000 colleagues in the UK, Europe and Asia across both Tesco and also our subsidiary businesses including Booker.

What are your future plans for workplace wellbeing?

We’ll continue the delivery of our workplace health programme using insight from our colleague health survey and other colleague listening channels, working alongside our charity health partners and other collaborators and experts and weaving it throughout the colleague life cycle.  

For mental wellbeing, this includes (through our partnership with the Prince’s Trust), funding research into young people and their mental health so we can better support both young people working at Tesco and those in the workforce of the future. January will also see the launch of our Wellbeing Champions programme across the UK, helping drive colleague engagement and participation in our wellbeing initiative.

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