Garden Organic

Garden organic

Garden Organic is the national charity for organic growing. Through campaigning, advice, community work and research, it aims to get everyone growing organically. The charity, based in Coventry, was established in 1958 and has 44 employees as well as around 400 volunteers.

Staff mental health and wellbeing

Garden Organic is a nurturing organisation that has always had informal measures in place to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff but did not always actively promote them.

Signing up for the ‘Thrive at Work Workplace Wellbeing Award’– a free resource offered by West Midlands Combined Authority and delivered via Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council– has helped the charity to be proactive, rather than reactive, in supporting staff, and it has not only seen a reduction in sickness absence but has found that employees are more honest and open about how they are.

What they did

With the support of Thrive at Work Coventry team, Garden Organic completed a number of tasks to earn Thrive at Work’s ‘Bronze’ level accreditation. This demonstrates that an organisation has clear procedures in place to monitor staff attitudes to health, including mental health, and to help workers address any needs that arise.

They began by asking employees to complete the Thrive at Work staff health survey and questionnaire and collated the data.

Using the findings from the survey, a list of staff health and wellbeing priorities was compiled and steps were taken to actively inform and educate staff about the support already available to them, such as flexible working, parental leave and bereavement policies.

Debi Rodgers, HR and compliance manager at Garden Organic, said: “The health survey enabled us to identify a number of priorities for how we could support staff. These included giving access to information and advice on sleep, physical health including how to prevent injuries, and easy access to advice about looking after mental health.

“We began providing information through staff updates, and we also arranged for external speakers to discuss more specialist topics.

“As well as being more proactive in reminding staff about the benefits already available, we reviewed and improved our Employee Assistance Programme, which is there to help staff deal with personal problems that may impact their work performance, health, and wellbeing.

“One of the main concerns from colleagues about using the platform was confidentiality, so we created one staff log-in rather than individual profiles. This meant everyone could be certain that any information was being accessed anonymously.

“Five of our managers also became mental health first aiders, which was very important. It gave them the confidence to deal with issues that were raised and staff felt comfortable speaking to them.”

Garden Organic achieved its Bronze level Thrive at Work accreditation in October 2020.


Debi said: “People are now more willing and comfortable to be their true selves. Employees feel comfortable speaking about their mental health, knowing that we offer a range of support to suit their individual needs.

“We don’t really have many issues with staff sickness, but we’ve certainly seen a reduction since we began working towards our Thrive at Work accreditation.

“We’ve also seen colleagues give honest reasons for absences rather than finding other reasons to take a day off. There’s been a real reduction in the stigma associated with mental health, and now people know that it’s OK to say when they’re having a bad day.

“It’s made Garden Organic an even nicer place to work. Staff are now aware of the benefits that were already available, and the flexible working policy has left them feeling empowered and in control of their day – something that has been particularly helpful during lockdown while we have been working from home.

“Staff are also confident to share ideas and interests to benefit the health and wellbeing of others, for instance, one colleague is giving a talk on Veganuary.”

Debi added: “Achieving our bronze accreditation has had a huge impact on the organisation. It has helped improve our culture, communication and the relationship between managers and staff and I believe it will support with levels of staff retention.

“It’s also helped us focus on the needs of employees, anticipating these in advance rather than being reactive.

“I’ve already recommended the Thrive at Work Workplace Wellbeing Award to others, and will certainly continue to do so. We’re looking forward to starting work on our silver level accreditation in January 2021.”