Heathrow: prioritising people - Business in the Community

Heathrow: prioritising people

Heathrow recognised that managers would benefit from tools and techniques to improve their mental wellbeing after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mental fitness is as critical as physical fitness for making the right decisions. The aviation industry ramped up rapidly as pandemic restrictions lifted and Heathrow managers, including over 50% first-time managers, needed extra support to manage the pressures.

Heathrow in purple text on a white background

About the company

Heathrow is a 24-hour operation with thousands of moving parts. As it ramps up to enable the welcome of increasing numbers of passengers, it wants to ensure its managers have the mental capital to ensure that they, our colleagues and passengers go home safe and well every day.

The issue

Research led by the NHS has estimated that in England almost 20% of the population will need either new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the coronavirus crisis. 17-18% will be adults or older adults.1 In Heathrow’s internal engagement survey 2022, 49% of leaders said that pressure was an issue. There were gaps in leadership capability due to a reduction in face-to-face, soft skills training during Covid, and many people were new to the airport, or manager roles, some both.

Heathrow had started recruitment during the third lockdown to prepare for growth; however, the pace of growth, the challenging labour market and the time it takes to onboard a colleague at an airport meant it was also carrying gaps in resource, creating additional pressure on its leaders.   

High mental resilience was important to lead others in a new environment whilst managing increased passenger demand and emerging challenges.

What the company did

Heathrow wanted to support its people in the best way possible. It recognised that managers would benefit from tools and techniques to improve their own mental wellbeing, maximise their mental capital to manage pressure and be able to help their teams to do the same.

If we’re going to build back our business, we need to build back our people.

Amanda Owen, MBE, Heathrow Wellbeing, Health and Safety Director  

Heathrow created a team of internal mental health fitness champions who were trained to CPD level, to enable them to deliver the mental fitness training tool for all managers.

Upskilling its internal leaders rather than using external facilitators meant that they felt both empowered to deliver the programme and invested in it. Each area of the business had a nominated mental fitness champion who had credibility within the team and could understand the particular challenges that managers in those areas of the business would be facing pressure at that point. Heathrow trained 40 champions to give a ratio of one trainer to 16 managers.

Champions were able not only to deliver training to managers in their areas as a training module, but to offer continuous day-to-day support to them, through ongoing advice and discussions.

There isn’t a day at work or at home that I don’t reference something that you talked about on the course.


Impacts and outcomes

  • Line manager relationship scores improved by 45% after commencing the training.
  • Overall wellbeing scores increased by 66%.
  • Managers’ confidence to approach and support mental health conversations increased.

How Business in the Community (BITC) helped Heathrow

Heathrow adopted the BITC Workwell Model and this caused it to look beyond the traditional wellbeing approach and focus on building line management capability. It helped to understand how its business leaders could create an environment where colleagues feel supported to do their best work and how good jobs can be achieved for all that drive sustainable positive mental health outcomes. Heathrow has used it to champion a culture where health and wellbeing is acknowledged as a strategic boardroom issue linked to business objectives and it can be its individual and organisational best when it takes a preventative, whole-person, whole-organisation approach.

The importance of holistic health and wellbeing strategies

A collection of small people forming an upward facing arrow shape

This case study is part of the suite featured in our report, Prioritising People: unlock the value of a thriving workforce. Download the report to understand the Economic Value Proposition (EVP) for placing employee wellbeing at the heart of your organisation. Learn how this can positively impact business, families and society and how to select a portfolio of health and wellbeing investments.
Also available are case studies from BITC members  *AXA *BT *Costain *National Grid and *Mercer




1 Covid-19 and the nation’s mental health (October 2020) Centre for Mental Health.