Workplace Wellbeing

Champion Spotlight: A personal, proactive approach that gets powerful results, with Peabody

Emma O'Neill

Growth Marketing


Find out how a housing association’s wellbeing champion uses the Unmind Index, and her own experience, to make mental health conversations the norm among colleagues.


Spotlight on: Peabody 

Peabody is one of London’s oldest and largest housing associations, with 55,000+ properties across London and the South East. The company also has around 3,000 employees, and one of them is called Suzie Illsley.

Suzie got a job at Peabody in 2016, as compliance officer. But with past experience as a welfare officer for young adults, and a major interest in mental health and wellbeing, Suzie swiftly became Peabody’s Head of the Employee Council. In this role, she could share her knowledge, and passion for people, with people across the organisation. 

This soon sparked an internal scheme, where colleagues come together to talk about their own experiences with mental health, share ideas about how to break down stigma, and workshop ways to encourage non-attending colleagues to engage with wellbeing (plus seek support if they need it). 

As an eager Peabody ‘champion’, Suzie’s approach is varied – from monthly email check-ins to epic walks (to promote a mental and physical break from desk work), Suzie has championed mental health in many different ways. Each time, she measures impact in two ways: evidence and engaged leaders.

Making a difference with data

“I was feeling quite low at one point, and I found that I was starting to feel really unmotivated – I wasn’t myself,” Suzie says. “So I decided to dedicate a whole week to Unmind and see what difference it could make.”

Suzie completed an Unmind Index – our in-platform mental health and wellbeing assessment – and found the data shocking. “My Index score was really low,” she says. “I think it was something like 35%, and it was really telling of how I was feeling.”

Sticking with her personal, proactive strategy, Suzie started to listen to the Daily Boost feature, and began dedicating a few minutes a day to the Unmind platform, and also herself. A few weeks later, when she completed her next Unmind Index, Suzie was again shocked.

“My Index score increased to 69% and I just felt so much better,” she beams. “I decided to share my experience with my colleagues, because I think people really like to see evidence. They not only appreciated the proof, but also my honest story.” 

Engaged leaders make a difference 

While Suzie’s own tale is a heartwarming one, this was of course made possible by a company investing in a proactive mental health platform, with leaders who drive this culture. 

Suzie says: “I feel really secure in my abilities to champion mental health far and wide, and know that I have the support of our leaders. Our CEO actively participates in these conversations and it just really opens up the conversation within the business. It makes it feel normal.” 

Champion insights: what Suzie has learned, in her own words 

Live your values

“During that low period, I wasn’t practising what I was preaching to others. When I decided to show my Unmind Index results, I was conscious that I was kind of putting myself out there. I was letting people know that I had been quite unhappy. But people really appreciated the openness and I hope it inspired others to complete an Index too.”

Support is always available

“There’s so many wellbeing initiatives going on at Peabody, from walking challenges to ‘Knitting and Nattering’ sessions. Sometimes it just takes someone to bring it to people’s attention. I often find that people just don’t know about all of the things that they can get involved in. So many people have said ‘Thank you – I just needed someone to let me know’.”

Bring your true self to work

“It felt a little scary to let people know that I had been feeling down, but I couldn’t believe how much people appreciated me putting myself out there and showing my true story. I hope it will encourage people to think about their own wellbeing, and to use the tools that they have available to them if they need it.”

Like this post? Check out the last instalment – ‘Tea, talks and moments of sunshine with Centrica’ – here.

Want to learn more about how wellbeing champions can help shift the culture in your organisation? Get in touch today.