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A case study from PwC

 By Sally Evanspwc-article-picture (3)

Sally Evans leads PwC’s approach to employee wellbeing and will be sharing insights into how the firm is seeking to build its people’s resilience at the Health @ Work Summit on 12th June at Kensington Close Hotel, London.

Here Sally talks about why building resilience is a commercial imperative and essential personal skill.

The pressures of everyday life (not just work) can creep up on people, and good stress – the motivation to bring the best of ourselves to work – can become distress. At PwC we know how this can prevent our people from performing well, diluting their contribution, and in some cases leading to loss of talent if someone becomes too ill to work. So we believe it’s important to help people to look after themselves and therefore have an extensive range of health provision, guidance and tools to help our people stay fit and healthy.

What’s more, our research and experience clearly links wellbeing and employee engagement, and this has been highlighted in our own employee engagement survey. So creating a culture based on our people’s psychological and physical wellbeing makes sound commercial sense, given the positive correlation between engagement and business performance.

Our strategic focus is therefore on helping our people build their resilience and ability to bounce back from setbacks, and deal with the pressures of work and life in general, helping them stay mentally and physically well. This is integral to our deal – what it means to work at PwC. We help people look after themselves and they perform at their best.

For us the benefit of this holistic wellbeing approach is being able to support the psychological health of our people, who operate in a fast paced and stressful environment, whilst continuing to address ill health in an efficient, cost-effective and timely fashion. Our motivation is caring for our people to enhance wellbeing and also business performance.

Our research and experience also tells us that our people’s ability to be resilient will vary over time and depend on what they have going on – in all aspects of their lives. But we identified that more could be done in terms of prevention, by better equipping our people to deal with the pressures of life and work. So we developed a targeted approach to help increase our people’s personal capacity to be more resilient, by raising awareness of how to manage their energy proactively and positively to sustain optimal performance.

We aimed to find innovative and effective ways to help build our people’s resilience. We started with a pilot in parts of our business with a history of low wellbeing scores in our employee survey. With the engagement of local leadership we encouraged an open and honest dialogue around wellbeing. Each office took ownership for their wellbeing agenda through appointing wellbeing champions and running partner led events.

We then developed a workshop to provide greater self-awareness around our people’s energy levels and how they relate to resilience and performance. The workshop explores ways to help create more energy-enhancing behaviours and lose habits that undermine mental and physical wellbeing. It offers practical tools to support teams in creating action plans that will build their individual and collective resilience.  Around 1700 people have attended to date.

We’ve seen measurable wellbeing improvements after running the pilot programme, with the wellbeing score in our engagement survey increased by 17 points and engagement score by 8 points. This was the first increase in wellbeing score in the pilot area for some time, and the correlating improvement in engagement reinforced the linkages, and the commercial benefit of the activity.

We’re hearing good things from our people directly too, such as:

“I saw ways not only to help myself, but also my team, i.e. recognising trigger points and understanding how different they can be.”


“Thanks very much… for the session. It was very useful to me, plus flashed me a big red warning sign about where I am at the moment so enabling me to do something about it.”

For us, focusing on our people’s resilience is essential – very far from being the “latest fad”.  Our people tend to be high achievers, so culturally asking for help can be a challenge for them, or even feel like admitting to vulnerability. To overcome this we encourage leaders to share their own experiences, hints and tips, which facilitates honest conversations. We foster a supportive and safe environment for wellbeing concerns to be addressed.

In our experience, an effective approach to building team resilience will have certain key characteristics. It should:

  • Be grounded in the science behind how to manage emotional energy and resilience effectively.
  • Be responsive to the real work context of busy schedules, tight deadlines and demanding clients/customers.
  • Give people the practical tools needed to manage their energy positively and sustain high performance.
  • Use proven approaches to changing behaviours, such as teams co-creating their own wellbeing action plans, with clear goals and measures of success.
  • Enable assessment of business impact – identifying teams to work with and tracking progress, using tools such as a wellbeing dashboard.

As well as informing our internal approach, this is also integral to our wellness offer for clients, where we’re seeing a clear increase in demand for work in this area.

Making our approach very action-based, with employees committing to things they could change and with a team focus on supporting each other, has proved extremely effective. Our people are beginning to develop a shared language that helps their wellbeing conversations – in teams, locally. Increased self-awareness and practical tips on how to improve resilience is empowering our people.


Sally is a senior manager in the diversity & inclusion and employee wellbeing team at PwC. She leads the UK firm’s wellbeing approach, which won the Sunday Times Best Companies wellbeing award in 2013 and 2014. Her current focus is building resilience and engagement for sustained performance.

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