Talking ….wellbeing, with Alexandra Smyth


Ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10th, we talk to Alexandra Smyth, General Counsel and Head of HR, about how RX prioritises wellbeing at work. 

Q. Tell us about your wellbeing role at RX. 

A. I think all of us, whether managers or individual contributors, have a role to play in supporting the wellbeing of one another.  All of us can keep an eye out for colleagues who may need some help, and generally help contribute to the overall ‘vibe’ at work.  More specifically, since taking on my HR role, I obviously have a more concrete role, and that includes helping facilitate the many initiatives directed towards wellbeing that come from both within RX and from RELX more widely.   

Q. How do you define wellbeing at RX and why is it important? 

A. Fostering employee wellbeing is good for our people and our organisation. Just as we depend on our talented people to drive our success and growth, they quite rightly depend on us to create a supportive work environment where they can be productive and creative, build positive relationships, better cope with stress, make meaningful contributions, and achieve their potential.  

We believe that providing tools and ensuring wellness throughout the organisation will lead to a more psychologically safe environment, allowing us to flourish in our six NIMBLE strengths and build a long lasting, empowering culture at RX. 

Q. What wellbeing resources does RX offer, and how has it changed since Covid-19? 

A. As a division of RELX, we are part of an organisation that has always taken the wellbeing of our people seriously, but the pandemic has brought into stark relief the importance and value of supporting colleagues to live happier and healthier lives.  

We recognise the toll Covid-19 has taken on the physical and mental health of our employees and their families over the past 18 months. For the large number of our people who experienced increased stress, anxiety and loneliness under lockdown, our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) has offered free confidential access to specialist support and guidance on a wide range of wellbeing issues, including counselling for emotional and psychological support; and practical guidance and support on legal, financial, family and work matters. The EAP was in place long before the pandemic, but we quickly saw the need to take a more proactive and holistic approach to looking after our physical and mental health. 

Early on in the pandemic, our UK Wellbeing team launched a virtual wellbeing programme covering everything from meditation and mindfulness sessions, to learning new language and cooking skills. Open to all RX people worldwide, the programme helped users to keep focused, active and engaged whilst working from home, whilst also maintaining those all-important personal connections. 

In October 2020, as part of RELX’s goal to create a healthy and happy workplace culture, RX employees also gained free access to Headspace, a global leader in mindfulness and meditation, offering guided exercises, videos and more via a handy app.  

And in late June of this year, we joined in with RELX’s first World Wellbeing Week ‒ a rich and inspiring programme of over 60 online workshops, talks and activities to help all our people recharge their minds, energise their bodies and shape their finances after a very difficult 18 months.  

Q. What is RX doing to celebrate World Mental Health Day on October 10? 

A. Building on the success of our first World Wellbeing Week, we have a whole fortnight of talks and activities running through this week and next, which focus on mental and physical health. There are webinars on ‘How to alleviate return to work anxiety’, positive parenting, domestic violence and burnout prevention; Masterclasses on Indian Head Massage and ‘How to make your money grow’; free mortgage advice and first aid sessions; and practical sessions including a pasta cook-a-long, book club, yoga class, and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) facilitated by a qualified coach. 

All of the sessions will be available to view on demand after the event, on Thrive, a new shared Wellbeing platform that RX has developed with sister RELX company LexisNexis in the UK. Open to anyone in RX and across the RELX global internal network, Thrive brings together a whole host of wellbeing offerings which promote physical, mental, financial and community wellbeing, enabling all RX employees to enjoy and embrace a healthy workplace culture.  

Q. How do you maintain your own wellness in the workplace? Do you have any tips to share? 

A. In the last 18 months, ‘workplace’ has obviously had a different meaning, and for many of us (me included) our workplace has been our homes.  That has in some ways made it harder to maintain any meaningful separation between work and home.  For me, staying well through all of this has come by focusing on the positive things that this new way of working has brought, rather than dwelling on the negatives.  Some of those things are very well and widely discussed (such as less commuting time and more flexibility), but for me one of the nicest by products has been getting more of a sense of who my colleagues are as people.  I know it sounds odd to say that when I am talking about largely virtual interactions, but seeing people in their own homes and dressed more casually has I think brought a new dimension. I also try to make sure that I get outside, even for a little bit, each day.  Not having the commute into work and back each day has meant that without making a conscious effort, there could be days that I don’t set a foot outside.  Finally, I think you have to sometimes just stand back and laugh at things, even if it is just the fact that (in my case) my managers have now spent a lot of (virtual) time in my living room – not something I could have predicted would happen!