Health & Wellbeing round-table debate
BLM hosted a joint round-table debate with Nuffield Health on the subject of health & wellbeing. Attended by business leaders, professionals and industry experts, the discussion looked at what schemes businesses are currently implementing and the impact they are having.
To begin, it would be interesting to learn how Nuffield Health engage with businesses on the subject of health & wellbeing?
Sheryl Krause: “We work with over 200 corporates at their on-site facilities, where we create a gym, for example, or work with them to provide health assessments across our health and wellbeing centres and hospitals. This can be a short health assessment or a full 360 degree one.
“Many more businesses are engaging with us but it’s mainly at an executive board level, and we are trying to make what we do more accessible to an organisation or business’ wider team.
“Supporting businesses with their health and wellbeing offering is a growing business for us. It’s encouraging to see how many businesses are coming to us to work with them on health awareness in the work place.”
Regarding businesses – can you elaborate on what initiatives you are implementing at your premises?
Brady George: “The biggest decision we make every day is what we eat and drink, so we have been building a lot of engagement and programmes around this. As a business we try to make those choices as easy as possible, and we try to engage with our clients too, so we’re actually walking the walk.
“We’re only a team of 65 but we have juice bars and all of our staff have access to free fruit and vegetables and we also have yoga, reiki and meditation sessions on a daily basis. For us, it’s about providing a holistic approach and we’re also building a sustainable hub at our offices.”
Su Akgun: “At Osborne Clarke, we’ve been properly engaged with health and wellbeing for the last six months, and we’ve taken the decision to engage and empower our people on this subject.
“To do this we have created health and wellbeing ambassadors in the company; and we currently have 75 of these. They work across many of our sites and we empower them to come up with ideas around the subject. We’ve also launched mental health awareness week and looked at stress and how nutrition can alleviate this.
“Through qualitative feedback, we’re noticing a positive impact on productivity levels and the ultimate aim is to make the work place happier.”
Nicola Rich: “We’ve found that looking at the subject from a management perspective is important because no amount of yoga classes will help somebody if they are being micro-managed or they are feeling stressed.
“Initially – when we began the process many years ago – I remember talking to people about this at a leadership level and it wasn’t taken seriously.
“But now it’s so intrinsic to our organisation. We became an employee-owned organisation in 2015, winning awards, thanks to our approach, along the way.
“It’s also important to measure the impact of what we’re doing, so we produced some independent research with UWE to measure our staff engagement levels; and in 2015 we were at 82 per cent engagement, which is very high.”
Debbie Chadwick: “We’re in the early stages of developing a programme around this at Steak
of the Art. Many of our staff are part time or transient, so it’s only at a management level that they are full time. So we’ve been focusing on them as a priority and now run a healthcare option as part of their benefits package.
“We’re also running more regular meetings to ensure stress management is maintained and taken seriously. We operate in a sector where there is a culture of long hours, and it can take its toll.”
Health is important, but how can you also ensure a young staff profile is properly engaged?
Ross Bennett: “Recruitment is a tough existence and we predominantly recruit a younger staffing base, who have come into work for the first time often from university or school. They are pushed incredibly hard and health and wellbeing is coming to the forefront of our thinking more than ever.
“We have employees who are nineteen, twenty and sometimes working very long hours to hit their commission. Going forward we are looking at making their reward structure less about the monetary side of things and more about rewarding them for the effort they are putting in.
“Central to the way we operate is also creating a fun and open working environment. We have arcade games and table tennis tables, for example.
“Regarding the latter, it’s amazing to see the impact that something so simple like a table tennis table can have. It’s very competitive and a great leveller as it ensures directors engage with staff.”
Jon Filer: “We also have a young staff profile and we’re growing fast as a business. Traditionally there has been a party culture in the business, but as we’ve gone from five to seventy people, you find you have to engage with people in different ways.
“For example, we are involving sport more in the business and recently took part in the Bristol 10k, with fifteen from our office taking part and those that didn’t supporting.
“This has created a very different social environment and opened our eyes about how we engage with everybody in our business, and has helped us to move away from just going out for dinner and drinks.”
On a wider level, what positive impact can sport have in a business?
Lisa Wood: “Sport transcends everybody, and as mentioned earlier is a good leveller; it also brings in a social element. The difficulty though is that not everybody in a business wants to play sport or is comfortable doing so in front of other people.
“So the big challenge is to make sure everybody is involved and every skill level is accounted for.”
Is it the case that businesses are taking health and wellbeing more seriously?
Debbie Kleiner-Gaines: “Yes it is but I’m also passionate about ensuring that smaller businesses
become involved in the subject matter. At the moment it feels like all of the case studies are built around the larger firms; and one of the challenges is that in the smaller firms we see decision making being made by the managing director instead of the HR director.
“Due to time constraints and a focus on bottom line health and wellbeing can be put to the back of the queue and can sometimes be seen as fluffy.
“Ultimately SMEs want to engage with this, but there does need to be a body of research created around how it can help them grow as a business. They may not take steps until they have a body of evidence that shows how it can benefit their business.”
Why should businesses do this though?
Debbie Kleiner-Gaines: “Every business is different and will have different reasons for taking this issue seriously. Often implementing health and wellbeing programmes will be built around solving a problem – whether that is retention, recruitment or absenteeism.”
Anna Pepler: “For many small businesses it’s just not on the radar because they are busy investing and ensuring their companies are successful. It is a subject that is being taken seriously by SMEs but it really is a massive educational piece that is needed.
“Businesses will need to do this, though, because if you look at the facts about recruitment, it costs around £30k a time to bring a new person into the company – so it makes sense to retain staff.”
Mark Tomlinson: “I do agree somewhat, but many of the small businesses I work with do invest in this and it’s quite telling that the businesses that do tend to grow much quicker than those that don’t because they are doing the right thing.”
How important is location and surroundings, in the context of health & wellbeing?
Jonathan Platt: “Space and surroundings are very important. Around ten years ago we moved
our business on the basis of an internal survey and we’ve moved again since then to ensure our location is as sustainable and attractive to staff as possible.
“It’s had a hugely positive impact and we have zero staff turnover. It’s also important to ensure staff have fresh air and daylight as this makes a huge difference to their sleeping patterns and productivity in the workplace.”
James Chequer: “Surroundings are very important and we’ve worked hard to ensure all of our offices are based near bus and train stations, so people can get to work easily by alternative means. We work a lot with businesses on behaviour and how transport infrastructure is important to building happy work places and cities.”
Regarding health & wellbeing – is the UK ahead of other countries?
Dr Gill Jenkins: “The UK is certainly ahead of many countries on this issue but we are behind places like Scandinavia. Finland, for example, has a much stronger awareness of managing weight and health and wellbeing. If you’re going to spend your health and wellbeing pound anywhere, it will be best spent on prevention.
“Also, listening to the debate, it is interesting to see that many of the business owners are focusing on sport and being competitive which is great and important; but it is also important to focus on the psychological part of health and wellbeing.
“This is because not all staff will want to compete and play sport but they still need to be considered. All of the downtime activity we’ve talked about has been centred on competition but cultural offering also needs to be considered.”
What are the issues that businesses need to consider?
Brady George: “It’s all about balance. There is a danger that the more culturally aligned an employee is to the business, the more likely they are to work around the clock and potentially burn out because they are so driven.
“Recently we’ve banned people emailing after 6pm to combat this. Because with some of our best guys, their biggest strengths are their weaknesses – and this is that they want to be the best.”
Dr Gill Jenkins: “There really is a danger of working too many hours. You can work long hours in bursts but I’ve seen too many chief executives work around the clock and then drop dead when they retire.”