Business Leader recently hosted a roundtable, sponsored by Nuffield Health around the topic of health and wellbeing in the modern workplace.
What health and wellbeing programmes are businesses putting in place?
Garga Chamberlain of Computershare said: “We have been running a health and wellbeing strategy for five years and it focuses heavily on physical and medical wellbeing, as well as peace of mind. Due to the sedentary nature of a clerical environment we encourage as much exercise as possible and have a subsidised gym on-site.
“We also have a cycling strategy in place and have spent tens of thousands of pounds on this, building shower facilities and areas for people to place their bikes.”
Sue Bradbury from Haseltine Lake continued: “It was interesting because we went out to our staff to see what mattered to them in a health and wellbeing context and it was often very small things, such as access to fruit and food boxes.
“Even if it’s something small, every business can engage in health and wellbeing programmes.”
Pelican Business services’ Katie Exley summarised: “For us, the point of implementing a health and wellbeing programme was to reduce the number of sick days within the business. To do this we set up a committee including volunteers within the business who champion the programme. We don’t have a budget for this – it’s run by our people for our people.”
What commercial differences have health and wellbeing programmes made?
Stephen Wilson from Airbus said: “The key challenge of any health and wellbeing programme is, of course, proving its impact to stakeholders, as to how it has improved productivity. But productivity can be influenced by so many other factors – technology, engineering, and investment – and these often work in tandem with health and wellbeing programmes, making it difficult to understand any correlation.
“But you can make some topline findings. Generally, we have a healthier workforce and a healthy workforce is always a more productive one. Our rates of absenteeism have also been reduced.
Martin Parish from AON continued: “Finding out exactly what works is really important to a lot of these programmes as there is a danger of going too far in trying everything, especially if you’re an SME. The challenge is to find out which programmes are having the most impact.”
Nicola Rich from Stride Treglown commented: “It is measurable to a certain extent but it is hard to measure the exact impact health and wellbeing has on a company’s growth. We’ve been implementing programmes for around five years now and this year we had the highest ever level of staff engagement – which was 83 per cent.
“Whilst it is difficult to figure out its impact, we also had our most profitable ever year as a business last year. I don’t believe that was a coincidence.
“We’ve also recently become employee- owned and I believe our commitment to health and wellbeing helped to facilitate that.”
How should businesses deal with mental health in the workplace?
Steve Preston from Heat Recruitment said: “There is an element of confusion when you train people in your team to identify if somebody is experiencing mental health problems, but the person who is experiencing these problems does not realise it. If they’re not quite on their ‘A’ game, how are they going to be able to identify that it might be related to their mental health?”
Nicola Rich commented: “We all have off days and that is a normal part of being human. I guess it’s being able to identify when those off days become more regular and persistent.
“At what point does that become something more serious? Creating an open culture where people can come forward is important.”
Martin Parish continued: “Last year at AON we hosted a mental health conference and three people were brave enough to document their experiences of dealing with mental health issues. All three are now back at work and these videos are hosted on our intranet. This has created a culture of sharing and allowed people to understand that this isn’t an issue they should be afraid to talk about.”
Is it viable for smaller firms to implement health and wellbeing plans?
Amy Grenham from Desynit commented: “It’s been interesting to listen to the strategies that businesses have in place and it’s made me realise that, although we don’t have too much of what we do documented, we’re still doing it. We are a small business and I do think it’s viable for smaller companies to carry out health and wellbeing programmes, but the measurement part can be harder to implement.
“We are an owner-run business and, culturally, this approach has come from the top. We are very flexible with how people work and when and where they need time off.”
Steve Preston continued: “I’ve worked on the basis that I spend a lot of time at work so I want it to be as fun and enjoyable as possible. Initially our health and wellbeing programmes started with us trying to do what we thought was the right thing and we’ve carried on from there.
“We started this by asking people what they actually want to see changed in the office, rather than implementing what we think they want. On the back of this we’ve built a gym downstairs, installed a table tennis table and games machines.
“We also have wellbeing Wednesday where we update people on healthy eating and other developments.”
Would you want to work somewhere that doesn’t value wellbeing?
Steve Ashworth from Smith & Williamson said: “I would say the people in this room are very much the tip of iceberg and there is a lot of change needed from many companies and businesses when it comes to health and wellbeing. Most aren’t doing anything about it and many young people will not want to work in such an environment.
“How do you reach out to the other businesses where it is not on the agenda for them at all? My little phrase now is ‘change begins with a fruitbox’”
Where is the line drawn when emailing staff outside work hours?
Sheryl Krause from Nuffield Health commented: “This is an interesting one as I may opt to work on a Sunday because that particular week has been very busy but I absolutely don’t expect people to respond until they are back in work on Monday.
“You have to be very careful when you start saying no to emails after 5pm because there are lots of people in businesses that are parents and this time may be the best one for them to respond to emails.”
Martin Parish said: “Working for a global firm that is US-owned makes that difficult and I think it is OK for senior members to do this if it is agreed and is normal practice. But I think that, if it’s senior members emailing other staff members outside of work hours, this is something we should move away from as there is often an obligation to reply.”