There is no doubt that our employees are our biggest asset. The ethos of our business from the very outset when it was established over 30 years ago has been focussed on genuinely caring about our employees and supporting them to the best of our ability – not just during their working hours but also in relation to any issues that may arise out with work causing them concern. It makes good business sense to have such an ethos at the heart of our business as a caring and compassionate employer. After all, we recognise that our employees are only human and without our employees, where would we be?
The ethos of the business remains unchanged from when we had 5 employees over 30 years ago to our position now where we employ over 1,500 employees throughout the UK. We are very proud of the growth of our business and in particular of the fact that we have not lost sight of the things that really matter to us – our employees. We do not treat our employees as merely a number. Instead, we frequently refer to our employees as extended members of the Bell family.
We are committed to providing not only a healthy working environment but also improving the quality of the lives of all our employees. In 2016, we pledged our support for the Real Living Wage scheme and we have been accredited since then. We ensure that our employees are paid fairly for the role that they undertake. In addition to that, we offer generous terms and conditions of employment. For example, we believe that employees should enjoy more than the statutory holiday entitlement and have the ability to participate in bonus schemes which are realistic and achievable. Our employees work hard and therefore, they deserve the downtime to relax and focus on doing the things that they enjoy. We enforce a mandatory two week shut down period at Christmas to ensure that everyone is able to spend quality time with their family and friends and recharge their batteries.
Aside from committing to offering generous terms and conditions of employment to our employees to ensure that our employees can live a good quality of life and therefore assist in promoting their health and wellbeing, we have extended our commitment to our employees by taking a more structured approach to investing in their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Employee Assistance Programme
In 2018, following months of carefully developing a wellbeing strategy completely tailored to the business, we pitched it to our Board of Directors. We were delighted when we received feedback to the effect that they loved it, giving the strategy the go ahead immediately and an undertaking that the business would fully invest in the wellbeing of our employees. We launched our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and strategy to our workforce under the strapline ‘Are you painting over the cracks?’ later that year.
Our EAP is a confidential employee benefit designed to help our employees to deal with any issues that could be affecting their home life or work life, health and general wellbeing. The EAP service provides a complete support network that offers expert and compassionate advice 24/7, covering a wide range of wellbeing issues.
In addition to counselling support and advice, our employees have access to a wellbeing portal including access to support videos and webinars; interactive health assessments providing personal tailored dietary tips and fitness plans; fitness and lifestyle advice and four week self-help programmes to achieve their goals – whatever our employees wish to focus on. Our employees are also entitled to consider face to face counselling sessions should that be more appropriate based on their circumstances.
We carefully selected which external provider we wished to work with to deliver our EAP. From the outset, we were clear that we wanted to work with a provider who offers not only reactive support when an employee needs it but also proactive and preventative support to deliver the best possible outcomes for our employees at an early stage.
Training our workforce
Ensuring that we provide appropriate training to our employees is a fundamental element of our wellbeing strategy. All of our employees have received Mental Health Awareness Training. Our management teams have been provided with additional training to ensure that they are equipped to deal with any wellbeing issues that may arise within their teams. We are committed to ensuring that our employees continue to receive training including refresher courses given the importance of the subject area.
A further element of our wellbeing strategy is to ensure that we have trained Mental Health First Aiders in the business. We now have 4 accredited Mental Health First Aiders following completion of a rigorous two day training course.
A colleague and I decided to challenge ourselves further and undertake the IOSH Managing Occupational Health & Wellbeing training. Following an intense course which concluded with us sitting an exam, taking us back to our days at University, we were delighted to receive the accreditation. We are keen to continue learning and developing our own knowledge to ensure that we provide the best possible wellbeing support to our employees.
Our Wellbeing Forum which is chaired by a Director consists of a number of employees from different areas of the business. The Wellbeing Forum was created to progress our wellbeing strategy and initiative and discuss ideas for further promoting wellbeing across the workforce. We are conscious of the fact that we must keep building on our wellbeing initiatives.
The Wellbeing Forum meets once a month with our meetings increasing to once a week recently in light of the current pandemic to ensure that we continue to be proactive in supporting our employees. The mental health and wellbeing of our employees has been at the forefront of our discussions and decision making as a business in dealing with the pandemic.
Why does this make good business sense?
We are passionate about encouraging every one of our employees to thrive both in and out of the working environment. Our commitment to our employees goes much further than simply keeping them safe at work.
There are undoubtedly a number of positive outcomes for our business. We recognise that there is a strong link between the wellbeing of our employees and enabling positive outcomes both for the individual and for the business such as reduced levels of sickness absence; enhanced performance and productivity and greater employee engagement. Put simply, happy and healthy employees are more engaged, motivated and productive which in turn leads to better business performance.
A further benefit is that we have been able to move away from managing sickness absence purely on a reactive basis to a more proactive approach. Our employees are equipped with the appropriate tools to manage any mental health and wellbeing issues at an early stage. Our managers are equipped to spot the signs of someone struggling and taking action at an early stage to provide support.
Our approach to wellbeing is a contributing factor to employee retention. We receive excellent feedback from our employees who share that they really feel supported in all elements of their work and further than that, with their mental health and wellbeing needs. It is encouraging to hear such feedback and it really motivates us to keep progressing our wellbeing strategy. As our business continues to grow, it is increasingly important that we continue to ensure excellent retention levels. We are passionate about carefully recruiting the right people for the role and therefore, it would be unwise to not look after them and their most important asset – their mental health and wellbeing.
It is clear that happy and healthy employees are good for business. This is fundamental as we continue aiming for sustainability and success as a business. We need healthy and resilient employees to help us achieve that and therefore it makes complete sense to invest in the mental health and wellbeing of our employees.
We strongly believe that employee wellbeing is the right thing to do – not just to be a business that genuinely cares which has been bedded into our culture for over 30 years but because it also makes good business sense.
What’s next for us?
We are delighted with our progress over the last couple of years and are satisfied that we have created a culture of wellbeing where employees feel openly able to talk about how they are feeling and are not afraid to ask for support.
Our management teams have embraced what we are trying to achieve. We have seen our managers become increasingly confident with handling wellbeing issues. It is important to the success of our wellbeing strategy that our managers deliver our vision at a local level. We are actively working towards ensuring that our management teams treat wellbeing as a normal part of their day to day decision making processes which we consider is naturally good management.
Despite our progress, we must never become complacent. It has been a journey for us and one that we are continuing. Mental health and wellbeing is such an important focus for us and we have lots of exciting plans to complement the work that we are already doing. For example, we are currently considering any further employee benefits that we could perhaps provide.
Our wellbeing strategy will continue to be placed firmly on our agenda as a business. Our culture of wellbeing is passionately supported and reaffirmed by our Board of Directors and with their continued buy in, we are excited to continue growing our plans.
By Paramjit Barry, Bell Group HR Manager