Kathryn Taylor, managing partner at Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP (GBLF):
What initiatives has GBLF undertaken to improve employee wellbeing?
We have identified employee wellbeing as an extremely important part of the business. We have introduced a formal wellbeing policy as well as updating the staff handbook – this includes a breastfeeding policy and improvements to our alcohol and drugs policies. We have also recently implemented an employee assistance programme.
We are active members of the Better Health at Work Award (BHAWA), which is sponsored by the NHS, and are now working towards the continuing excellence certification.
Managers are encouraged to undertake and provide continued support for employees returning to work after any sort of absence. They are trained in mental health awareness which allows them to understand how to support those who may have issues and help them in the workplace. We have also increased occupational sick pay to support long-term absentees.
Other initiatives have included more holidays and the ability to purchase extra days. In addition, regular campaigns encourage staff to hydrate, help them deal with the menopause and menstruation issues, and raise awareness of cancer and men’s health issues.
Has business improved since the firm introduced these initiatives?
While it is almost impossible to measure productivity, we have had lots of positive employee feedback. They feel like they are well looked after and enjoy participating in the events that we put on. The business is continuing to grow and we have certainly seen a significant reduction in attrition rates since we introduced these initiatives, as well as increased scores on annual staff surveys.
Do employees feed into these initiatives and suggest improvements?
We have health and wellbeing advocates who regularly hold meetings with staff and encourage suggestions for upcoming initiatives. Staff are encouraged to feed into the initiatives that are taking place and comment on how we could improve them. Each year we also ask staff to complete a survey and give feedback on the firm; any trends that come out of this are used when planning future initiatives.
Do you believe it has led to greater productivity within the business?
It is always very hard to measure staff productivity but the feedback we’ve received from staff has led us to believe that our wellbeing initiatives are having a positive impact.
Do you have any other initiatives planned in the future?
Our wellbeing initiatives are ongoing and we have lots planned for the rest of the year. This includes a talk to raise awareness of dementia as well as a body fuelling and exercise optimisation presentation to educate staff on how best to exercise and when and what to eat. Where possible, we link up to national awareness events such as the National Work Life Balance Week in October and International Day of Elimination to Violence Against Women in November.
Deb Tweedy, HR manager at Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP (GBLF):
Have you seen an increase in companies seeking assistance on employee wellbeing policies?
Most definitely – we are active members of the BHAWA and every time we attend an event, numbers are growing.
The scheme is a great way for employers to learn about promoting wellbeing and is free to businesses in the North East and Cumbria, regardless of size, location or type of business. For those that already promote a healthy lifestyle, their achievements will be recognised and they will be helped to move forward in a structured and supported way. For those who do not yet have an official policy, taking part in the award helps them to reap the rewards of encouraging a healthy workforce.
Would you recommend implementing a formal employee health and wellbeing policy?
Absolutely – more and more employees are asking about wellbeing policies when they are looking for a new role. Research suggests that nearly a third of companies now have a formal policy and I expect that number to grow significantly in the next few years. It will soon be commonplace for businesses, and those who do not have policies will struggle to attract the best talent.
How does it help recruitment?
If a business promotes employee wellbeing on its website, as well as during the interview process, this increases the opportunities to add value and thereby become an employer of choice. Also, by communicating success stories to jobseekers and recruitment agencies, a business enhances its reputation.
Does focusing on wellbeing help with staff retention?
There is definitely a correlation between a focus on wellbeing and the health of staff and their desire to work for a company. When employees know how supportive you are and how much you care about their wellbeing they are more likely to offer discretionary behaviour and less likely to be absent or resign.
In your experience is there a link to a reduction in absenteeism?
Absenteeism can often be the result of stress at work and, in many cases, is avoidable. If an employee is properly educated about wellbeing in the workplace and feels like they are supported they are less likely to be absent.
Some absenteeism is completely unavoidable and it is just as important in these situations that companies have proper occupational sick pay policies in place and procedures to welcome members of staff back to work. Training staff to deal with this, as well as mental health awareness, will allow companies to support their workforce.