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Ideas & Observations

Five minutes with… Dr Phill Bell, co-founder of ART Health Solutions

Dr Phill Bell is co-founder and chief executive of ART Health Solutions, the Newcastle-based firm that uses data to optimise employee wellbeing and performance. Here, he tells Steven Hugill about the impact of its work, how he and business partner Dr Paul Smith are channelling past experiences with elite athletes to deliver unique support programmes, and the potential for further company growth following a recent office move.

ART Health Solutions prides itself on ‘bringing science to workplace wellbeing’. What does that mean?

Supporting employee wellbeing and creating healthy workplaces are rapidly becoming key areas of focus for business leaders.

However, the delivery of effective, impactful support is often lacking.

While Mindful Mondays, Walk to Work Wednesdays and Fruit Fridays are well intentioned, the likelihood of them providing a consistent return on investment (both commercially and to personal health) is low.

We provide health and wellbeing services that are founded on a scientific evidence base, are data-driven and robust, and are effective in delivering improved employee health.

The One Wellbeing app is a flagship of the firm’s support suite. What does it do and how does it benefit users?

One Wellbeing is a personal wellbeing coach in a person’s pocket.

The app allows a user to focus on four pillars of health – movement, mindset, nutrition and recovery – and links seamlessly to a wearable device, collecting subjective reflections of mental wellbeing.

This creates a holistic and rich data set, which is used to identify where personal health strengths and weaknesses exist.

In real-time, the app then directs the user to bespoke and engaging health challenges that gamify their journey to better wellbeing.

And as people progress their wellbeing, they contribute to real-world sustainability efforts via the virtual growth of a sapling – and every time they grow a virtual tree, we plant a real tree on their behalf.

The app delivers so much more than a tick in the box. Employees benefit from bespoke support, which removes the feeling of generic and transient initiatives, which are often costly and ineffective in isolation.

The business recently expanded to AirView Park, on the outskirts of Newcastle, to write a “new chapter” in its growth story. How will the office strengthen its offer?

This is our third premises, having originated in the NatWest Accelerator Hub, by Newcastle Quayside, before moving to Gateshead’s PROTO.

Our moves have mirrored our growth, from starting with two founders, to now having a team of 21.

The AirView Park office is ideal; it gives us the space we need while allowing us to display to the world what we are all about – creating workplaces that are health enablers and places where staff want to work.

The move was supported by significant backing from the North East Venture Fund. Just how valuable has its support been?

The North East Venture Fund and Mercia Asset Management have been incredibly supportive on two occasions now, with an original investment in December 2021 backed up in March 2023.

The capital has enabled us to accelerate our growth plans in several areas, including product development, marketing, recruitment and our move to AirView Park.

Both you and business co-founder Dr Paul Smith previously worked in sports science, supporting athletes including Tour de France victor Chris Froome and major championship-winning golfer Rory McIlroy. How are you using those experiences to shape ART Health Solutions’ offer?

Our sport and exercise physiology background provided the genesis for our business.

Our fundamental expertise is the ability to accurately, robustly and effectively ‘measure’ the human, deriving insight that drives performance.

In our previous guise, this meant helping the likes of Chris, Rory and others become faster, stronger and more attuned to higher performance.

We felt this data-driven, scientific approach to improving performance could be equally applied to health, but much more broadly across society, both inside and outside the workplace.

Our experiences with such household names have allowed us to shape our business offer, through the understanding that every single person has unique needs, preferences and goals, and that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t cut it.

Our business really allows us to apply this philosophy in the real-world, and drives our vision of healthier, happier and higher performing people.

Attitudes to workplace wellbeing have arguably never been in sharper focus. Has the emphasis now overtaken more traditional factors such as annual leave and pension support?

Attitudes have changed for the better, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, how this is translating into effective action still feels like a slow-burner, possibly due to the feeling of knowing employee health is of paramount importance, but not necessarily having the tools or expertise to deliver support.

With regards a change in emphasis over traditional employee benefits, I’m not sure it has overtaken such support, but it is certainly being talked about with equal importance (and rightly so).

We truly believe in holistic support, where all areas are covered and treated equally, giving our workforces the best chance to thrive.