There’s never been a more important time for employers to step in and take an active hand in supporting the health and wellbeing of their workforce. Weight, mental health issues and stress levels are rising as we struggle to keep all our plates spinning in our noisy, permanently on, social media-driven world.
As work is a big cause of stress for many people, anything employers can do to reduce that is very welcome. Added to this, corporate wellness programmes can be a great way to activate hard-to-reach groups, and be the first step on the ladder to better health, potentially feeding a new audience to health clubs.
The opportunity exists for health and fitness operators to go one step further than just offering discounts, by reaching out to employers to help deliver workplace wellbeing initiatives.
Many aspects of workplace wellbeing programmes require expertise, facilities and programmes which the industry is ideally placed to deliver, such as running clubs and on-site yoga classes.
Software company hero is working in this space, creating intuitive technology and solutions to help organisations support employee wellbeing.
CEO Joe Gaunt is eager to collaborate with the health and fitness sector, calling for operators to reach beyond their facilities: “This is a golden opportunity to create genuine partnerships between operators and tech specialists, such as hero, to offer something unique, which delivers on member/consumer health outcomes and improves the health and wellbeing of our communities,” he says.
hero worked with Romero Insurance Brokers to put together a corporate wellness strategy which includes measurable and commercial outcomes.
It incorporates a network of wellbeing champions as well as a list of interventions, such as bi-annual health checks; on-site wellbeing workshops; quarterly wellbeing challenges; employee health cashback scheme; pilates and mindfulness classes; weekly walking and running clubs and weekly fruit deliveries.
“Romero Insurance Brokers has a strong employee wellbeing focus and we were delighted to work with them to enhance and elevate all they were doing,” says Gaunt. “We implemented the hero Navigator platform to ensure the senior leadership team had complete visibility over the activity and could monitor and track the impact on the business.”
The insurance industry is notorious for being highly pressured, with a high level of staff turnover, but the wellbeing programme has reduced staff attrition by 70 per cent, as well as helping to attract a higher calibre of applicant, which also has a positive impact on the bottom line.
“We now see a more focused and energetic workforce where people can switch off when they need to and this leads to healthier and happier employees, both at home and in the workplace,” says Gaunt. “The turning point for the business was when middle managers were trained to understand how to manage pressure and stress more effectively and how to best help and support their team members.
“The impact good health and wellbeing has on them both professionally and personally has also been a major factor.”
Investing in staff
Law firm Chadwick Lawrence has also noticed staff retention has been one of the first areas to bear fruit with its wellbeing programme, which is now into its second year. The company worked with Westfield Health to create a wellness programme which gives employees access to a portal, empowering people to take responsibility for their health.
“Our staff are our greatest asset, so we were looking for ways to invest in them,” says head of human resources, Lisa Bailey. “We wanted something which encouraged staff to take responsibility for their own health, and be inclusive, but which was also optional and not in any way preachy.”
The programme is designed around a monthly topic which might link to a national event, such as Mental Health Awareness Week, or the season, such as combatting fatigue in February, or getting in shape for the summer, and there is activity to support this. For example, in January there was a giving tree, for employees to bring in their leftover or unwanted chocolates from Christmas and exchange them for fruit.
“The starting point for the programme was to invite staff to fill out a questionnaire to say what they wanted from the programme and how we could support them,” says Bailey. “And we also offered one-to-one health checks.
“We found the early adopters were the people who were already health conscious, but as time goes on, the harder-to-reach groups have started to get much more involved.”
Mental health first aid
A wide range of wellness initiatives have been introduced to support the body and mind. All line managers in the company have been trained in mental health first aid and a buddy system has been put in place to encourage people to adopt a better diet. Wellness Wednesdays were introduced, where fruit is distributed to staff.
Employees are encouraged to get more active in a number of ways, including being prompted by signage to take the stairs, walking across the office to see colleagues personally as opposed to sending an email; having both standing and walking meetings; standing desks and the launch of a walking and running club. All employees have also been given a pedometer, whether they joined these clubs or not.
“In the questionnaires, sleep came up as an issue which people wanted to get help with, so we got the Sleep Geek into the office for four sessions to advise people on getting better sleep, which many staff have reported to work really well,” says Bailey.
As the wellbeing programme moves into its second year, it’s gaining momentum and more elements are being added all the time, including bringing instructors in to run lunchtime sessions focused on mindfulness, meditation and yoga.
Experts in nutrition talk about diet and financial experts advise people on how best to manage their money. There will also be an on-site smoothie-making bike.
“It is still early days when it comes to measuring the impact of the programme at Chadwick Lawrence, but the first thing we noticed was that it has really helped with recruitment and we’ve gained a reputation for being a good employer,” says Bailey.
Perks of the job
Although health and fitness operators can help businesses to deliver these programmes, it’s also important to make sure your own workforce is supported, especially as being a PT or instructor is a high energy job and helping others can be draining.
Low cost gym operator, The Gym Group, has been motivating its employees through its partnership with Perkbox, an experience platform set up to engage employees, and make them feel valued, by offering discounts to a range of products and services.
This initiative has been enthusiastically embraced by The Gym Group employees, with a log-in rate of 95 per cent and more than 6,000 perk redemptions, including for free coffees, discounted cinema tickets and savings on Apple products.
Added to this, The Gym Group employees receive free gym membership for themselves and a family member or friend, a cycle to work scheme and employee share scheme.
As a result of this partnership with Perkbox, the gym operator has been recognised on several occasions including in The Sunday Times ‘Best Small Companies to Work For’ report, and become the first fitness operator to achieve the Investors in People Gold Standard accreditation.
Enterprise customer success director at Perkbox, Tom O’Connor, says: “As companies grow, it’s easier to forget that employees should always come first. Helping members of staff achieve a healthy balance between work and their personal lives is truly inspiring and aligns well to our mission of creating a better society by helping employees succeed, in life and at work.”