Changes to workplace practice at Ecosulis have led to measurable improvements in wellness, bringing benefits to both employees and the company.
A new commitment
For the last four years Ecosulis has placed far greater emphasis on the health and wellbeing of its employees. Back in 2015 we ran "Wellness Challenges" for our workforce, but found that although the initial uptake was good, people's enthusiasm soon waned. By the end of the challenge there would only be a couple of dedicated individuals left in the game.
Something had to change…… and it did. We reviewed our core values and made health one of them. Today we are very proud of our employees and their commitment to health and wellbeing. Changing the culture of our business has been challenging, but we now live and breathe the new regime. By engaging our staff across the board, and by giving them a voice and listening to their ideas, we have not only helped our employees, but improved their productivity too.
Here are some of the ways that we promote and sustain our healthy workplace and healthier workforce.
Our staff had become used to celebrating events such as birthdays and holiday returns with unhealthy treats. We decided to offer a free weekly fruit box to all of those willing to give up such treats. Since then almost everyone has kept to their commitment - even if we do get the odd bag of sweets brought in - as we work towards a common goal and embed "health" as a core company value.
A good fit
When our employees complete their three-month probation they are all given a Fitbit Versa. We actively encourage people to walk at lunchtimes, and often the entire company will take a hike across the fields. At Ecosulis we are lucky to be based in a very rural environment - a Duchy of Cornwall-owned village - which is surrounded by fields, so it's easy for us to step away from our desks and take in some fresh air. But it's still surprising how many of us will just sit and plug away at our laptops, never really taking a proper break; the Fitbits encourage us all to move more!
On our team days (which typically happen quarterly) we try to include a physical activity, along with regular company updates. We have held yoga classes in our offices, stretching and meditating together, as well as several classes in Krav Maga - a military self-defence martial art initially developed and used by the Israeli security forces. One particular class focused on self-defence, teaching employees the skills to de-escalate potentially harmful situations.
Such skills are relevant to our employees. Conducting late night and early morning bat surveys, some have experienced potentially dangerous encounters with members of the public. Self-defence classes are not only a great way to improve fitness, they equip staff with the confidence and ability to handle difficult situations. This demonstrates our commitment to safety in the workplace.
Ecosulis takes the mental health of its employees very seriously. Following last year's "Business in the Community" Mental Health at Work Report, it was revealed that 60% of employees have experienced mental health issues during their careers. Other reports suggest that at any given time, a quarter of all staff are experiencing a mental health issue. As a result, we are now in the process of setting up a pay-as-you-go online video or instant text counselling service, with no contracts and fully vetted and experienced counsellors and psychologists. The service provides free assessments for anxiety and depression, with treatments that can be repeated and monitored on a personalised dashboard. Ecosulis will offer the first session free to any employee who requests it.
Ecosulis also offers a cash plan scheme where employees are able to pay into a fund at very low cost - this can then be used to pay for private counselling or therapy, as well as other paid services such as optical treatment, physiotherapy and dentistry. An additional benefit of this scheme is that children under 18 in employee's families are also covered. And we are also running Mental Health First Aider training for our employees. By adopting a proactive approach to mental health issues in the workplace, we aim to equip staff with the skills to identify and remedy common symptoms.
Creating the right space
Our Bath office is a converted grain store and had been the same tone of hospital green for countless years. Last summer our support team project managed a refurbishment. We have discouraged mess and clutter, installed more natural lighting, bought new desks and chairs (discouraging the storing of paper and project-related files and folders as these should be stored electronically), and invested in two static desk bikes. These are a fantastic way for everyone to relocate their laptop and pedal away. They can also be used as standing desks. Great for overcoming that mid-afternoon work slump!
We are currently putting together a Wellness Team. Despite the fact that we are a small company, our staff have suggested that they would like to generate more wellbeing momentum by electing a "Wellness Champion". We are now in the process of selecting two individuals who will drive new and existing ideas, and act as a link between staff and the board in order to promote company wellbeing.
Some of the proposed ideas include:
- A weekly noon walk, same day each week.
- Regular lunches together. Bring healthy food or share.
- A bike challenge, with desk bikes between teams keeping the bike going during work time. Spa day prize for team with the most miles.
- A sports day or portion of day with different activities in teams.
- A monthly rounders game.
Volunteer days in the community, preferably on a weekday to maximise participation. Tree planting, Biodiversity Quality Calculator survey and demonstration. This will tie in to learning and/or work with local wildlife trusts, such as the Avon Wildlife Trust.
Consistently focusing the minds of Ecosulis employees on wellness has enabled a transformation in company culture. Not only are the majority of staff committed, but you can hear them promoting our new approach to recently joined members of staff. Such positive feedback is really encouraging.
Ecosulis measures staff engagement, stress, wellness and relationships with managers and peers through an anonymous platform "Office Vibe". At the start of big projects lots of paperwork typically results in an increase in "stress", and a decrease in "satisfaction" and "happiness". But by monitoring these indicators we also know that once projects get going these scores level out.
Office Vibe allows us to see where there are blips or pockets of unrest within our organisation. While the platform is anonymous, you can see from the screenshot below that I have divided staff into groups so we can monitor them more easily and identify trends.
By clicking into the "wellness" area, for example, I can examine what questions were asked at the time of the survey. I can then address points of concern by creating custom "polls" which pose direct questions to either the whole company, or individual groups (as highlighted in the overview).
The responses received through such polls - though still anonymous - can be replied to. We can message through OfficeVibe to offer individuals who have answered a one-to-one with a senior member of staff, or the HR Department.
Ecosulis also takes the issue of stress seriously. As you can see from the above custom poll, our interactive approach allows us to quickly identify problem areas, and to remedy such problems in a timely way.
Benefits for all
In short, we recognise that our employees are our key asset. While many companies in the UK still have no workplace wellness programme in place, it has already been proven that such programmes boost productivity, reduce illness, injuries and absenteeism, and increase company loyalty.
The Ecosulis experience has proven that a wellness programme is straightforward to set up and can provide wide-ranging benefits for your company, not just your employees. For us, focusing on wellness has been a win-win proposition, and we're glad to have made the change!