I recently had the opportunity of supporting Westfield Health in delivering a workshop at the CIPD Annual Conference. The session aimed to help businesses develop and implement a robust health and wellbeing strategy, and it was chance for me to present on the award-winning strategy we’ve put in place at Boston College.
Following major cuts in funding and ever decreasing budgets in the sector, morale among our staff was low and we needed to come up with a completely new HR strategy. Our aim was to focus on low cost actions that would improve employee morale and engagement.
We decided on a strategy that would make staff feel more involved with the college, as well as improve health and reduce absence. An area we particularly wanted to target was stress related illness, as this had been highlighted as a having a major impact on our absence levels.
With those factors in mind, we consulted with our employees to make sure we were tailoring the benefits and recognising their needs. We then worked closely with Westfield Health, who helped us to determine the right package to suit our staff.
Some examples of the benefits we offer include a counselling service, subsidised gym membership, regular organised sports events and an in-house health advisor.
Managers have also been trained on how to recognise stress related illness, and we make sure we constantly evolve our strategy depending on the needs of our staff.
It’s important to ensure all employees are aware of, and receive, full benefit from the plan to improve their health and wellbeing. So, to publicise it, we use the College Bulletin, regular all-staff emails and a purpose built website.
In terms of outcomes, we’ve seen some dramatic changes. Sickness absence reduced from 8.8 days per employee to 6.55 days. This is especially good considering the sector average is 8.09 days.
What’s more, the stress absence level has dropped to 7.69% compared to a sector average of 14.71%.
It’s very clear that our strategy has returned tangible results through reduced sickness absence and greater employee satisfaction and I’d highly recommend other organisations to consider putting similar plans in place. Poor staff health and wellbeing costs the UK economy billions every year, yet there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce this cost.
All it took for us was a bit of time, energy and commitment to create a strategy that employees would really value and benefit from. We’ve received fantastic support from Westfield Health, and it’s wonderful to see how far we’ve come.
Keith Tharby is Director of Workforce Development at Boston College, Lincolnshire. He started his HR career in the NHS, working at various locations throughout England reaching Director level before joining Boston College in 2002. In his current role, Director of Workforce Development, he is responsible for the development and implementation of the College’s HR strategy, ensuring equality and diversity in development opportunities and managing health and safety within the College.
Keith and his team have been particularly successful in integrating health and wellbeing into their organisation, with their strategy and implementation winning awards at the VIB Awards 2015 for the Best Strategy for Making Pay Go Further and Reward Champion of the Year. The strategy has also returned tangible results, through reducing sickness absence for the College by 1.8 days per person and improving staff satisfaction for 83% of the questions asked.