Ipswich Building Society - balancing a healthy workforce

Written by
Changeboard Team

18 Jun 2010

18 Jun 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Why is it important to look after employee health?

In recent years, it's become increasingly important for businesses to take care of their employees general health and wellbeing. Not only will a caring approach help improve staff motivation and build team morale, but a healthy and active workforce will reduce staff sickness levels, which cost the UK economy ??16.8 billion in 2009.

At Ipswich Building Society, we have successfully introduced a healthy workplace strategy which has benefitted our employees and our business. Not only are our staff happier and healthier, but they are working more efficiently and we have benefited from a reduction in our staff turnover.

We believe in working closely as a team, and our HR department has worked closely with our employees to choose activities which are applicable and appropriate to the needs and interests of our staff. We regularly question our employees about our healthy initiatives to ensure they are suitable, and this approach has improved motivation and involvement.

Making healthy activities accessible for all

Crucial to the success of any HR initiative is the support from the senior management team. Strong leadership will not only help drive ideas forward and into action, but it shows a commitment to the cause, and will boost employee motivation.

Our executive and management teams regularly participate in many of our physical activities, which not only motivates our staff, but also helps boost team spirit.

We support our staff on individual levels, ensuring advice and guidance is given when needed, whether our workers are looking to lose a few pounds, find an exercise partner or they simply wish to stop smoking.

Championing the Fit for Work initiative

In 2008, we became workplace trailblazers of the Fit for Work initiative which was launched by our local council. As a champion organisation, we have been encouraging our employees to increase their general fitness through the workplace by making it easier to participate in physical activities.

Examples of our involvement in Fit for Work are:

  • The development of a lunchtime walking group, encouraging our staff to achieve the recommended 10,000 steps a day. We provided staff with pedometers so they can track their progress. 
  • A dedicated Fit for Work room, complete with a Wii console and Wii fit game for staff to use during their lunch breaks. The room is also used as an information room, complete with nutritional information and healthy living advice.
  • We allowed use of one of our meeting rooms for an after-hours Yoga class. 18% of our workforce participated and it helped reduce staff stress and ease any tension caused by sitting at a desk all day.

A healthy and active workforce makes a big difference to the success of an organisation. Employees will feel happier, valued and motivated, and their work will become more efficient and productive.

Managing stress in the workplace

Stress-related issues are one of the biggest factors of staff absences, so for a business to succeed, it's vital that stress relieving activities are in place.

We believe that a working environment should be a place of enjoyment, and our employees are urged to take breaks away from their desks whenever they need to release some tension.

Providing relaxation areas for employees, such as a staff room or garden area, are simple ways of reducing stress and can make a big difference to the wellbeing of your team. 

Since implementing our Fit for Work activities, we have regularly surveyed our staff, and over a quarter of them have indicated their mood has improved after undertaking a physical activity.

Making simple changes to improve morale

A healthy working environment does not have to mean big changes, or huge costs. Employees can be encouraged to boost their activity levels through simple steps such as using the stairs rather than the lift, or walking to a colleagues desk rather than sending an email. 

As a result of incorporating these small measures into our daily routine, we have noticed a difference in the attitudes of our staff. Not only are our staff more energetic, but the increased interaction between employees has built a stronger team, with more of our staff members taking the time and effort to speak to colleagues in different departments.

Listening to employees - what do they want?

By looking at the needs of our employees and through regular feedback, we have been able to ensure the appropriate resources are in place to motivate and maintain our active workforce.

As well as the dedicated Fit for Work room, we have provided access to a shower room and a covered cycle store for those wishing to participate in the national cycle to work scheme.

These resources havent been costly, but they have made life easier for our employees, which has encouraged and motivated their commitment to our healthier workplace.

Communicating objectives about health

Communication is key to the success of any healthy initiative, in particular to make sure you give regular updates about your objectives and the availability of resources.

We have used our communications to give employees news on our various healthy activities, alongside providing nutritional information and exercise advice.

Regular interaction between individual staff members and various departments have helped build a motivated team, which has successfully transferred across to the business.
Through the development of a healthy workforce, we now have a dedicated team of employees who feel valued, motivated and proud to be working with us.