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Workplace Wellbeing Programmes

A hot topic at the moment for businesses is the need to have Workplace Wellbeing Programmes. This is not just because it’s the right thing to do; it can also help improve the productivity of your business. We spoke to Deborah Astles, Corporate Responsibility and HR Director at Unipart Group, who presented at Business in Oxford, to explain more about Unipart’s approach to employee wellbeing and why she believes that Wellbeing programmes can keep your business ahead of the curve.

Written by: B4    Photography by: Rob Scotcher

A happy, healthy workforce is a productive workforce — that’s the time honoured adage that is backed up by an increasing amount of international research. Most companies recognise that employee wellness and engagement is not an ‘optional extra’ but a mainstay of gaining competitive advantage. In other words, employees do well by being well.

Unipart Group is a leading manufacturing, logistics and consultancy organisation with sites around the world. As you can imagine it’s challenging to have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to wellbeing which could be seen to be ‘imposed by head office’. Instead, we have harnessed the enthusiasm and local knowledge of site champions and empowered them to set local priorities and tailor the programme to meet the specific needs on their sites.

Our wellbeing programme, Unipart Workwell, fits with our company culture and encourages and supports employees and line managers to take personal responsibility for their health and wellbeing. We recognise how each life stage brings challenges for employees, such as parenting and caring responsibilities. As a result, we’ve created flexible, tailored and supportive wellbeing services for our people.

The programme to date has engaged around a third of all our employees in wellbeing events, including gym and fitness sessions and health checks, expert presentations about heart health and cancer risks, workshops on managing stress and ‘stop smoking’ clinics. We have rolled out mental health awareness training, starting with a pilot for over 100 HR professionals and managers, and created Unipart Cares, an Employee Assistance programme delivered by Validium, a specialist provider in wellbeing advice.

We have seen a tangible impact from this activity with a year on year increase in employee engagement levels and reduced absence, making an estimated saving of £330,000. As a result of the success of our programme, we won the Bupa Wellbeing at Work category at Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Awards in 2016.

Unipart Workwell also works hand in hand with health and safety helping to strengthen our reputation as one of the safest companies in the world to work. This has helped us to win an award for outstanding achievement in health and safety at the International Safety Awards for being the only organisation in the world to have achieved the British Safety Council’s Sword and Globe of Honour awards for five consecutive years.

Oxfordshire’s business community is diverse, with a wide range of different industries. It is increasingly important that local companies share best practice in this area to ensure that our people can perform as productively as possible. That’s one of the reasons we have set up the Oxfordshire Workplace Wellbeing Network. Our group shares best practice, organises events and works with local authorities to provide access to free resources and expertise.

We are also focusing on mental health. This is a growing concern for UK employee wellbeing. Since the 1990s, it has been associated as a leading cause of illness in the UK, with more than 15 million absence days attributed to stress, anxiety and depression.

It also accounts for a significant percentage of presenteeism. The Centre for Mental Health calculated that presenteeism from mental ill health alone costs the UK economy £15.1 billion per annum, while absenteeism costs £8.4 billion.

Within the Wellbeing Network, we continue to improve our programme to increase the support that we provide for our employees around these hidden vulnerabilities.

If you would like more information about Unipart Group or Unipart Workwell, visit www.unipart.com.