Brewery and hotel operator, United Kingdom: Health and well-being
The subject of this case study is a brewery and hotel operator, which is a major local employer in a small town in the east of England. Although the company has been in operation for many years, over the last five years it has undergone a sustained period of expansion, following major capital investment programmes. The company has a strong community presence and is viewed as an employer of choice in the area.
At present, the company has approximately 250 employees working in seven various departments of the business. The organisation has two main areas of business, namely hospitality and brewing, the latter of which is supported by a transport and logistics department.
Overall, the company has a somewhat younger age profile, with almost half of the workers aged between 16 and 34 years. About one third of the staff are aged over 45 years, and none of the current staff members are over the age of 65 years.
The age and gender profile varies according to each particular area of the business. For example, the hospitality area tends to employ younger women, whereas in the brewery as well as transport and logistics areas, the workforce primarily consists of somewhat older, male workers. Moreover, staff tend to have a longer service to the company in these areas of the business.
The company has a strong market position and plans to expand the business further in the coming years under the leadership of a new chief executive. However, it must face competition from new micro-breweries that are currently receiving financial support from the government.
In addition, the company’s workforce is unionised.
The original initiative
The company has built up a reputation of being a good employer in the region and of having forward-thinking human resources (HR) policies. The current initiative concerning health and well-being was introduced on a trial basis to determine if employees felt it would be beneficial to them in both their work and family lives. The company already provided good occupational health support to its staff and under this initiative the management aimed to provide a new and additional feature to its current health programme. Although it has high staff satisfaction ratings and a lower than average staff turnover, the company is always seeking to raise employees’ satisfaction and to maintain its position as an ‘employer of choice’ in the area.
Since April 2004, the company has been running support sessions for staff. The aim of this initiative is to give employees access to opportunities to improve their lifestyle and health. The sessions are voluntary and staff are allowed to attend during work hours. The initial consultation is free for staff, and subsequent treatments are subsidised by the company. This initiative includes hypnotherapy, massage, reiki treatment, reflexology, and sessions on maintaining women’s health in the workplace.
The programme was initially introduced for the company’s managers to show them the aims of the programme and how it would be delivered to staff throughout the organisation.
A series of seminars introduced a variety of concepts relating to the prevention of various forms of stress and health problems. The primary aim was to make the workforce feel enthusiastic about the potential to feel fitter and healthier than previously.
The interactive nature of the seminars enabled workshop leaders to identify areas of concern among staff members, and to help individuals learn to identify minor health issues early on in order to prevent serious problems from developing. Through individual health awareness strategies, the employees were empowered to take responsibility for and control of issues relating to their health and well-being. The seminars focused on various aspects of lifestyle adjustments – in relation to diet, breathing, exercise, and relaxation techniques – and on specific health issues. It enabled the company to build up a positive rapport and communication with staff.
Since the initiative’s initial role-out, it has received a good response from the employees. Satisfaction ratings remain high, with staff showing greater productivity and feeling more motivated and valued by the company. Other reported benefits of the programme, according to employees, are better sleep patterns and reduced stress levels.
The company itself has also witnessed how working life can be better managed through greater awareness of health issues and support. Both office work and manual work can cause physical stresses and strains, and the health treatments on offer provide relief from these problems, as well as making individuals more aware of the approaches they should take to maintain their health and well-being.
Good practice today
The company is likely to continue supporting the healthy living programme for the foreseeable future, subject to budgetary constraints. The 50% subsidy paid by the company will therefore allow employees to continue with their treatments.
Due to the positive outcome of the programme, it has been integrated into the company’s health, safety and well-being policy for staff.
Although the programme is open to all staff, it has attracted considerable interest from employees aged over 45 years: over 50% of participants came from this age group. Staff feel that there are measurable benefits of the programme in terms of health and well-being, and therefore they continue to attend the sessions. In order for the programme to work in other organisations, companies would possibly need to offer time allowances and subsidies to staff, in the same way that this company has done. If the programme was offered outside of work hours and as a fee-paying activity, it is unlikely that there would be as much interest from employees. Moreover, it may be difficult to provide continuous staff cover during work hours. Where issues like this arose, the company managed to accommodate staff needs. However, other organisations may be less willing to deal with the logistical constraints of allowing staff to take part in the programme during working time, or of offering flexible arrangements to enable the initiative to work.
Recently, the company invited the University of Cambridge to undertake some further research with staff, focusing on issues such as managing careers and approaches to retirement. After some initial studies, it was decided to undertake more focused research among the transport and logistics staff. Given the physical nature of their work, it was considered to be particularly important to focus on issues of health and well-being.
Eleven staff were interviewed, covering all the main occupations in the division; all of the staff were aged between 40 and 60 years.
Those who had participated in the healthy living programme viewed it as a beneficial service. It was suggested that, in addition, independent and confidential medical checkups could be made available on a voluntary and subsidised basis. However, when this finding was fed back to company management, it was pointed out that this service was, in effect, already available, pointing to a lack of awareness among staff.
Although the employees were positive about the company’s support for individuals who needed medical operations, some expressed the view that management were not fully aware of the physical toll that manual work in the warehouse and in carrying out deliveries had on employees’ general health. In this respect, the employees considered that working until the age of 65 years was probably not feasible in some of the more physically demanding roles within this division.