Personnel Today Awards 2008: Award for Health at Work

This award is for organisations that demonstrated how specific employee health, fitness or wellbeing initiatives are making a positive impact on performance. Entrants showed how they were making a real difference to the lives of their employees, who are healthier, happier and more productive as a result. The judge looked for evidence of the organisation’s commitment to staff welfare and the benefits enjoyed by both the employees and the organisation.

Award judge

Dame Carol Black, national director for health and work, is the government’s wellbeing tsar. She qualified in medicine in 1970 and went on to specialise in internal medicine and rheumatology. Her unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London became the major centre for clinical care and research in Europe. In 2002, Black was awarded the CBE for her work in scleroderma, and in 2005 she was honoured for her services to medicine.

Chorley Borough Council

The team: Human resource and organisational development directorate

Number in team: 7 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 380

About the organisation

Chorley Borough Council is the district authority responsible for many public services provided for residents, businesses and visitors.

The challenge

In 2001, the council was in the bottom 25% of councils for sickness absence, and restructuring had cut its workforce by a third.

What the organisation did

  • Created a position to manage an activities programme delivering access to exercise, and introduced health promotion events such as a ‘fruit on desks’ scheme

  • Revamped the stress management policy and established a workplace listeners support group

  • Provided monthly holistic therapies on site

  • Funded physio sessions for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

  • Developed a health and wellbeing strategy with booklet and online advice

  • Set up screening and support sessions in stopping smoking, osteoporosis and office ergonomics

  • Improved flexi scheme by removing core hours.

Benefits and achievements

  • Reduced sickness absence from 10 days in 2006-07 to eight days in 2007-08. Long-term sickness absence dropped from 2.32% to 1.8% in the same period.

  • Awarded 10th best council to work for in the 2007 Times survey.

  • Council awarded Chartermark for customer service excellence and Beacon status for transforming services.

  • Received bronze and silver in local health works scheme.

The judge says:

“Chorley recognised it was facing a significant challenge from high absence and a reduction in staff numbers, and implemented an impressive range of health and wellbeing measures, including promotion of healthy eating and exercise, advice for staff, and interventions to tackle stress and MSDs.”

IPC Media

The team: Reward and Wellbeing

Number in team: 3

Number of staff the team is responsible for: 2,100

About the organisation

IPC Media is the UK’s leading consumer magazine publisher with about 90 brands, selling 350 million magazines every year.

The challenge

In 2005, levels of sickness absence were being affected by complaints related to repetitive strain injury (RSI) and musculoskeletal injury. It launched a health initiative focused on building resilience and encouraging sustainable improvement in physical and mental wellbeing. This involved fostering a culture in which employees adopted and sustained a healthy lifestyle to reduce and prevent injury.

What the organisation did

  • Opened an on-site medical facility with a doctor and physio­ therapists, offering assessment, rehabilitation and treatment

  • Ensured early referral by linking ergonomist, facilities and IT teams closely

  • Introduced ‘stretch’ classes of prescribed exercises and activities for staff, including pilates and belly dancing

  • Promoted the service through e-mail, online and a health and benefits roadshow

  • Integrated wellbeing with other healthcare benefits and health and safety management committee.

Benefits and achievements

  • In 2007, 66% of staff believed IPC Media was ‘genuinely interested’ in their wellbeing compared with 54% in 2005 and 84% thought it demonstrated a good duty of care, up 10%

  • A 28% decrease in the number of days lost to neck or back-related problems.

  • Absence levels dropped 18% since 2005, saving £500,000.

The judge says:

“IPC identified the primary problems affecting the health and wellbeing of its staff, implemented a wide range of interventions and policies to address the problem and showed good results from these measures.”


The team: Learnpurple and Talent Toolbox

Number in team: 12

Number of staff the team is responsible for: 53

About the organisation

Started in 2001 by managing director Jane Sunley in response to the huge turnover of staff in the hospitality industry, LearnPurple specialises in talent retention, masterclasses, management development and online learning.

The challenge

Sunley found that several employees were happy in their roles but were demotivated by weight, fitness and health issues.

What the organisation did

  • Offered heavily subsided gym membership with access to facilities near homes and work, and sponsored employees to enter races or fun runs for charity

  • Created flexible hours to make gym attendance easier and encouraged colleagues to attend together to motivate and support each other

  • Employed a mobile massage company to de-stress and energise staff

  • Promoted healthy eating through sharing information, providing fresh fruit in the office at all times, home-made soups and healthy eating options brought in, and encouraging eating together

  • Provided a personal image consultant to advise staff on dressing for their new body shape

  • Booked a trip to Ibiza as an incentive and reward for meeting professional and personal goals.

Benefits and achievements

  • Employee motivation at work has improved through more energy, positive attitudes and self-confidence

  • Sickness absence has dropped by 80%, with three days taken throughout the company in 12 months

  • Staff have met and maintained their weight targets and are presenting themselves to a much higher standard, which has a positive effect on morale and clients’ perception.

The judge says:

“Despite the specific challenges it faced due to the demands of the industry and the size of the organisation, it still managed to implement a range of different measures that improved the health and wellbeing of staff and demonstrated visible commitment from the top down.”

Selex Galileo

The team: Occupational health

Number in team: 12

Number of staff the team is responsible for: 4,000

About the organisation

Selex Galileo engineers and manufactures electronic systems for civil and military platforms.

The challenge

The OH team, which is located in five sites from Edinburgh to Southampton, wanted to create interest and excitement in health in its wider context, looking at personal risk factors, and organisational and community influences using IT-based systems. It also wanted to review and update the company’s work-life balance policy to meet employees’ wellbeing needs.

What the organisation did

  • Set up a communication and consultation process starting with the senior management team and working through employee groups and team briefings using the website, company magazine and plasma TV screens

  • Introduced the creative wellbeing programme to deliver health awareness events, which were evaluated with a survey tool

  • n Started a continual review of the work-life balance policy

  • Improved absence management with a case management approach and rehabilitation programme

  • Implemented a stress management programme with action plans

  • Provided health advice drop-in clinics and spotlight articles on the intranet

  • Offered an employee assistance programme available 24/7 for employees and immediate family.

Benefits and achievements

  • The company had a sickness absence rate of 2.67% in 2007, down from 2.74% in 2004. This is below national and industry levels

  • The programme increased awareness and interest in health, increased morale, reduced risk and exposure, and improved communication and engagement, since attrition rates have dropped from 4.8% in 2004 to 2.9% in 2007. This was greatly influenced by the company’s attitude to work-life balance.

The judge says:

“This entry showed an understanding of the need to consult with staff to ensure health and wellbeing policies would match their needs. The company implemented an impressively wide range of different health and wellbeing interventions that produced measurable benefits to both their sickness, absence and staff turnover rates.”

Somerset County Council

The team: County HR service

Number in team: 10

Number of staff the team is responsible for: 17,500

About the organisation

With more than 17,000 employees across the county, Somerset County Council is Somerset’s biggest employer.

The challenge

In 2004-05, the council introduced flexible working and stress risk awareness and action plans when its sickness absence rate was 5.33 days. But in 2006-07, the number of sick days rose to 6.53, and nearly 87,000 hours were lost to mental health issues. Yet the staff survey showed mostly positive attitudes. The council decided its workforce was still comparatively healthy and productive, but it could do more to help.

What the organisation did

  • Introduced a carers’ support network and a mentor-coaching scheme accessible to all employees

  • Launched a six-week weight management programme and 24 weekly lunchtime fitness activities

  • Provided rapid access to physiotherapy and chiropractic services for certain staff

  • Trained managers in how to deal with different sickness scenarios

  • Established OH case conferences of relevant parties to provide proactive advice and action plans

  • Set up health screening pilots and a bike to work scheme.

Benefits and achievements

  • Sickness absence rate now 4.82 days, with 24% cut in hours lost to mental health issues. Rapid access to physio reduces amount of time lost

  • Health MOTs show health improvements, and screening refers 25% of attendees to their GP

  • The staff survey results show a happier workforce with all the responses to relevant questions improving by at least 3%.

The judge says:

“The council recognised that tackling high levels of stress-related absences required a focus on both the mental and physical health of its employees. It implemented a wide range of health and wellbeing initiatives and training programmes, which improved both stress levels and the overall health and wellbeing of its staff.”

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