Personnel Today Awards 2014 winners: Hertfordshire Council top Health at Work category

Hertfordshire County Council win 2014 Health at Work Award.
Hertfordshire County Council win 2014 Health at Work Award.

Hertfordshire County County Council saw off stiff competition to win the trophy for Health at Work at the Personnel Today Awards 2014. The award, sponsored by NHS Employers, was an opportunity to showcase organisations that can demonstrate how specific employee health, fitness or wellbeing initiatives are making a positive impact on performance. Here, we review the council’s achievements and profile the other employers shortlisted.


Winner: Hertfordshire County Council

About the organisation

Hertfordshire County Council is the upper-tier local authority for the non-metropolitan county of Hertfordshire. It provides services for children, schools, libraries, environmental services, older people and people with disabilities.

The challenge

With the economic downturn, the demands placed upon Hertfordshire County Council staff changed rapidly, putting it under new and increased pressures to deliver more with fewer resources. It wanted to ease this pressure with an affordable, in-house health and wellbeing programme to boost employee engagement, satisfaction, morale, retention and performance, as well as improving the health, wellbeing and resilience of the workforce.

What the organisation did

  • Launched “Healthy Herts” health and wellbeing strategy in 2013, which sought to improve the health and wellbeing of the workforce and provide a good practice model for other employers on raising health awareness within their workforces.
  • Focussed on four pillars of activity: staying active; healthy eating; mental wellbeing; and flexible lifestyles.
  • Provided a range of health benefits including competitive discounts for healthy activities, sponsored activities, a cycle scheme, and lunch-hour events.
  • Included nutritional information in canteens so employees can make informed choices.
  • Provided dedicated space at work for on-site classes, massage and reflexology.
  • Upgraded shower/changing facilities so that employees can exercise at lunch, or cycle or run to work.
  • Introduced employee suggestion scheme called “Pulse Check”, which resulted in lunchtime Thai Chi classes and a breast cancer support group.
  • Set up a smoking cessation campaign, and provided free Weight Watchers/Slimming World sessions for staff.
  • Worked with Business in the Community, in partnership with public health colleagues, to champion a set of tools to share with other organisations.

Benefits and achievements

  • More than 600 staff signed up to “workplace fitness challenge” – an online league table with subleague for sites/teams.
  • Sickness absence for the whole organisation reduced to 5.2 days in 2014 from 9.5 days in 2009.
  • Employee engagement increased to 63% in 2013 from 49% in 2011.
  • Three-quarters of employees feel their manager is “sensitive to life outside of work”.
  • Stop smoking sessions have high attendance and a 64% quit rate (above the national quit rate of 60%).
  • Occupational health referrals resulted in quicker support for stress and mental health issues – usage increased 38%.
  • More than 200 employees have attended on-site classes/alternative therapies, including reflexology, Zumba and pilates.
  • Eight employees saw GP because of blood pressure levels and bowel cancer awareness resulted in seven people receiving support.

Judges’ comments

“An active and ongoing programme that is well considered and managed. The results are very good and show how gains can be made year on year.”


RUNNERS-UP

Department for Work and Pensions

About the organisation

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy. As the UK’s biggest public-service department it administers the state pension and a range of working age, disability and ill-health benefits to more than 22 million claimants and customers.

Health at Work – the judges

Dr Fiona Robson, principal lecturer, Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University
Eugene Farrell, head of crisis and trauma support services, AXA PPP Healthcare
Noel O’Reilly, editor, Occupational Health

The challenge

With no additional funding, DWP needed to deliver and promote health and wellbeing initiatives that not only met business need by cutting sickness absence and improving engagement and performance, but also met employees’ needs by being accessible and actively motivating them to get healthier.

What the organisation did

  • Created a network of more than 2,000 “wellbeing champions” (across 800 UK sites) who continuously deliver wellbeing events that meet local need.
  • Forged successful partnerships with health-promoting organisations in their area, for example British Heart Foundation, Change4Life, NHS Choices, Mind, and Drink Aware.
  • Encouraged colleagues to take online health assessments addressing risk factors including stress, physical activity, nutrition/diet and sleep, and has organised/supported health-promoting campaigns including the Civil Service Walking Challenge.
  • Set up an innovative physio advice line service, which offers immediate advice and treatment for musculoskeletal injury.
  • Offered an eyecare service, which can also identify underlying health issue.
  • Provided an employee assistance programme that offers counselling and health and wellbeing information 24/7, and workplace wellbeing/resilience sessions.
  • Created a reasonable adjustments support team that ensures that all workplace needs for disabled staff are met.
  • Launched a wellbeing intranet website.
  • Arranged for an occupational health doctor to deliver health and wellbeing broadcasts on a huge range of topics including back pain, musculoskeletal conditions, pregnancy/post-natal depression, mental health conditions, short-term/long-term conditions, and cancer awareness.

Benefits and achievements

  • Physiotherapy service delivers a return on investment figure of 5:1.
  • Majority (97%) of employees find the service engaging and easy to access and 96% find their exercises easy to access and carry out.
  • Ninety-two per cent of employees feel empowered to manage their condition, while 94% would use the service again.
  • A total of 85% of employees report that their condition is fully or partially cured by their physiotherapy treatment.
  • Average sickness absence per employee continues to fall, with a record low reported in June 2014 of 6.8 working days – estimated to save around £26 million per year.
  • Wellbeing champions report improvements in engagement and morale of 62%.

Judges’ comments

“It is clear that the HR team have a strong commitment to enhancing health and wellbeing and, where employees choose to engage, they have access to many benefits.”


Horder Healthcare

About the organisation

Horder Healthcare is an independent healthcare provider and charity that delivers elective orthopaedic and musculoskeletal services from its hospital, The Horder Centre in East Sussex, with a number of strategically placed outreach centres in the area.

The challenge

Although the organisation had many initiatives and incentives in place to ensure that it was providing the best possible environment for its employees, it wanted to encourage staff who worked the majority of their time at desks to take short exercise breaks.

What the organisation did

  • Already had a number of existing health and wellbeing initiatives in place, including free company gym; healthy eating/drinking options; stop smoking/weight loss/stress support; eye test vouchers; free flu vaccinations; and regular wellness seminars.
  • Encouraged IT, physiotherapy and marketing teams to work together to create various exercises aimed at encouraging staff to exercise at their work areas.
  • Implemented a scheme whereby an employee logs onto their computer and receives a pop-up message approximately two hours after logging on asking if they would like to take an exercise break to which they can select yes or no – selecting yes will give them the option of following an exercise video lasting just 5 minutes on light cardio, posture, circulation or stretches.
  • Once exercise is finished, employees receive a further pop up message asking if they want to exercise again in approximately four hours’ time.
  • Designed videos to be fun and informative while benefiting the body through gentle exercise.
  • Inspired employees to become “promoters” and “champions” of the scheme. They attended departmental meetings to inform other employees about exercise videos and to encourage their use.
  • Encouraged champions to speak about the benefits of the exercises and the importance of regular activity while sitting at a desk all day.
  • Informed employees, via messages on-screen, of the benefits of physical exercise when selecting a category.

Benefits and achievements

  • Employee feedback received is fantastic – they are really benefiting from the exercises and are expecting this to contribute to a reduction in absence and sickness.
  • Employees have also stated that it aids their concentration as it reminds them to take a few minutes away from their computers and do some gentle exercises.
  • Encouraged a team spirit as the employees can do the exercises together at their computers, which has resulted in a great deal of fun and laughter.
  • Staff survey results demonstrate response rate of 81% and an overall engagement score of 4.1 (a typical UK company would expect a score of 3.3 to 3.6).
  • Won a Simply Health Wellbeing Workplace Award in 2013, further endorsing commitment to the health and wellbeing of its staff.

Judges’ comments

“Simple initiative building upon previous wellbeing program, well considered and good results.”


Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company

About the organisation

Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) works with adult offenders in the community to protect the public and reduce reoffending. It supervises an average of 3,500 offenders at any one time and is responsible for the majority of probation services across Northumbria.

The challenge

Recognising the significant impact on employees of the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, which outlined major restructuring proposals for probation trusts, CRC needed to invest significant resources to ensure that employee health and wellbeing was a key priority.

What the organisation did

  • Introduced corporate gym membership, to which staff in all business areas signed up.
  • Enabled employee assistance programme (EAP) to be open to employees and their family members.
  • Recruited health advocates in each business unit, opened up to all employees, regardless of grade.
  • Introduced initiatives ranging from lunchtime yoga classes to weekend bike rides.
  • Employee survey results prompted initiatives including DIY health checks using a Tanita monitor, which gives a “metabolic health reading”. Machines were rolled out across the region to enable employees to set themselves a health and wellbeing goal.
  • Introduced a competitive element between business areas and staff wore pedometers to measure their steps for a week.
  • Implemented an alcohol awareness campaign, which used quizzes and games to promote safe levels of alcohol consumption.

Benefits and achievements

  • EAP programme saw a take-up rate of 5.2%, which is above all benchmarks noted by AXA.
  • Impact of the Tanita monitor was significant – 47.7% of employees made changes to their lifestyle; and 44% felt that the monitor had made a difference to their health and wellbeing.
  • There were notable overall improvements to visceral fat rating, systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings.
  • Three-quarters of staff said the campaign has made them consider how active they are, with 80% having considered or made changes as a result.
  • Around one-third of employees (31%) felt that alcohol campaign raised awareness of how much they consumed and 35% felt it made a difference to their health and wellbeing.
  • In 2013, 40% of those that used the Tanita health monitors said they would like them to return, therefore monitors were re-introduced in early 2014.
  • A significant number (85%) of employees felt that their overall health and wellbeing at work, and at home, had improved.
  • Employees lost a total of 73.5lbs, collectively reducing their BMI by 13kg/m2 and their body fat percentage by 30.9%.
  • Reduced sickness absence by 2.56 days (from 11.60 days in April 2013, to 9.04 days in April 2014).

Judges’ comments

“Good evidence of consulting employees on where the organisational priorities should be in relation to health and wellbeing.”


Sandwell Council

About the organisation

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council is one of the largest metropolitan borough councils in the country with a population of more than 309,000. Sandwell employs approximately 5,000 people (excluding school-based staff) who provide a wide range of services for residents and businesses.

The challenge

Sandwell is a multicultural borough and faces many challenges as one of the most deprived places to live in the country. It faces unprecedented budget cuts over the course of the next three years, which could have a huge impact on service delivery. In order to minimise the impact of these cuts, employees need to be “happy, healthy and here at work”. Among its corporate priorities, the council states that it “will continue to tackle the number of days that people working for the council have off sick.”

What the organisation did

  • Established a programme entitled “Taking control – your health, your future” in the summer of 2013, bringing together existing employee wellbeing initiatives and targeting the three primary causes for sickness absence: stress; infections; and muscular skeletal conditions.
  • Created an effective communication and marketing strategy, including branding and producing promotional material.
  • Designed and developed a dedicated health and wellbeing intranet site.
  • Researched organisational and national sickness absence data.
  • Established a reporting mechanism at director/stakeholder level.
  • Scheduled three one-day employee health and wellbeing events: “Understanding stress, change and resilience”; “Building immunity in our community…”; and “It’s time to hit pain where it hurts”.
  • Set up dedicated pages on the intranet site, which included sickness absence management toolkits, policies and e-learning.
  • Success of events led to further regular, planned sessions around managing stress, weight loss and general health checks.
  • Set up “Slimwell” weightloss sessions.

Benefits and achievements

  • Total working days lost reduced by 8.7%, from 12,459 in 2012/13 to 11,369 in 2013/14. Resulted in an estimated cost saving of £103,037.
  • Infections related absence reduced by 11%, from 8,561 in 2012/13 to 7,619 in 2013/14. Estimated cost saving of £89,043.
  • Total weight loss from the Slimwell sessions among all employees who signed up for the programme of more than 23 stone.
  • More than 750 employees have received “Over 40s health checks” and more than 100 have received an “Under 40s health check”.
  • One health check resulted in an employee being rushed to hospital for potentiality lifesaving treatment in relation to a blood pressure related condition.
  • Earlier referrals to occupational health for stress-related conditions have increased by 30% due to greater awareness raising.

Judges’ comments

“A varied program with some challenges. The gains for the organisation have been very good with impressive savings in working days lost that has translated into financial savings too.”


Surrey County Council

About the organisation

Surrey County Council is responsible for a number of local public services in Surrey. These include the standard responsibilities of county councils in England and Wales, such as transport and highway management, waste disposal and education.

The challenge

With more than 56,000 absence days recorded in 2008 and under-reporting, it was clear that the absence management process needed a rethink. The multi-faceted nature of absence and wellbeing was not well understood and a positive wellbeing approach was not being embraced. Between 25% and 30% of stress absences were not referred to OH for more than four months, resulting in longer-term mental health challenges.

What the organisation did

  • Launched a campaign, “Stay Healthy – Stay Well”, designed to significantly raise the bar and focus on workplace wellbeing.
  • Introduced “NHS Health Checks” – a free, in-house, local employee inititiative for all staff over the age of 40, which included an assessment of underlying health risks, and blood tests for cholesterol and diabetes, height, weight, blood pressure, lifestyle, drinking, smoking and dementia.
  • Offered a smoking cessation initiative, Stoptober, which provided 30-minute ongoing consultations with a smoking cessation expert.
  • Held emotional and mental wellbeing management masterclasses – 90-minute sessions, delivered by OH and EAP, that focussed on legal duty of care, creating healthy workplaces, supporting early signs of poor mental health and common conditions.
  • Developed “New Start” programme, which offered “stepping stone” work placements for people with severe mental health challenges.
  • Introduced a new employee assistance programme – involving a 24-hour confidential helpline, including telephone, face to face counselling, online cognitive behavioural therapy and debt counselling.
  • Implemented SMARTER, a working programme dedicated to improving flexible working.
  • Offered initiatives including “Mindfullness Mediation”, yoga and yogarobics, and “walk to work” week.
  • Created “Fairness Champions” – a network of more than 70 staff over 40 locations across the county trained to support wellbeing, flexible working, bullying and harassment, reasonable adjustments and domestic violence issues.

Benefits and achievements

  • Since September 2013, 429 30-minute Health Checks delivered, with GP referrals as necessary, contributing directly into DoH Community Targets. A further 500 Health Checks will be offered in 2014/15.
  • Held 18 unique smoking cessation sessions; much higher than average rates.
  • Masterclass sessions attended by 243 managers (50% of all managers).
  • New Start programme saw 31 six-week council placements completed during 2013/14, with 51% candidates going on to paid work opportunities.
  • More than 200 team workshops have been held across services, agreeing local ways of working.
  • From 12.5 days average per FTE per year, the council currently stand at 6.5 days per FTE, almost halving the number of absence days (the current public-sector benchmark is 8.7 days).
  • Reported an excess of £10 million worth of savings.

Judges’ comments

“Well-constructed program delivering considerable savings for the organisation.”


University of Sheffield

About the organisation

Sheffield University is ranked 18th in the UK, 50th in Europe and 121st in the world according to the 2014/15 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and it is one of the top 10 UK research-intensive universities.

The challenge

The University wanted to create an environment that enabled its staff to feel valued, energised and engaged to excel at the highest level. To do this, it needed to place employees’ health and wellbeing at the heart of its employment offer.

What the organisation did

  • Created a vibrant, fun and easy to use employee health and wellbeing programme, “Juice”.
  • Introduced The Knowledge Bank, a wide-ranging online resource with information, advice and research on health, nutrition, exercise and mental and social wellbeing.
  • Set up a comprehensive programme of physical, mental and social activities, accessible via the Juice website: www.sheffield.ac.uk/juice. These included “bootcamp” sessions, swimming, Tai Chi and Pilates, as well as a book club, choir and meditation classes.
  • Encouraged staff, students and alumni help shape and deliver Juice’s content, acting as volunteer health and wellbeing advocates.
  • Helped staff make informed choices and adopt healthy behaviours and lifestyles.

Benefits and achievements

  • Number of people who participated in the health and wellbeing programme over a sustained period of time increased to 25%.
  • The 2014 Staff Survey shows that 74% of employees are aware of Juice and 24% have taken part in at least one Juice activity.
  • Since the programme’s launch there have been more than 60,000 website hits and more than 5,000 activities booked.
  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of staff said they had the opportunity for personal development and growth at the University, compared with 61% in 2012.
  • Number of employees feeling inspired to “do their best work every day” increased to 83% from 76% in 2012, while 65% felt valued by the University, compared with 55% the year before.
  • An increased number of staff felt a strong sense of “belonging” to the University – 80% compared with 66% in 2012, while 87% would recommend the University as an excellent place to work, compared with 75% in 2012.
  • Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health has seen sickness absence rates fall from 4.4 to 4; Faculty of Engineering – down from 2.6 to 2.3; Faculty of Science – down from 3.2 to 1.9.
  • Juice won the High Performance HR category of the 2014 University HR Awards.

Judges’ comments

“Strong focus on wellbeing and good to see a clear alignment with other organisational strategies.”


Vaultex

About the organisation

Established in 2007 from a joint venture between Barclays Bank and HSBC, Vaultex is now the UK’s leading cash processor, collecting and crediting cash to and from customers such as retailers, financial institutions, hospitality businesses and ATM deployers.

The challenge

Vaultex staff work shifts in a number of different roles: from sitting at workstations sorting and counting cash, to standing, bundling, packaging and loading money into trolleys. The work can be repetitive and requires accuracy and concentration without distraction. With a companywide turnover figure of 30% (the average national figure is 10.6%) and sickness levels of 15% (the average is 1.8% for the private sector according to the Office for National Statistics), the Vaultex HR team recognised that something needed to be done to alleviate some of the stress associated with the working conditions.

What the organisation did

  • Introduced a cycle to work scheme – staff can now receive 40% off a new bike and 50% off cycle training.
  • Organised an annual charity football tournament, now in its third year, which encourages healthy competition between sites.
  • Enabled employees to save up to 40% on gym membership – Vaultex pays for the membership upfront and employees make monthly salary contributions.
  • Provided offers on health-related services – including sports-related injuries, health insurance, exercise equipment, holistic therapies and professional advice on nutrition.
  • Set up a white label web portal, VaulteXtra, offering discounts and cashback from a large number of major retailers including Holland & Barratt, Weight Watchers, Fitness First, Glasses Direct, The Dental Clinic, Spabreaks.com, Sk:n Clinic, Lloyds Pharmacy and Boots.
  • Introduced occupational health referrals, return-to-work interviews, group income protection for long-term illness or injury, and group life assurance.
  • Organised an annual “family fun day”, which took place at Alton Towers last year and more than 1,300 employees and their families attended.
  • Updated facilities, such as installing soft matting in areas where workers are standing for long periods of time, and investing in new workstations, desks, chairs and state of the art operating machinery.
  • Renovated sites to include more relaxing rest areas with televisions and new kitchens.

Benefits and achievements

  • Employee turnover reduced from 30% to 7% – below the national average of 11.9% according to the CIPD.
  • Reduced sickness absence levels from 15% to 3% which is now below the national average of 3.8% according to the CIPD.
  • Since opening the membership of group life assurance, one family has received a payment in excess of £60,000 where previously no payment would have been made.
  • Achieved Investors in People Gold Status (Vaultex was just 10 points from the highest possible score).
  • Overall engagement score increased to 62% from 56% in the last 12 months.
  • Majority (87%) of employers are registered with VaulteXtra and have made savings of more than £250,000.

Judges’ comments

“The program has achieved considerable success with a great effect upon the business. Staff turnover has dramatically reduced and absence back to a realistic level. A really good example of how to do things well.”

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