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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Wellbeing Week rewards GCS employees
Article Type: Rewards From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 11, Issue 5
Short case studies and research papers that demonstrate best practice in rewards
Amanda ClearyAmanda Cleary is based at GCS.
GCS Recruitment Specialists is a multi-discipline recruitment agency operating within the technology, engineering, digital media, financial services, accountancy and marketing sectors. Incorporated in 1991, the company has grown organically to employ over 80 staff and enjoys a turnover of around £30 million. The company was named Best Medium Business at the 2011 Global Recruiter awards and has received the Best Companies 3-Star Accreditation in three consecutive years.
Employee input leads to Wellbeing Week
Issues that have been raised due to feedback from the Best Companies organization are those of “giving something back” and staff wellbeing. Whilst none of the category scores have been less than strong, these are the two areas in which GCS scored the least in both 2010 and 2011. In order to address these issues, the company turned to its people for inspiration.
A Bright Ideas forum was in place following the development of a best practice team within the organization. Each sub-team within the company brings one idea to a quarterly forum and the best three ideas are selected by communal vote. These are then presented to the directors, who select and sign off on the implementation of the best idea.
The company selected the creation of a Wellbeing Week as the best concept put forward at a Bright Ideas forum in June 2011 with a view to implementing the initiative over the summer. It was felt that Wellbeing Week would give something back to the staff, while raising awareness of health standards in the workplace would reduce sick leave and lead to GCS employees feeling healthier and happier.
Offering a range of health initiatives
Precious Health Ltd., a specialist in corporate wellness programs, was selected to help arrange and oversee the process. This company was chosen because of its pedigree of dealing with Sunday Times Top 100 Small Companies To Work For, such as GCS. In advance of delivery, Precious Health surveyed GCS employees, asking why they had decided to book in for a health check. Answers included “to keep an eye on my health,” “I have never had one” or “have not had one in a long time,” “to see if I need to improve my diet” and “interested in finding out how healthy I am.” These results generally suggest that GCS staff felt a health check would be beneficial and were interested in the results but a large majority would not have pursued this at their own cost and in their own time.
Following are the individual components of Wellness Week, which were provided to all staff members at no cost:
a health check to test BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, run by Precious Health;
individual nutrition advice, provided by Precious Health;
a visual acuity test, run by Boots Eye Care;
ten minute at-desk head and shoulder massage, provided by Urban Chill;
the formation and inaugural event of a GCS running club; and
presentations by the British Heart Foundation and Orchid over a healthy lunch.
On the first day of Wellbeing Week, each GCS employee was greeted with a letter accompanied by a bottle of Actimel, a dairy drink designed to help strengthen the body’s defences. The letter outlined what the purpose of the week was and explained when and why the various activities would occur, so all staff were fully aware of the schedule. Fruit bowls replaced candy dishes at reception and were stocked with somewhat more exotic fruit to pique the interest of employees. The company also provided each staff member with a bottle of pro-biotic yoghurt for each day of the week. Leaflets were distributed regarding weight loss, quitting smoking and maintaining healthy bowels.
Overcoming the time and organization challenges
The main challenge of the week was ensuring enthusiastic participation across the company. Since salespeople are, by nature, competitive and focused individuals, trying to distract them from their primary task of placing business can be difficult and counter-productive. This was handled by spacing out the activities so there was not more than one extra-curricular event per day, and pre-booking time slots for the health checks, eye test and massage. In this way, all salespeople knew how much of their sales time they would be “losing” and where in the day this cessation of work would fall. The event was also specifically arranged for the week leading up to the August bank holiday, which is typically one of the more quiet business weeks of the year.
Another challenge was organization of the event. Although execution was run by Precious Health, getting everything arranged and set up ahead of time was a huge amount of work for the PA to the MDs, taking her away from her regular workload. There was no way around this – to implement a new initiative was going to be time consuming but GCS believed strongly in the benefit of the project.
A final challenge was ensuring that the right balance was struck between doing too much and doing too little. The choice of running the initiative over a whole week made the process more digestible and it was felt that touching on several areas would be more beneficial than selecting one specific area within intra-office health and going into great depth with it. The company did not want to make employees feel like they were being forced to do something against their will but did not want to understate the importance of health at work either. The ultimate goal was to encourage employees to want to take the initiative further beyond the end of the initial Wellbeing Week.
Raising awareness of health
Results of the health checks showed that 50 percent of GCS staff fell into the “overweight” BMI classification, although 18 percent of these were noted as being “athletic” (BMI does not compensate for muscle tissue weighing more than fat). Seven percent of GCS staff were classed as “obese” and there was no clear age pattern in results, although those 24 and under tended to have a lower BMI.
Blood pressure results showed that 54 percent of staff were exhibiting prehypertension, with 17 percent exhibiting Stage 1 hypertension. Cholesterol results were good, with only 2 members of staff at the “mildly high” level. Most blood glucose measurements were within normal parameters, although a number of readings were higher or lower than would be expected for the time of day tested, which suggests early problems with glycaemic control. The greatest extremities tended to occur with those under 25.
Whilst the majority of the blood glucose results were fine, one particular case presented an extremely high result. The individual in question was advised to seek further testing with her GP and has since been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.
A positive response and future plans
GCS employees responded positively to the initiative, even going as far as becoming competitive over who had the lowest cholesterol readings. Three months on from Wellbeing Week, the running clubs were still in operation, a number of employees had stopped smoking and general feedback indicated that the tests and nutrition advice have benefited staff health and energy levels. The company has also joined the Boots Corporate Eye Care Scheme, enabling staff to charge their eye tests directly to the GCS account, as well as GCS providing vouchers to cover the cost of a pair of single vision glasses for those who have been identified as needing glasses to use a computer screen.
A post-event survey by Precious Health discovered that nearly half of GCS’ workforce would be interested in attending further healthy eating and nutritional programs, as well as a stress workshop. These have been taken into consideration and will likely feature as part of GCS’ 2012 Wellbeing Week, planned hereafter to be an annual event.
About the author
Amanda Cleary is GCS Resource Manager. She left the retail sector to join GCS in 2002 and has progressed from being a junior administrator to overseeing company resource in both the GCS London office and the GCS Reading headquarters. Amanda Cleary can be contacted at: email@example.com