Ipswich Building Society is reaping the rewards of its employee health and wellbeing initiative with a dramatic fall in absenteeism and staff churn.
The 110-strong building society embarked on a health and wellbeing programme four years ago. Since then, absenteeism rates have plummeted 48%, staff turnover has dropped to a record low and it has outperformed its sector competitors.
This year, the building society has organised a full calendar events to promote healthier, less stressful lifestyles. Physical challenges will include a pedometer competition to determine which department or branch regularly walks the furthest.
Mental health is just as important. Staff will be encouraged to take part in desk yoga, board games and puzzles to help them switch off and relax from work – anything to stop them sitting at their desks for eight hours without taking a break.
“It’s not all about making people fit, it’s about their mental health and wellbeing too,” points out Ipswich Building Society managing director Paul Winter.
“I try and encourage everyone to take a break or play a board game and to talk to people. Don’t sit at your desk thinking you’re more productive, because you are not.”
The inspiration to set up initiative when Winter heard former sprint and hurdle champion Kriss Akabusi speak about the benefits of a healthy workforce. “The penny dropped for me,” says Winter. “It was so obvious: having a happy workforce and a healthy workforce would make a more productive workforce.
"If a customer comes into a branch and sees staff are unhappy, it’s not going to make them feel valued.”
Feedback from staff has been positive and 80% of employees take part in the scheme in some way.
It helps that Winter and the rest of the senior team actually walk the talk – Winter himself runs marathons, while the finance director takes part in canoeing marathons.
Despite the success of the initiative and financial gains for the building society, the costs of setting up the scheme have been minimal: total budget for 2013 is just £2,000.
“The message I try to get out to other businesses is it doesn’t have to be big things or expensive,” says Winter.
After four years, the scheme has gained a momentum all of its own and staff are more likely at local level to take the initiative without encouragement.
But there are incentives in place too.Employees who take part in certain activities can gain reward points that can be traded in for time-off or discounts on items such as healthy food or activities.