The need to improve employee health and wellbeing has for several years been acknowledged by many businesses as part of their developing protocols.
While it’s now recognised that workplace environments and management culture have a major impact on employees’ health and wellbeing, at Bluestone National Park Resort the link between a healthy and happy staff and a positive business outcome has been adopted as part of its wider strategy.
“Staff are the lynch-pin of our business”
Debbie Rainbow, Director of Human Resources and Health & Safety for Bluestone, explains:
“At Bluestone, staff wellbeing is a priority, and employees are actively encouraged to attend its organised sessions of things like yoga or mindfulness, even during the working day. They are also all offered weekly health sessions, where blood pressure and cholesterol checks, weight management and diet advice are among the help on offer.
“Our staff are the lynch-pin of our business and therefore when they are happy and healthy, not only are they more productive and helpful, they are wonderful asset to our business. They are better equipped to make our guests’ experience of Bluestone a very positive one.”
The company’s focus on good mental health is particularly prominent, with dozens of staff trained as mental health First Aiders and staff offered counselling if they flag up issues.
It comes as the overall cost of mental health problems in Wales is an estimated £7.2 billion a year, according to the Mental Health Research Network in its report ‘Promoting mental health and preventing mental illness: the economic case for investment in Wales’.
The business recently re-launched its Employee Wellbeing Programme to engage its growing number of staff and make them aware of the services available to them.
The two day event was held at the Resort’s Village Hall and all employees were invited.
From smoking cessation, exercise classes and nutritional guidance, to mindfulness, counselling, mental health support, Bluestone has committed to continually encourage staff to take an interest in their personal wellbeing.
There were stands from local and national wellbeing and health providers, including Healthaspire, Nikki Catto counselling, Insight Health Screening, Health Assured and Stop Smoking Wales, as well as representatives from the company’s sports teams and Health and Wellbeing advisor. Representatives from the Samaritans, with whom Mrs Rainbow was previously a volunteer, were also at the event.
“Safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our workforce is our top priority”
“Over the past decade Bluestone’s workforce has grown from 300 to 700 and, with future expansion set to increase staff numbers to over 1000, there is more need than ever to nurture and develop the right employees,” added Mrs Rainbow.
“Since Bluestone was established, safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our workforce has been our top priority. Our team has consistently worked hard to develop and launch a series of bespoke programmes and initiatives designed to empower, develop and look after our entire workforce and we are extremely proud of what we have achieved.”
Following a similar event last year, the resort’s staff have already shown some impressive results.
One employee Christopher Lowe, an environmental maintenance assistant at Bluestone, said after deciding to have a health check twelve months ago, he has lost three stone as part of a wellness programme devised specifically for him.
The 28-year-old said he has never felt fitter and he has since signed up to a charity bike ride, joining 12 other employees at Bluestone to cycle from Vietnam to Cambodia, a 500k trip.
“It’s called the V2C event, and we are all raising money for various charities, including the Bluestone Foundation,” added Christopher.
All staff taking part in the V2C are raising a minimum sponsorship of £1,500 for charity, several of whom have pledged to fundraise for the Bluestone Foundation, a charitable organisation established by Bluestone to help people to help themselves through environmental, economic and social projects across Pembrokeshire.
“Cycling for charity is a great incentive in itself,” added Christopher. “More than that, though, as a team we’re also training together, which creates great camaraderie and a really good working atmosphere.”
Christopher was spurred into action having been told he could be susceptible to heart problems due to his weight.
“Basically I was told if I didn’t address my weight I could be at risk. I was given advice about diet and exercise and, because we were encouraged to do fitness activities at work, I soon began to shed the pounds and became much healthier.”
Similarly Ruth Thompson, 62, a payroll officer a Bluestone, attends a free aqua aerobics class facilitated by her employers. She too is taking part in the V2C.
“I’m probably fitter now than I was in 40s. The aqua aerobics has really made a difference, as has the cycle challenge. I have lots more energy to play with my grandchildren, and it genuinely is because I was encouraged to exercise as part of the wellness programme.”
Bluestone commended by ‘Time to Change Wales’
Rachelle Bright from Time to Change Wales, a Welsh Government funded programme devised to tackle the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health issues in the workplace, commended the work already undertaken at Bluestone.
“Bluestone has established mental health first aiders, so is already recognising and addressing the fact that around one in four people will suffer with some mental health issue,” said Ms Bright.
“The business is now among 75 large organisations across Wales about to sign a pledge to be engaged in mental health awareness amongst its staff. I’m hoping to recruit champions within the business. This isn’t to train people to be counsellors. It’s about giving the opportunity for employees to come together and discuss their ideas for the sustainability of good mental health. It might just be that staff organise a weekly run together, giving them an opportunity to chat about any issues they may have.”
Ms Bright said that research suggests that 95% of employees calling in sick with stress gave a different reason.
“It shows that employers won’t necessarily recognise stress as a problem among their staff. It’s worth investment when you consider that more than £1bn is lost to businesses in Wales because of mental health sickness.”
The Bluestone Wellbeing Programme is available to all members of staff, including new starters. Employees are also encouraged to sign up to the company’s sports teams including rugby and netball, as well as a signing group which meets once a fortnight.