health at work

Jean-Christophe Fonfreyde, Head of Reward at Wellcome, outlines the charitable trust’s approach to providing rounded support for staff.

Wellcome is a global charitable foundation, politically and financially independent, supporting scientists and researchers looking for ways to improve health across the world.

Our mission is to improve health for everyone – and our own 750 employees must be no exception.

Given the world Wellcome works in, we could not be better placed to access the knowledge on prevention, detection and intervention to protect and foster workforce wellbeing.

It would be wrong, however, to suggest that Wellcome has the perfect system yet. Since moving to Wellcome a year ago, my focus has been on trying to ensure our employees’ benefits are built in a cohesive fashion and are aligned with the overall Reward Framework, which is itself aligned with the People and Organisational Strategies and supports Wellcome’s culture.

The recent Employee Benefits Watch report from Thomsons Online Benefits found employers are failing to align their wellbeing programmes with their employees’ needs. To prevent that, last summer, we carried out a comprehensive reward survey that was completed by two thirds of the organisation. That qualitative and quantitative feedback gave us a really good idea of how aware people were of their benefits, how well they understood them, if they had used them at all and how their experience had been.

As a result, we reviewed our providers, identified gaps in our offering and started to look at improving our internal communications. We are in the process of launching a really exciting Benefits Portal that will greatly improve the way we engage our employees, while streamlining processes.

I like to think of the elements of wellness as pillars supporting the roof of a Greek temple. Without any one of the pillars, strength is compromised – leaving both individuals and employers at risk. We devote such a huge part of our lives to work. For employers and employees alike, it is therefore vital that holistic wellbeing is an integral part of everyday corporate life. At Wellcome we support employees across four wellness pillars: physical, mental, financial and environmental.

Our approach also takes into consideration every stage of employee wellness, from prevention to detection to rehabilitation – addressing the root causes of problems, as well as symptoms. We aim to provide a range of benefits to meet the commitments of our wellness pillars, such as an on-site gym and physiotherapy treatments, access to a nutritionist, pension clinics and a robust network of Mental Health First Aiders.

Activities are available before, during and after the working day. Communal spaces in the building also offer the chance for yoga and pilates classes and arts and crafts activities. Our choir is doing very well.

It is important to have clearly defined parameters when introducing new benefits. Flexibility is one of those. When we introduced a new Defined Contribution pension scheme, we ensured that a percentage of the employer’s contribution could be taken as cash by employees wishing to do so. Mobile technology is another parameter and new suppliers must be able to demonstrate that they can supply their services through multiple channels.

All four pillars are vital. Financial worries, for example, may have an adverse effect on both mental and physical health. If the working environment is ailing, it affects motivation and ability to work. Cultivating a working environment where the benefits of emotional wellbeing and physical health are understood by all and are nourished cannot be overstated. The culture a company creates impacts the outlook and capacity of its people.
And for myself? I have three golden workday rules: always take a lunch break (an hour, not three as stereotypes about French people might suggest); try to work in increments of 50 minutes of full concentration, followed by 10 minutes of lower activity; try to stick to my activity and nutrition plan.