Wellness in waste

Written by: Lucy Brooks | Published:
The Clarity Environmental team has undertaken over 170 personal sessions together

The waste sector has one of the highest rates of injury and work-related illness of any industry in the UK, according to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), with musculoskeletal disorders, stress, depression or anxiety often cited as reasons for absence.

And while there is increasing awareness among all sectors of the importance of protecting the mental and physical wellbeing of their workforce, there is more work to be done.

In a recent study by 3GEM Research for Home Leisure Direct, just over half of employees said their managers do not care about their working environment.

And with 65% admitting that they would consider switching employers for a better working environment, whether your workforce is manual or deskbound it is clear that this is an issue that business leaders should take seriously.

One business taking action to improve the wellbeing of its employees is compliance scheme operator Clarity Environmental, which introduced new measures to support the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of its staff in January 2018.

One year on, and the business says it has seen improvements not only in sickness rates, recruitment and retention of staff, but also team working and productivity.

“Our industry is not known for prioritising the health and wellbeing of its employees,” says David Honcoop, Clarity Environmental managing director.

“But it has always been clear that our people are our biggest asset and we wanted to follow through on our promise to help our teams to be as happy and healthy as they can be, and to achieve a work-life balance. We would like to lead the way in improving employee relations for the waste and resource sector by setting an example.”

Clarity Environmental’s initiative involved creating structures within the business that enabled and encouraged team members to be the healthiest they can be, monitored their wellbeing, and provided opportunities to access a range of resources that would help to keep them physically well and with a positive mindset.

Staff members now have access to personal training and yoga sessions in the office, a meditation training course, and mental health mentors. Monthly wellbeing campaigns are designed to help team members to support their own wellbeing, and staff are encouraged to get involved with our corporate social responsibility programme.

Encouraging a healthy lifestyle

Daily exercise is believed to reduce stress, increase productivity, lower incidences of illness and improve quality of sleep. More than 20 million people in the UK, for instance, are physically inactive, which costs the NHS £1.2bn a year, according to the British Heart Foundation.

There are a variety of ways a business can encourage physical activity, from simply promoting the benefits of an active lifestyle to providing gym memberships and enabling flexible working hours to allow time for exercise.

Clarity Environmental took steps to increase activity by arranging for personal trainers to run exercise sessions three times a week. Honcoop says the team have embraced these classes, but consideration had to be made for its diverse workforce.

“We understand that not all of our staff want to take part in boxercise, for example, but may be more interested in yoga”, he says. “But by having personal trainers coming into our office, they have been able to adapt the training for the variety of physical abilities and needs of the individuals.”

Since the programme started, the team has undertaken over 170 personal training sessions together, creating a shift in fitness for many members of the team, with some now taking part in a range of challenges for charity, such as half marathons, in their spare time.

The importance of healthy minds

In addition to physical health, in recent years there has been increased focus on the importance of a healthy mind.

Mental health charity Mindbelieves that one in six workers is currently dealing with mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, and it recommends focus should be placed on creating a working environment without stigma around discussing mental health and wellbeing.

Paying attention to mental health in the workplace has never been more important, but many businesses struggle with where to start. Honcoop says tackling this issue is more complex than physical activity.

“Mental health can be more challenging to address because problems often go unrecognised, and it is ongoing. We introduced monitoring, with happiness questionnaires that enable us to review the general wellbeing of our staff and flag up those who may be struggling with work pressures, work load or other issues.”

A range of resources and toolkits are available for businesses of all sizes on the Mental Health at Work website, run by Mind, which provides ideas on how to improve culture and develop policy and practice.

Training is also available and Clarity Environmental is currently in the process of identifying mental health mentors within the business who will be trained to recognise and work with any of the team who may have issues.

With meditation becoming increasingly popular as a way to reduce stress, many high-profile business leaders and sports personalities have been promoting the benefits of Transcendental Meditation; a simple type of meditation that enables your mind and body to access a special quality of rest.

Clarity Environmental has taken up this less conventional route to address mental health, with all employees provided with the opportunity to take a course.

Improving wellbeing by doing good

In recent years, the waste sector has placed increased focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, operating in a more ethical and sustainable way to limit environmental and social impacts.

With a strong link between doing something good and a feeling of personal wellbeing, involving your staff in your drive to do good can encourage a happier workforce.

In the same year that Clarity Environmental introduced its staff wellbeing programme, it also launched Clarity Cares; a commitment to donate 1% of its profits to charity each quarter.

Seeing an opportunity to combine this commitment with the wellbeing measures, Clarity has given team members an active role in deciding where the donations are made, which they say has helped to bring the team together as they strive for a shared vision.

Productivity with a healthier workforce

Prioritising health and wellbeing may not be at the forefront of priorities as a business strives for growth, but taking action to look after employee wellbeing can transform a business, and Clarity Environmental has found a direct correlation between the two.

Since introducing its wellbeing programme and charitable vision, the company has seen a marked decrease in sickness, a significant increase in overall happiness, improvements in recruitment and retention, and overall business growth.

“I’m absolutely sold on the benefits of placing increased focus on wellbeing at work,” concludes Honcoop. “When we set out on this journey, our main aim was to help our people achieve a better work-life balance, and we are delighted to have seen such a positive effect on our employees.

The added bonus is that, by doing so, we have also seen a marked increase in business productivity. A healthy workplace leads to happier staff and happier customers and the team works together better than ever.”

Lucy Brooks is communications manager at Clarity Environmental

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