The concept of wellbeing is always evolving. As our understanding of physical, mental, emotional and other forms of health develops, so too does their relevance to business plans and employee support.

In the current climate, they have become more important than ever.

Employee wellbeing is at the heart of Sodexo’s people-first philosophy and this is especially true now that work and life for our 32,000 employees in the UK and Ireland have changed dramatically, in ways no one saw coming.

In the near future, support for employee wellbeing is going to be as much about supporting our teams with the right PPE, supporting employees through furloughing and redeployment, and managing the challenges that Covid-19 is bringing, as well as supporting ongoing physical and mental health concerns.

We don’t yet know what the long-term impact of these changes will be, or what the ‘new normal’ for the workplace will look like. But we do know that support for wellbeing in all its forms needs to be a priority.

Katie Wilson, Head of Engagement and Wellbeing for Sodexo UK and Ireland, has been working on a new approach to wellbeing for our teams for some time, which led to the launch of a new campaign in late 2019.

Caring for others is what Sodexo does,” she says. “That includes caring for our employees. We have the tools and processes in place to support them, so we want them to be able to talk openly about what they need.”

Sponsors, Specialists and Champions

Sodexo’s Employee Assistance Programme provides a support line for anyone in the team, as well as members of their household. People can call the line for guidance and advice on everything from workplace conflicts to financial difficulty or bereavements.

But Katie and her team realised many people were not aware of the support available, and this support cannot be effective unless people know how and where to find it.

So, coinciding with World Mental Health Day in October 2019, a broader offering was launched with a new strategy to raise awareness.

Sponsors from the executive team helped drive interest, while Wellbeing Champions were appointed within segments of the organisation to act as a point of contact and help get the word out.

There are six areas of focus, supported by collateral, policies and training for managers:

  1. Emotional health.
  2. Physical health.
  3. Family.
  4. Life skills.
  5. Work.
  6. Managing people.

“We had to think about how we communicate,” says Katie of the challenges the new approach brought. “For those who are on site, working in hospitals, defence sites and prisons, are they accessing the intranet? Are we using the right channels? Are we reaching those in need?”

Champions played a key role here, directing people to the most relevant support for their segments. Sodexo’s learning management system now consists of various materials which people can access at work or at home on various devices.

Lady on video call with green mug

Bite-size modules have been created by training specialist Mi Crow, with searchable videos ranging from two to ten minutes in length. A playlist format similar to what might be seen on a smartphone podcast app helps make the whole offering more accessible, giving staff the instant support they need on the subjects that matter most to them.

Adapting to new priorities

Of course, the subjects that matter most have changed significantly in recent weeks and months.

Sodexo’s various systems and means of support have positioned us well, but adapting the focus and priorities has been key to providing the help people now need.

Certain topics have become more relevant to more people as a result of the pandemic, Katie explains, so the bi-monthly calendars that guide content have been adjusted in response.

We’re trying to monitor what our employees are worried about and how we can help. Right now we’re focusing on remote working, healthy eating, keeping fit, support for the family and being comfortable at workstations.

Katie Wilson, Head of Engagement and Wellbeing for Sodexo UK and Ireland

But care must be taken not to overwhelm, or add to the inevitable anxiety so many people are facing. That means emphasising the content that best equips people to deal with stress, anxiety and changes in their lives.

It also means making sure colleagues have access to the materials they need to keep working, which has led to the creation of more downloadable content and presentations that can be used in the ever-growing number of virtual meetings.

“Everyone’s going through this together, there’s no right or wrong,” says Katie. “We’re trying to put colleagues at ease with useful collateral.”

Striking the right balance

Effective communication remains a challenge and continues to be Sodexo’s focus.

A weekly email newsletter keeps employees informed about what is available. However, Katie is assessing other ways to reach people, particularly as disruption to the usual ways of working may mean people miss out on the information they would normally receive.

The team’s current initiative - ‘Make Yourself at Home’ - provides tips and support for remote working and the impact that can have on households and families.
But every organisation needs to strike a balance between making people aware of what is available, and avoiding information overload.

77% of organisations say employee wellbeing is a key priority for this year.

Bishopsgate Financial Change Perspective 2020 report

Wellbeing Champions play a vital role here, as they can provide the up-to-date feedback on what’s working and what’s missing, so the offering can be adapted and reach as many people who would benefit as possible.

For companies new to providing this kind of support, or which need to adapt to new circumstances, Katie suggests finding ways to engage with the people the wellbeing strategy is intended to help.

“Ask your employees: What do they want to see? What would work for them?” she says. “It’s about being inclusive and bringing them into the conversation. It’s not just a management decision, it affects us all.”

A culture of trust and respect

Every year experts make predictions about the future of work and anticipate trends that will affect the support people need. But no one saw the current situation coming.

There’s no doubt it will have an impact on how people work, although it will be some time before we truly know what that impact is.

Sodexo’s wellbeing support strategy has been adapted to provide what people need most. It will continue to evolve as Katie and her team monitor and react to what’s resonating most and determine what else might be missing.

The key for us - and for all people-focused organisations - is to continue building a culture of trust and mutual respect.

This means listening to what people need, and offering support both at home and in the workplace, especially since for many, they are now one and the same.

To find out more about how Sodexo can improve work and transform workplace experience for your business, click here to contact us.

April 17, 2020

Back to the list

How can we help?