Becky Hewitt: How can employers support the government’s obesity strategy and improve employee health?

More employers are realising the importance of supporting their people in improving their health and fitness. We know that being more active in everyday life can bring benefits for both the physical and mental health of our employees and also help to reduce absence levels and increase employee engagement. 

So, we take a holistic approach to employee health, supporting physical, mental and financial wellbeingsuch as giving information on nutrition and aiming to create awareness on a range of issues, as well as providing supporting benefits. We want to make straightforward information accessible, tackling some of the issues which are typically less easy for people to talk about, such as mental health and the menopause, for example. We believe it is important to be proactive and open, to help our colleagues feel it is fine to speak up and confide in their manager or HR, to get the support or adjustments they need.   

We offer a wide range of supporting benefits, promoting physical health through our cycle purchase scheme and gym discounts, as well as providing all our colleagues with options for health cash plans and private medical insurance. 

However, I believe it is what we do, the culture we have and what our colleagues do themselves, which makes the real difference. Firstly, we try to lead from the front and have introduced mindfulness sessions, more recently online, of course, to support our mental wellbeing approach. These have proved even more beneficial as our employees navigate through a period where social isolation and restricted movements can impact on overall wellbeing.

Secondly, we have a real community spirit at our heart and our employees are continually supporting either their own choice of charity or our charity partner, Dementia UK. This is, more often than not, linked to sponsored feats of activity or exercise, which are widely shared on our employee app, Totem.  Everyone can be involved and it is really inspirational.   

As we look forward to moving into our new Leeds head office in 2021, we are considering new opportunities, with more secure bike storage and better shower and changing facilities. It is also giving us chance to work in new ways, with more flexibility to move around the building, standing meeting spaces and having access to outside areas, due to our riverside location. 

Becky Hewitt is director of people at Leeds Building Society

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