FitFlop puts the feel-good factor into its benefits strategy


Footwear retailer FitFlop has personalised its health and wellbeing strategy by creating its own programme, structured around five key areas.

With offices in Putney, as well as in the United States, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Germany, the company was determined to create an all-encompassing strategy that would have a positive impact on its entire workforce.

In May 2017, after months of employee-based research, the organisation launched its Feel Good at FitFlop programme, which has received considerable praise from staff.

In a post-launch employee survey, 89% of respondents said they were actively engaged in the fashion retailer’s internal communications, with the same percentage feeling that FitFlop genuinely cares about the wellbeing of its workforce.

Laura Pearce, senior HR business partner at FitFlop, says: “Feel Good at FitFlop, in essence, is about giving employees the tools they need so they can be the best they can be. When employees are feeling good, feeling happy and healthy, they inevitably are more productive and do better work, and that’s the thinking behind it.

“It’s not easy to think about health and wellbeing when you’re busy juggling life as well as your career, sadly. It’s about making these choices easy for people while they’re at work.”

The Feel Good five

FitFlop decided to make decisions easier and information clearer for its employees by splitting the programme into five defined areas: Finance, Neighbourhood, Friend, Mind and Body.

Finance is tailored to tackle the pressures employees face at different life stages. As well as the standard pension and other financial benefits, FitFlop is currently working with the UK Retail Trust to provide guidance and support for any employees in financial difficulty.

Neighbourhood centres on engaging with and supporting the communities in which employees live and work, as well as environmental issues. FitFlop takes part in an annual tree planting scheme, most recently at a school in Wimbledon, and in 2016 two of its employees travelled to Mumbai, India, helping to build a home as part of a Habitat for Humanity expedition.

Friend captures the importance of social wellbeing. The organisation hosts a number of team bonding events for its employees, including a summer party and subsidised outings to the local open-air cinema. It has also created a breakout area with table tennis and board games in its UK head office.

Mind’s philosophy is brought to life by a quiet room; Fitflop has an on-site library where employees can work in peace, or just take a moment to themselves. The organisation also held a mental health awareness week in May 2018. 

The Body pillar offers, among other things, seasonal flu jabs, a bike-to-work scheme, a three-month membership to fitness service MoveGB, and healthy snacks.

Pearce refers to the five areas as the ‘Feel Good wheel’. “We want to look at lots of different aspects of wellbeing, that’s why we have pulled it together,” she explains.

“When we meet with our champions and talk about what we’re doing, we make sure we’re doing things across all of the areas of the wheel, covering every element of wellbeing.”

Feel Good champions

The Feel Good champions, who are fundamental in helping implement the strategy, are volunteers from across the business, tasked with looking after every aspect of the wellbeing activities calendar.

“It has been a real change,” explains Pearce. “We’ve always had an eye on wellbeing and activities, but this is the first time we’ve had a strategy around it and specific employees that are focused on their colleagues’ wellbeing. It has made a huge difference.”

Historically, Pearce worked alongside the office manager to educate employees on those wellbeing benefits on offer, but they made the decision to get employees involved when the new programme was launched.

“To start with, employees weren’t sure of what it was all about, but now we’ve got a solid group of 10 of their colleagues, including me, to work on it from a UK perspective. It’s been really great.”

FitFlop won Best global or expatriate benefits at the Employee Benefits Awards in June 2018, and Pearce says this was an amazing achievement. 

“It’s the first year we’ve been working together [with the champions]. There’s a couple of things that have come out of it. One of the things we’ve been able to do at a very low cost is our global steps challenge, which won the Best global or expatriate benefits award, and the other thing to come out of it is the global interaction.

“We’re doing Come to Talk events, which was an idea on the back of the national Time to Talk Day. We’ve done a couple of them where we’ve just sat down in our large kitchen area and asked employees to come and join us, and talk to us about what we’re doing.

“Our champions are explaining to other employees in the business what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and why it’s important. It’s so nice to see these employees have the opportunity to lead these projects and really make a difference to the business.”

Walking around the world

The award-winning global steps challenge was implemented by the champions and aimed to highlight the need to counteract the damaging effects of sitting at a desk all day.

Everyone in the organisation was allocated to one of 19 global teams of between nine and 11 members, who virtually walked the distance between the organisation’s UK site to its office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, crossing all of its global operating sites in the US, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Germany. The winning team got an extra day’s holiday each.

“It was the hot topic of conversation in the kitchen, with employees of rival teams comparing notes on how many steps they had done that day,” says Pearce. “Also, employees may have someone from Vietnam as part of their team, who they have never met or spoken to, and would never engage with on a day-to-day basis.”

Living and breathing the brand

One of the benefits of working for FitFlop is an employee will never be short of shoes. All employees are given a free pair to welcome them to the organisation, a new pair each season, and 50% off 10 pairs twice a year. They also have access to year-round sample sales.

“People that work here advocate the brand,” says Pearce. “It’s such a nice place to work and the feedback from our starter check-in and exit interviews is that employees love the brand. Everyone is friendly and everyone is open and proud of the brand, proud of the shoes. You can see that and feel that when you’re here.”

Open communication is key

As well as starter check-ins and exit interviews, the HR team is in constant contact with employees. Throughout the year, employees have the opportunity to attend benefits fairs, and the benefits team shares information through the organisation’s internal network, Yammer.

“We have our own personalised wellbeing group on Yammer where we share information,” says Pearce. “We’re running some outdoor yoga and weekly meditation sessions at the moment and we let everyone know they’re available on there. However, being a small organisation, we do like to talk face-to-face as well.”

FitFlop is always asking for employees to make suggestions, keeping the channels of communication open, says Pearce. “After every event, we send out surveys asking for feedback, so we can learn about what works and what doesn’t, what people like and what they don’t like. In exit interviews, we always ask about our benefits. It’s really rare we get negative feedback.

“We will always listen and investigate to see if we can offer employees’ suggested benefits. Just because we have good feedback, we don’t just sit there and think that’s it. We keep an eye out and see what’s going on in the world. We’re small, and most of our staff are based in the UK, so it’s easy to try new things and see if they work. If it works, you keep on doing it, and if it doesn’t, you try something new.”

FitFlop at a glance

FitFlop launched in 2007 as a global footwear business creating comfortable shoes, but has now grown into a shoe empire for “superwomen to go further, feel good and do more.”  

The majority of the roles are based in its head office in Putney, London, with the majority of the positions within the operations and design teams, as well as field sales roles. In Asia, employees’ roles are predominately factory-based, focusing on the quality and development of the organisation’s products. 126 employees are UK-based, with an additional 82 employees across the world.

In London, the average age of employees is late 20s to late 30s, with an average tenure of 2.5 years, and a 60% female, 40% male split.

Business Objectives

  • Using biomechanics to position FitFlop as the most comfortable and addictive women’s ergonomic fashion footwear brand in the world.
  • Creating a healthy and happy workforce by constantly evolving its benefits strategy to suit its employees’ needs.

Career history

Laura Pearce joined FitFlop in September 2011 as the senior HR business partner. Prior to this role, she held several HR positions at the Arcadia group.

Pearce cites her greatest achievement to-date as the accumulated time she has spent training and developing employees.

“I like to make a difference. I really enjoy training and developing others and I’ve been lucky to have a lot of opportunities to do this during my career.

“I’m also really interested in wellbeing and the impact that feeling good has on your work performance. So, I’m really lucky to be able to do a lot of work in this area at FitFlop – with my most recent achievement being getting together and working with the Feel Good champions.”

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