Forster Communications aligns wellbeing strategy with business goals

Forster Communications

Forster Communications, which has 20 permanent employees and around five consultants or freelancers, has linked its business strategy to three key development goals: sustainable consumption, fair work and health.

Within this, the organisation has set specific health-related targets, such as keeping sick days below the industry average, providing access to education and support for a positive lifestyle, and helping employees manage their own health and wellbeing at work.

Kate Parker, marketing manager at Forster Communications, says: “Every couple of years we go through an iteration of what the programme specifically looks like, but we’ve always had long-term plans to try and improve the health and wellbeing of employees.”

The latest of these regular revamps took place in October 2017. The organisation also undertook an annual survey in November 2017, and the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey, completed in May 2018 with VitalityHealth.

“What works for us is having sustained nudges throughout the year that are more strategic, rather than just saying ‘we’re doing exercise this month’,” Parker explains. “It’s just focused on what we need for that year. It’s completely aligned to our business strategy and embedding our values and building a culture around that.”

Featured initiatives include resilience training, videos on mental health, providing 20 hours of volunteering time a year, running and walking clubs, free healthy breakfasts, flexible working hours and a cycle-to-work scheme. The organisation also tackles financial wellbeing by offering an employee share scheme and interest free loans.

Employees can earn five minutes of extra holiday for cycling or walking to work, which can equate to two extra days a year, or gain 50p cash back for every mile they spend actively travelling to meetings.

Internal surveys and metrics, comparing 2016-2017 with 2017-2018 and calculated in March 2018, show that the organisation’s sickness absence rate has fallen from three days per person a year to 2.2 days, compared to an industry average of 3.3. Furthermore, 93% of employees feel they have access to information and education to help them stay resilient, 54% of staff now regularly work from home, and formal flexible working requests have increased by 15% in the past two years. A third of employees cycle to work and each employee, on average, has spent one day a year volunteering.

Results from Forster Communications’ last Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey show that it has a 30% lower rate of health-related presenteeism and absenteeism than the UK average, and that 100% of employees who have used healthy food or exercise interventions feel that they improved their health. Although 41% of staff are subject to at least one dimension of work-related stress, 67% stated that work-life balance interventions had improved their wellbeing.

“The business case for investing in health and wellbeing [programmes] is broadly well known, but it’s no longer enough just to have all [the] gimmicks, like free fruit, particularly with [a] very competitive market. [We] have to genuinely be an attractive and responsible employer that people want to come and work for. It’s important to be strategic about it,” Parker concludes.