Tui UK and Ireland targets staff absence

EXCLUSIVE: Tui UK and Ireland has hosted a wellbeing day to focus on developing a holistic health and wellbeing programme across the business and to reduce its sickness absence levels.

The travel organisation’s first wellbeing day was held in June at its head office, where 1,200 employees could visit benefits suppliers dedicated to fitness, healthy eating and occupational health.

The range of suppliers included: David Lloyd to promote gym memberships and offer body mass index (BMI) testing; Weight Watchers to focus on work-life balance; Tui UK and Ireland’s onsite canteen to highlight healthy eating; an alcohol awareness stand; Halfords to promote the bikes-for-work scheme; and occupational health providers to conduct lifestyle assessments.

Carolyn Parker, HR operations manager at Tui UK and Ireland, says: “I started managing occupational health last year and I realised we had an opportunity to review how we manage absence.

“We’ve traditionally taken a fairly reactive approach, as many organisations do, and we wanted to start to look at what proactive steps we could take.”

Targeting absence levels

The programme began by targeting some of the organisation’s key performance indicators around its absence levels. It also looked at engagement, because its 2012 engagement survey found that employees felt Tui UK and Ireland’s focus on work-life balance could be improved.

The organisation created a network of health champions, who went through a one-day course on understanding health improvement. “They all volunteered,” added Parker. “We’ve got about 10 of them, representing the different departments in our head office. They all have their own interests from a health perspective; some are really into their fitness, some are into holistic therapies, and some are interested in the mental wellbeing side. It’s a good complement.”

The organisation held a soft launch in February, which was a lunch-and-learn session for staff where Parker presented details about the development of a health and wellbeing programme. The wellbeing day followed in June and coincided with the launch of a dedicated wellbeing intranet site.

Tailored messages to staff

The organisation also launched a survey to ask employees what further activities they would value, so that it could start to build targeted distribution lists and get out key messages that are valuable to people.

“We need to get more savvy about how we engage our remote population,” said Parker. “Our wellbeing days probably won’t be feasible in the retail estate, but there is certainly more that we can put online.”

The focus on health and wellbeing is in its early days, but Parker is confidant it is the right area to focus on. “I want to make sure I set out some tangible business measures,” she said.

“We are targeting a reduction in the average numbers of days lost in the head office, reducing the duration of long-term sickness we have, reducing the number of occupational health referrals that we make, decreasing the average cost of absence, and targeting that specific question in our survey: the company supports me in achieving a reasonable balance between my work life and my personal life.”