Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council introduced a wellbeing strategy seven years ago in a bid to reduce high absence levels among its 9,000 employees.
Mick Forrest, assistant director, people and performance, explains: “We did not want to take the traditional route to handle the problem. We looked at how we could stop employees being off in the first place, and make them feel better about themselves.” The council initially launched a pilot engagement programme with approximately 1,000 employees in partnership with Vielife, focusing on hydration. Water bottles were given to staff and drinks stations installed in all rooms to encourage staff to drink water rather than tea or coffee. ‘Pee charts’ were also installed in toilets to enable staff to gauge how hydrated they were, depending on the colour of their urine.
“The scheme caught peoples’ imagination. It was cheap to do and everyone saw the benefit of being more hydrated,” says Forrest.
Since the launch, the council has added a number of other cost-effective options to the programme including an urban walks scheme, which suggests short walks for staff to take during the day, free fruit in the office and poster campaigns to encourage the use of stairs rather than the lift.
Forrest adds that the scheme has resulted in a number of advantages for the organisation. “We have seen annual absence levels fall by three days per employee. The benefits pay for themselves,” he says.
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