Food producer Wessanen employs 222 people in the UK, split between its head office in Camberley and its production site in Dorset. The production site is open around the clock, manufacturing products such as Clipper Teas and Kallo rice cakes.
Back in February, when it started to become apparent that the Covid-19 virus was spreading globally, the organisation introduced temperature controls at its Dorset site. Ann Chambers, HR director at Wessanen UK, says: “As part of an international [organisation], we looked at the experience of our Italian colleagues and introduced measures such as one-way systems, social distancing and temperature checks ahead of many other manufacturing sites in the area. We involved and communicated with our staff in these decisions as it was essential that they felt safe at work.”
When lockdown was announced in March, all office-based staff shifted to working remotely while, as key workers, production site staff were able to carry on working. To support staff during this time, Wessanen introduced flexible and part-time working options and promoted the organisation’s range of wellbeing initiatives. These include an employee assistance programme, an online wellbeing platform and mental health e-learning. It also brought forward a financial wellbeing initiative, giving employees 30-minute one-to-one advice sessions. “We knew that money could be a worry, especially where a partner was on furlough or couldn’t work,” adds Chambers.
Social wellbeing was also important, especially for those employees working from home. “We asked all our office-based employees how they’d like to maintain social connections during lockdown. This resulted in a company WhatsApp and virtual coffee mornings as well as a daily challenge set by a group of employees who became known as the Quizzy Rascals.”
Volunteering was another strand of Wessanen’s wellbeing strategy, with employees given the opportunity to volunteer during working hours for the NHS or for elderly or vulnerable people. “Employee health and wellbeing is really important, especially during these challenging times,” adds Chambers. “It’s also a very personal thing so being able to involve our employees throughout has enabled us to adjust our support to suit their needs.”
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