By The Vita Group’s CEO, Ian Robb, and Head of Behavioural Safety, Jonathan Frankish
Striving to always consider and improve the physical and mental well-being of our colleagues is a core driver at The Vita Group. This value stems from our belief that everyone should return home from work as healthy (if not healthier) as they were when they left home. Creating a culture that sincerely strives towards this goal is therefore an important aspect of how we structure the business and how we work. One of the best examples of this is the ‘Better You, Better Life’ (BYBL) campaign, which we run during the first quarter of every year.
This Group-wide initiative is focused on promoting physical and mental well-being through a wide variety of activities which delve into areas as diverse as ergonomics, diet and nutrition, mental health issues, exercise, stretching, maintaining mobility and much more.
On the interplay of work and well-being, The Vita Group’s CEO, Ian Robb, commented: “We don’t come to work and leave our personal life at the door. In fact, the choices we make at home and at work impact each other. One of the main roles of Vita’s management team is to ensure that everyone at all our sites is healthy and making positive, educated choices that support the lifestyle they want to lead. To achieve this, we are attempting to engage with each person and encourage them to think creatively about making their lives better and about how Vita can support this. Through its varied approach, the BYBL campaign underlines the valuable impact that embracing this concept of wellness can have on improving our general health. Getting this right means we will achieve a lot of benefits for our colleagues. Not only are there advantages for Vita as a company, through higher levels of engagement and staff retention, better morale and reduced absences, but it’s also beneficial for each individual, their families and the communities they live in.”
This year, BYBL focuses on a specific area each month. January looked at mental health, February covered physical health and March revolved around general health and fitness. An impressively broad range of activities has taken place. There is a small central group steering committee which helps set the agenda for the programme.
Here’s a snapshot of what has been happening in our offices, factories and facilities throughout the whole group:
All this underlines that BYBL is designed to encourage our employees to try out new activities that can improve their mental and physical health while learning these techniques to build into their everyday lives.
Mental health is a significant priority for our BYBL campaign. This is a multifaceted topic and one that we tackle from several angles. We recently held a ‘Big Boys Do Cry’ webinar on men’s mental health to encourage discussion around this issue. This incredibly moving and honest session was recorded to make it available on demand, which allowed several sites to gather together and watch the session as well as the opportunity to discuss the implications of not tackling men’s mental health.
Much of our work focuses on early intervention and raising awareness of symptoms and highlighting available support. This is not just to help people through any current mental health challenges but also to safeguard against future problems and to do everything possible to prevent worst-case scenarios.
Alongside the business-wide BYBL activities, in the UK we have trained designated ‘mental health first-aiders’. Other businesses have similar or other support networks available. Whilst the geography and culture of our businesses vary our aim is to ensure we provide a support pathway for our colleagues.
It’s not just our employees that benefit, as a lot of the activities are structured around getting families and, in some cases, the wider community involved. A good example of this is a mental health poster campaign we ran which asked children of team members to design posters on important mental health concerns. A calendar will be created including all the designs and sold to raise money for selected local charities.
We encourage BYBL materials to be shared among families, regardless of where people may work. It’s our hope that we can spread well-being messages beyond our sites and help improve the general understanding and awareness of health issues in society.
As an international business, we work hard to make sure that borders and language barriers don’t stop information from being shared. In practice, this is achieved in a variety of ways, such as by recording health & well-being sessions so that they can be watched at convenient times and by translating BYBL campaign materials.
Making sure that all employees are engaged, regardless of the team, site, or country they work in is vital. This is why, as well as having the group steering committee, we’ve established committees at each of our locations with members responsible for local coordination. We have a call every fortnight with committee members from across Vita to share what each site has done and how further improvements or changes can be made. Sites are able to “pinch with pride” others’ ideas and share best practices. Digital tools such as social sharing platforms and digital display boards plus more traditional noticeboard updates and internal meetings keep everyone updated on all the ideas, campaigns, activities and achievements across the Group.
A sense of ownership is critical to creating a genuine, independent health and well-being culture. Rather than a top-down approach, activities are planned at the site level which means everyone has a say in what they do and how they do it and activities are much more effective and suited for the local teams. To make sure that these committees are empowered, Ian Robb Group CEO and the divisional managing directors sponsored the launch of the quarter and attend the fortnightly calls to demonstrate their backing of the business from the highest level.
On structuring a strong well-being culture into the business, Ian commented: “The idea is to harness the power of a bottom-up approach. As CEO, I am responsible for working with Vita’s MDs so that they demonstrate our values in action, showing commitment to an ethos that we take very seriously. The power of committees combined with passionate people and supportive managers is a very effective combination for driving change and making sure that it sticks.”
Well-being in general is an ever-evolving issue – a fact that has been highlighted since the pandemic by changes in how people live and work. For example, how do we best help people who are working from home? Do we need to think of ‘yoga from home’ advice as people spend long periods of time in a chair? How do we support people in the office while also preventing ‘presenteeism’? Can we do more to get the best work-life balance?
These questions and more are being tackled every day by BYBL as well as our other support initiatives such as Women at Vita Everywhere (WaVe) and our VTZ (Vita Towards Zero) Caring for Each Other campaigns. The long-term aim is that the concentrated focus on health and wellbeing throughout BYBL will act as a catalyst to make health and wellbeing a fundamental aspect of every conversation, in much the same way that occupational safety has become. Embedding it into the structure of the company through the BYBL committees and quarterly campaigns has already made it a core aspect of how we work and is creating a behaviour change that will make sure that well-being is considered, supported and protected at all times.
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