Recycling and recovery

Wellbeing and inclusion at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK

Inclusion can promote a sense of belonging, reduce absenteeism and presenteeism, increase morale, and productivity and improve talent acquisition and retention. Having a diverse and inclusive workforce creates a positive work environment. It helps to attract and retain top talent. It enhances business performance. Sounds great, right? But how do you go about creating this kind of culture?

In the autumn of 2019, our Chief Business Services Officer, Dr Tracey Leghorn, brought together a group of over 50 SUEZ recycling and recovery UK employees to developed our Wellness Charter with a vision of ‘Wellness for All’. The charter encapsulates what wellness means to our people and encompasses: social, job-related, work environment, financial, mental wellbeing, inclusion and diversity, physical health, and emotional wellbeing. The charter was developed by our people, for our people. Our vision of ‘Wellness for All’ is about how we can best support everyone to thrive and be their authentic selves. Importantly we recognise that wellbeing extends beyond the workplace.

Throughout the pandemic, our Friday Wellness Webinars supported our employees on a variety of subjects from emotional resilience, child anxiety and nutrition to change management. These webinars continue to evolve, and the subject matter covers all areas included in our charter. In 2022, whilst continuing our comprehensive mental wellbeing programme, we focused our attention on physical health, providing monthly 'move' sessions which introduced individuals to activities such as desk yoga and Tai Chi. This year, we are spotlighting the job-related and work environment strands of our charter by providing monthly personal growth and development workshops as a result of feedback from our people.

Our Wellbeing and Inclusion Manager, Natalie Chard, has led the way in developing resources and information on all aspects of wellbeing for our workforce whether that be, e.g. our support services or frontline workforce. Working with the health and safety team, we have integrated wellbeing into our already successful ‘Safety in Mind’ culture extending H&S compliance to holistic wellbeing. With 300+ site-based voluntary health and safety representatives it has meant that we have been able to better reach our frontline workforce with our ‘Wellness for All’ programme. At regional health and safety meetings (and subsequently site-level meetings), wellbeing now forms key items on the agenda, ensuring wellbeing conversations are happening at all levels and are becoming the norm.

In 2022, we introduced volunteer wellbeing and inclusion ambassadors. Operationally based, they know the culture, work environment, and help generate and support health and wellbeing campaigns, driving frontline engagement. They complete specialist training which includes Level 3 First Aid for Mental Health course, training to recognise signs of domestic abuse and a comprehensive six-week wellbeing course. Meeting bi–monthly with our Wellbeing and Inclusion Manager, they help shape the Wellness for All programme and support campaigns such as our site-based health MOT Roadshows, delivered by our occupational health provider. These give our workforce access to a range of health checks, with instant results and Doctors referrals if needed.

Wellbeing is now a topic of conversation at all our sites, we know this through our Safety in Mind logging system and data. Since June 2021, there have been over 4,000 conversations around wellbeing logged which is helping to create a culture of open and honest conversations around wellbeing with a real understanding of how wellbeing can impact on safety. It's important to note that the system aims to record positive acts and behaviours or areas of concern as opposed to clinical issues or individual case issues. We are also able to measure the impact of the programme on our team members, with more than 80% of them responding to a company-wide survey stating that the ‘Wellness for All’ programme had been beneficial to them during the pandemic when the programme. Positive feedback has grown exponentially with the expansion of the programme since then as demonstrated in our Employee Engagement Survey in 2022. Culture takes time to evolve but over the last three years we have seen a huge difference in people’s attitudes towards wellbeing, inclusion and diversity. People want to learn more, and we are starting to see a direct impact on our people’s wellbeing.

Specifically looking at long-term absences (>14 days) the average days lost has reduced by 7%, from 44.52 in 2021 to 41.3 in 2022. (down by 21% compared to 2019).

It’s clear that the mental health support we have introduced has reduced the average days lost per long-term mental health absence by 12.5%. Importantly, this is despite a 24% increase in reported mental health related absences – reflecting the open and honest culture we have fostered.

Across all absences, average days lost per absence has reduced by 18.5% since 2020 at the introduction of our ‘Wellness for All’ programme.

Our wellbeing and inclusion journey continues, but we’re happy to share our experiences so far and support other organisations looking to develop a similar programme to promote and support the wellbeing of your people.